While the heavy equipment industry has faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the equipment rental industry, on the other hand, has seen healthy business.
As customers opt to rent vs. buy equipment due to constraints in capital spending – not to mention the ability to “try before you buy” – equipment rental businesses have seen a steady flow of business.
Rental businesses are doing their best to grasp the opportunity with both hands by embracing new wave technologies, such as remote video demos and product “test drives” to meet the demands of modern consumers and drive sales.
Building the customer experience
For the customer experience in the rental industry to be as bright as it can be, some significant steps need to be taken to understand what drives the customer experience and how businesses can capitalize on these factors that affect the experience.
Here are some areas to consider when building your customer experience:
1. Be solution-minded. The business of equipment rental is all about providing convenience with exceptional customer service. Customers generally enjoy doing business with those they know and like.
Customers look for a solution to their problems, not just a product. Rental companies must adjust their methods of engagement and communication with existing and prospect customers to reflect their expectations or needs. Running off a laundry list of product specs might sound impressive, but how do they translate into real-world performance?
Equipment rental professionals should sense the need of the customer and proactively provide a solution instead of just a product. By doing this, rental business team members will better meet the customer’s exact expectations and build rapport needed to develop a long-term business relationship.
2. Innovate with technology. Embracing technological innovation and using digital means to do it will be critical for equipment rental businesses to remain on the cutting-edge of customer success.
Whether at home or at work, customers have come to expect digital experiences and therefore expect similar experiences with equipment rentals.
For example, embracing greater data analytics capabilities can have a transformative impact for equipment rental businesses. From delivering more personalized customer experiences to optimizing pricing and facilitating proactive maintenance, adopting tools that can provide next-gen data insights can completely revolutionize the way a rental business operates. With tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and ML becoming more advanced everyday, there has never been more information available to rental businesses.
The network effect
As Jim Collins mentions in his book, Good to Great, transformations come about by a cumulative process — step by step, action by action, decision by decision and turn by turn of the flywheel – that adds up to sustained and spectacular results. This kind of symbiotic network approach can be hugely beneficial, especially when data is used.
For example, by leveraging customer data, businesses can become more informed about each action they take – or should take – and in turn, customers receive a better quality experience.
Each move that a rental business makes should inform the others. By looking at the customer experience as an ecosystem, or network, businesses can offer a much more sophisticated customer experience. This wouldn’t be possible, however, if your approach to customer experience was in silos instead of networked.
Arguably the most important part of the value chain for rental shops, which is often forgotten about, are the relationships with their OEMs.
Beyond just being a key outlet for customers to gain access to their products, equipment rental shops are a key asset for OEMs in that they offer OEMs an opportunity to try out new services as they evolve to a servitization model where equipment is leased instead of purchased outright by the end user and the OEM covers maintenance and repair services and costs.
Maintaining a positive relationship with the OEMs give parts shops first dibs on any trial products and services that their B2B or B2C customers in turn might benefit from and enables them to provide invaluable feedback to the OEM, which can lead to a better long-term partnership.
Because rental shops are on the frontlines of aftermarket service, making sure each product is in perfect working order so it is available for rent, rental shops offer a unique case-study opportunity for OEMs to learn much about maintenance, repair and parts profit margins. This represents a key area for disruption which rental shops should keep an eye on as more OEMs look to capitalize on aftermarket service.
The equipment rental industry has been one of the most intriguing areas to follow during the COVID era, given the relatively stable success it has been able to achieve. However, to see this same success moving forward, rental businesses must prioritize customer experience and explore new business models with OEMs.
Venkat Eswara is vice president of Product Marketing at Syncron.
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