Look Who’s Watching

watchingWell, I am approaching the six month mark of leaving behind the day to day operations of a Rental Business. During this time I have had the opportunity to visit many rental operations throughout the country, see several manufacturer reps, attend trade shows and catch up on reading  industrial publications. Being on the other side of the fence has given me a new perspective on issues that I once might have not given enough thought on.

First, we need to talk about big elaborate showrooms. Let’s face it, potential and existing customer habits have changed and evolved. Huge showrooms to display your wares are certainly impressive, but probably not necessary anymore. It’s a great feeling when I walk into elaborate showrooms, but after spending some time in them, you come to the conclusion of what is missing. Namely, CUSTOMERS.

In today’s fast pace world, clients have less time to visit brick and mortar establishments and are more than willing to accomplish task with the point and click method or just by picking up the phone. Although there are market where a showroom is a must, maybe it’s time to think about downsizing, or better yet investing in an outside sales force that can show your services and products almost anywhere.

Space is money. Are you better off filling that space with product that can be rented to produce revenue or display items that might draw a limited audience? I still agree there are those clients that need to come in and “kick the tires”, but that has to be balanced with the need for space.

More and more rental companies are opting for the Industrial complex model. Moving off major highways and high priced real estate locations to more cost effective properties that are still accessible but priced right. Usually these locations have better loading facilities and are much easier to layout efficiently. Showrooms are still present, but at a much reduced size.

Second, let’s review delivery vehicles. As I drive around, I have been paying special attention to the unique vehicles you all use. From 24’ box trucks, to Sprinters vans and flatbeds to tractor trailers. I have seen amazing body wraps and clever slogans painted on the sides. Delivery trucks are moving advertisements for you and then say a lot about your company.

What I have noticed in these vehicles will probably make your cringe. I have stopped at traffic lights and looked across or to the left or right and noticed in the cabs of these vehicles very visible through the front windshields, and noted the following items: The remains of a baloney sandwich from days gone by, piles of lottery scratch off tickets, risky magazines, empty soda cans, crumbled rental contracts, several days’ worth of t-shirts, jackets and caps. And assorted tent parts such as R-Pins and bungees.

I’m sure once these trucks return to base locations there are procedures to clean this up (hopefully), but is it really necessary that your trucks be treated like dorm rooms while your crews are on the road representing your company?

Third, I would like to mention trade shows. Walking around, I noticed that the manufacturers with the most traffic are the one that have the most new products and ideas. If you’re selling the same old thing, what is the draw to visit your booth? If you’re offering special pricing or discounts, that doesn’t require traveling. It can very easily be obtained via a phone order or internet sale, rather than attendees giving up their time to travel or  limiting there time to see other vendors that have new items worth their time.

Wake up manufacturers! Stop being content with what you have now. Survival will be based on how well you adapt to changing markets. New products are just one part of this. New markets must be opened and you must connect with today’s clients and their needs. Remember, as a manufacturer or vendor you have the ability and knowledge to shape markets and change customer needs and wants.

Finally, I would like to mention training. Many of you have employees that have been around awhile and are very set in there ways. When was the last time you updated or refreshed your customer service, telephone answering, computer knowledge and even CAD skills?

Your warehouse, delivery and back office people need training in safety, material handling, and driving and customer service as well. Don’t take this for granted. Training not only serves to make your company more competitive, it’s also a great motivator for employees. It shows your care enough about them and are willing to invest in their futures.

You can never go wrong with training. Its available, it’s generally economical and now is the perfect time of year when it’s quiet to do it.

Looking forward to visiting many more of you. Send me an email, be glad to come and say hello. We can do lunch or just hangout.

By the way, I have not mentioned any particular operations or vendors, but I do want to point out that everyone I have visited has rolled out the red carpet and made me proud to be part of the greatest industry on earth.

