Rent Smart: The big picture

While this column usually reports on the machine-specific rental practices of our readers, it’s time to step back and look at the bigger picture. This month we’re drilling into four questions that we asked in five surveys during 2006 and 2007.*

Customer service
We asked respondents to rank which customer service items were most important to them, on a scale of one to eight. (One was “most important” and eight was “least important.”) Before we go into the top four answers in terms of importance, it’s interesting to note that “rental rates” came in fifth – a strong indication that low rates are not always an overwhelming lure.

Top of the list was convenience; respondents wanted a nearby rental dealer. Then they cited their past experience with a dealer. Excellent service equals future service. Rounding off the top four were two equipment issues – the equipment had to be ready to go and well maintained. Dead last? The brand of equipment the dealer had.

What aspects of customer service are most important to you in rental dealer? (Ranked from most important = 1, to least important = 8)
Survey T A E P Avg.
Nearby location of dealer 2.9 3.3 3.9 2.9 3.2
Past experience with dealer 3.6 3.3 3.9 3.9 3.6
Well-maintained equipment 3.3 3.3 4.5 3.8 3.7
Equipment is available immediately 3.6 3.2 4.6 4.1 3.8
Rental rates 3.6 3.4 4.3 4.6 3.9
Easy access for pickup/delivery 4.3 3.4 5.1 4.4 4.3
Prompt field service on a down machine call 4.5 3.5 4.6 4.9 4.3
Knowledgeable sales reps and counter people 4.9 3.6 5.3 5 4.7
Type of equipment carried 4.6 4 4.9 5.4 4.7
Dealer is a one-stop shop 4.9 3.7 5.4 5 4.7
Brand of equipment carried 5.5 4.4 4.9 5.8 5.1
T=Trenchers, A=Attachments, E=Excavators, P=Pumps, Avg.=Average

The perfect rental dealer
With this question we wanted to learn more about what attracted our readers to certain dealers. So we asked them, “If you could design the perfect rental dealer, would it …?”

It’s clear from their responses that they value rental purchase options, immediate replacement machines and tools, and knowledgeable sales reps and counter people. Contractors rely on the latter to know the capabilities of the equipment for rent, and what will work for their job.

Online on- and off-rental are still not high on this list, although a comparison between these numbers and responses to a survey given five years from now will likely show a sharp trend upward.

If you could design the perfect rental dealer would it . . . ?
Survey T A P C E Avg.
Offer rental purchase options 59.9 68.8 68.6 56.1 60.9 62.8
Provide faster replacement machines/tools for downed rental units 54 61.4 55.9 54.7 51.6 55.5
Hire knowledgeable sales reps/counter people 54 54 59.4 54.7 52.8 54.9
Be located closer to your jobsite 50.4 47.7 47.6 48.8 42.6 47.4
Offer equipment for sale 43.8 46 52.8 44.4 46.7 46.7
Rent a greater variety of tools/accessories 42.3 46 49.5 45.9 40.9 44.9
Stay away from your jobsite unless you called them 27 30.1 25.8 25.7 27.2 44.9
Rent more brands of equipment 23.4 22.7 19.2 25.4 18.6 21.8
Allow you to call off rent online 18.2 28.4 19.7 17.3 18.8 20.4
Allow you to place rental reservations online 16.8 27.8 16.2 19.6 17.4 19.5
Send sales reps to visit your jobsite more often to offer solutions 10.9 13.6 13.1 14 12.2 12.7
T=Trenchers, A=Attachments, P=Pumps, C=Compactors, E=Excavators, Avg.=Average

How contractors put rental in their budgets
By a significant margin, respondents tell us they budget rental in each job estimate, and manage it on a per-job basis. Still, at least one-fifth of the respondents say rental is not budgeted because it’s used on an emergency basis only. Less than 10 percent do a significant annual review of what their rental needs will be in the coming year.

How do you treat rental as a budget item?
Survey T A P C Avg.
Rental is budgeted in each job estimate and managed by each job 78.1 60.9 59 55 63.2
Rental is used on an emergency basis only and therefore not budgeted 13.1 21.1 25.3 23.2 20.6
We don’t put rental in our budget or job estimates 10.2 10.2 10 13 10.8
The amount we plan to rent is budgeted each year 1.5 7 4.8 6.5 4.9
Other 1.5 0.8 0.8 2.3 1.3
T=Trenchers, A=Attachments, P=Pumps, C=Compactors, Avg.=Average

Who has the authority to rent?
Several people have this authority (this was a multiple choice question), but it primarily rests on three people: the president or owner of the company, the project manager and the job superintendent. Equipment managers and crew foremen are also in the mix, but to a much lesser extent.

Who gives the approval in your organization to rent a machine on a job? (Multiple answers accepted)
Survey T A P C Avg.
President 62 59.7 58.5 58.8 59.7
Job superintendent 28.5 37.5 40.2 29.8 34
Project manager 37.2 31.3 32.8 30.7 33
Equipment manager 16.8 29 21.8 19.6 21.8
Crew foreman 12.4 17.6 23.6 11.7 16.3
Other 13.1 8.5 7.9 7.6 9.2
T=Trenchers, A=Attachments, P=Pumps, C=Compactors, Avg.=Average

*Editor’s Note: The following surveys were used in compiling this information: 2007 – Renting Trenchers (232 respondents); Renting Pumps (301 respondents); 2006 – Renting ride-on compactors (342 respondents); Renting attachments (239 respondents); Renting excavators and compact excavators (345 respondents). Total respondents for all five surveys: 1,459.