Are Your Customers Qualified?

Despite your best efforts and employees’ good intentions, it’s not surprising some individuals on your staff might not have the focus they should on qualifying customers. Employees must be trained to use the correct approach.

Regardless of how busy your employees might be or their amount of equipment knowledge, it’s important they be well trained to consistently use proper qualifying techniques. You will find that properly qualifying customers will actually save time in the long run.

The key to qualification success is the use of good questioning. It’s the proper use of questions such as “who, what, where, when and how” about the job. It’s important to find out exactly what the customer plans to do, what their equipment experience is, and other relevant factors. Employees must use their equipment knowledge to qualify the customer properly. Every rental professional remembers instances of customers requesting the dangerously wrong equipment for the job. Good qualifying questions about the project combined with good equipment knowledge prepare the employee to make the right call.

Remind employees that qualifying customers is not designed to discourage customers from renting. In fact, better qualification is one way to improve your rental company’s reputation. Helping customers to use your rental equipment correctly encourages customers to rent additional items from your company and increases the odds they will give positive reviews to others.

Just asking the customer if they know how to use the equipment is simply not enough. Even worse is assuming that if a customer asks for something by name, they must already know how to use it properly and safely. Rental professionals must be certain that even if the customer meets the qualifications for the use of the rental items being rented, that the customer is trying to rent the proper equipment for the job. Using the wrong equipment for the job, even if it is what the customer requested, could be dangerous for the customer or hazardous to the health of the rental equipment.

After your staff determines that the customer is renting the right equipment for the job, your employees should give customers the appropriate amount of instruction for the use of your rental equipment. For the sake of efficiency at this busy time of year, it’s important that your employees not dispense too much (nor too little) equipment use information.

The importance of instructions for novices is obvious, and when employees use good questions they will quickly discern the customers for whom much more detailed instruction is a good investment. Your employees are the first line of defense for protecting your equipment and customers from improper usage.

Be patient with DIY customers — they can prove to be a profitable part of your business. At the same time, train your employees to look for clues that they are dealing with an experienced renter who needs a smaller dosage of instruction. There is no shortcut to this — ask questions about their job and read their body language. Remember that not everyone who knows the lingo is a pro.

Understanding body language helps employees understand customers but it can also send great messages back to customers. Because your customers are in a hurry, your employees need to show them through good body language (like visibly hustling) that their time is important and the qualifying questions and training are designed to expedite the process. Also, employees should qualify in a friendly fashion. They should be trained how to qualify and instruct without giving the impression they’re questioning the customer’s intelligence. And finally, remind employees that safety is always the priority, so they should err on the side of caution and properly qualify each customer and give each one the safe usage instructions they need.


Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer with 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. In 2013, he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his business, Detmer Consulting Inc., of his column in Rental. Dick can be contacted at, (309) 781-3451 or by visiting his website