I believe that the rental industry is still in very good shape. In fact, many rental companies have done so well for so long that there can be too much complacency. It is so important not to continue doing the same old things the same way – if they are not the best way.
Of course, certain conditions in some market areas can hinder growth and profitability even during prosperous times. So if your results have been less than stellar, the concept of avoiding sticking with the status quo is equally, or more, important.
One of the main categories where you should avoid complacency is in the area of employees. Even in this very tight employment climate, most of my customers have discovered that excellent employees can still be found. Without solid, trainable employees, it is difficult to grow your business, so it is vitally important not to give up the quest. Stay positive and have a large number of "specific to your company" strategies to select, prepare, motivate and retain the very best team. Consider an outside expert to assist in developing these strategies.
Speaking of staff preparation, I am a firm believer in the importance of the initial, formative first week or two of the education process. It sets the stage for all of the other equipment and technical training to come. In my more than 40 years in this industry, I have trained thousands of rental professionals and feel that without the proper initial introduction to the culture and systems of the company, the new staff member will be at a disadvantage.
Train for a Kinder, Friendly Customer Experience
There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the economy. Inevitably, there will be a time that the economy will falter and become weak, so it is very important to take advantage of the current strong and growing business climate to seize opportunities. Strength now will tend to help cushion the blow when there is an economic slump.
One way is to make a seemingly small change to the way staff is trained in order to make the “customer experience” kinder and friendlier. Customers tend to return to rental businesses that have a kind, friendly and helpful atmosphere. The challenge is that some business owners/managers believe their company has this type of atmosphere when in reality the opposite is true.
In some rental firms, employees with the most exposure to customers have never been properly trained to smile when greeting them. Some front line employees even seem grumpy toward them. And while a few customers appear to find joy in trying to make others miserable, you should not let that taint your staff with negativity toward the vast majority of nice ones.
Make certain your employees know they should not argue or be antagonistic with customers. All of us have observed employees who seem to have “a chip on their shoulder," and one or more of your employees may have this condition.
Often, these individuals may not know how what they say (and how they say it) is perceived. For example, an employee may frequently use sarcasm when dealing with customers at the rental counter. In some cases, a tiny bit of good-natured sarcasm is funny. Often, however, sarcasm isn’t funny at all and is unintentionally (or intentionally) hurtful. Whether customers tell the offending person or not, it could be making them go elsewhere for their future rental needs.
Surprisingly, even some managers may think that arguing with customers is the only way to handle frustrating customer situations. Arguing is a useless, counterproductive waste of time. Train your staff in the best ways to handle each challenge. “Taking the high road” is almost always the best way to travel in business communication.
Other Ways to Stay on a Roll
There are many other ways “to keep the good times rolling” in your rental business, regardless of how other rental businesses may be doing. For example, be certain that your rental fleet is strategically refreshed. Also, for some companies, it might be time to invest in a different rental software system. But always remember the importance of investing in your staff, even knowing some of them will leave at some point.
We will continue to see uncertainty and wild gyrations in the financial markets. Yet, with uncertainty and market overreaction to daily events come opportunities for those who have solid systems in their businesses. One of the best business objectives is to never become complacent. Complacency tends to lead to a plateau in growth and the next direction is seldom positive.