Until next issue, enjoy the holidays, stay warm and keep growing
I’ll be watching 

NOTE:  This Blog has also been published in the December issue of ARA of NJ RentalWorks

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Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Drive-Thru Theory

drive_inMy morning routine includes a stop at my local Starbucks on the way to work. Equipped with my Starbucks Stainless Steel reusable mug and App on my IPhone I am welcomed into the establishment each weekday morning by a cheerful well trained staff that truly understands that  customer satisfaction is everything.   I’m not just paying for a cup of coffee, even though it is the best coffee on the planet. What I am paying for is the Starbucks experience.

As I enter the establishment I notice that the drive-thru window is usually 8 to 12 cars deep. Even though there is nobody in the store the drive-thru is usually packed.   Makes you wonder, “What’s up with that”?  Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the drive thru supposed to be a convenience to make things easier and to save time.  Most of the time when I leave the store the line of 12 cars is down to 10.  So much for saving time!

According to Wikipedia, A drive-through, or drive-thru, is a type of service provided by a business that allows customers to purchase products without leaving their cars. The format was pioneered in the United States in the 1930s. Drive-thru’s are now found in the vast majority of modern American fast food chains.

Notice the key phrase in that definition is “purchase a product”. Nothing in that definition mentions a service or customer experience.  Now if I just wanted to purchase a product and didn’t want to get out of the car then I could go to McDonalds for a .99 cent cup of coffee. (FYI: that will never happen). If I’m going to spent $2.49 for a cup of Java then I want the whole customer experience and the service that goes with it. It’s all about the value.

Back in the 50’s a fast food establishment had what was called drive-ins.  This was where you parked your car and a car hop came out, sometimes on skates to greet you and take your order.  This was all part of the customer experience. Not only was your meal enjoyable (hopefully) it was a fun and pleasurable experience. With the exception of Sonic, this service is hardly ever seen anymore.

We basically have taken the Drive-in theory and completely destroyed it.  What remains is the Drive Thru, which has become more impersonal every day.  Many feature a wall with a voice that tries to  sounds human when you talk to place your orders (AKA, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s and Burger King just to name a few)

Honestly, how hard is it to park the car get a little fresh air, talk to real people, stretch your legs and probably save time?  I can understand if you are in a crowded city or its 30 below zero, but if you’re a suburbanite like most of us that are reading this piece, you really have no excuse.

This blog would not be complete if I didn’t mention the drive-thru experience at the bank.  Photo Feb 26, 8 19 48 AMNow we all know how wonderful that is. First question we need to ask, do we really even need local banks anymore?  Last time I checked we can make deposits with our smartphones, we can get cash at ATM’s and variety of stores. We can pay bills online and most banking forms can be downloaded.  When was the last time you had a friendly experience at a drive in teller?  Most look at you as an inconvenience. The concept of drive up tellers was a unique idea that worked probably in the 70’s 80’s and even the 90’s but for today’s consumer, something has to change.

Let’s not forget about the Drive-thru Pharmacy.  Does this sound familiar?

“Please ring the bell for assistance.  A pharmacist will be right with you. While you are waiting please enjoy this 3 hour movie, if you are dropping off a prescription please have your passport, voters registration, copy of your electric bill and 5 forms of identification.  If you are picking up a prescription please come back some other time. If you are really sick and need medication quickly we suggest you try mail order.”

Also gone are the days on the Drive-in Theater. It won’t be long before the actual movie theater fades as well.  More and more of us have gotten accustomed to streaming on our tablets and home entertainment setups. Why spend $40.00 for a night at the movies.  No need to even leave the house, much less get out of the car.

What does the future of Drive thru’s have in store for us? Can we foresee the drive thru Apple store?  You enter with an IPhone 5 and pull out with an IPhone 6.   Anyone for a drive thru hair salon? Can you picture it now, you stick your head out the window, these automated clippers come out and in minutes you have a new dew and drive off.

Call me old fashion, but I think I will just park the car and enter the brick and mortar establishment and experience reality. For everything else theirs Amazon.com….. But that’s another blog.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)