While gathering input for the roundtable discussion on trends in rental management software (page 30), I was struck by how much the rental transaction has changed since I joined the industry 18 years ago. At that time, many of us still didn’t have email accounts or even cell phones, and the Internet was a mysterious-sounding word, but not yet a force in our professional lives.
Today, we’re discussing the very real possibilities that technologies like RFID and Google Glass can bring to our business in the next couple of years. There’s no doubt about it, every facet of the equipment rental business is changing, and those changes bring with them myriad benefits.
One thing I’ve learned during my time in the rental industry is the importance of personal relationships. Contractors rent with companies they trust, and which offer them the best service. Yes, price is always a factor, but not in the absence of good service.
Recently, I spoke to an independent rental business operator in Chicago who described how he differentiates himself from his competition. In short, he makes sure his employees are available to customers around the clock to solve problems and ensure equipment is delivered when it’s needed. His prices have never been the lowest in his market, but it hasn’t hurt his business. In fact, he saw substantial growth during the thick of the recession.
The point is, technology can only take us so far. It can simplify, expedite, streamline and customize, but it can’t replace the human element. The most successful rental businesses know and understand this, and have been playing to those strengths all along. The best companies of tomorrow will be those that maximize the benefits of technology in a way that improves the customer’s experience.
There’s little doubt that tomorrow’s consumers will value the ability to search for and reserve equipment whenever and from wherever they choose, but there’s also no question that most of those customers (especially professionals) will still want a human connection when faced with a challenging situation.