Serving Customers By Servicing Equipment

Written by: David Huey and Eric Morse | September 28, 2010

When a customer comes into the RSC in Olathe, Kansas, it doesn't matter whether they rent equipment five times at year, or 100 — every customer is made to feel important, according to Cary Barrows, general manager. That is why the company was recognized by the Kansas City Community News as the best place to work and the best rental supply company in the area in a readers' choice survey.

One way to make customers feel important is to rent them good equipment, that's been well serviced before and after the rental. One example is when a contractor comes in for a concrete walk-behind trowel. If they're going to put down a smooth finish to a pour, the trowel has to be in shape.

Check It Out Right

Each piece of equipment that leaves the shop has to go through a service checklist, said shop foreman Gary McCoy. "It is clean, gassed up, full of oil, rotors greased, with everything working," he states. He checks the wear on the blades before the customer comes in, changing those that are frayed on the backside. "A good edge is critical," he notes.

Keeping an eye on blade wear helps McCoy know if the trowel is being operated and cared for properly. If blades are wearing at different rates,something is out of alignment or the renter is not operating it properly. Going the extra mile for a contractor may mean giving them a quick refresher on trowel operation. The fact is, if the renter cleans the trowel right after using it, the blades will have a longer life. As it is, McCoy figures he's going to have to change blades four or five times a year. Of course, if the blades are ruined by the customer, it may well be their responsibility to replace them.

Many times rentals last for so long, customers know they'll be putting new blades on the machine before bringing it back to RSC. That's why most renters take very good care of their trowels — it means a smoother floor and lower costs.

"Greasing the rotors and blade arms is very important," McCoy says. "We schedule regular maintenance every 30 days of rental." If McCoy notices that the trowel need greasing before that, it will get done. Some renters are harder on the equipment than others, but all deserve a well-serviced, working machine. If a contractor sees extensive wear or leaking seems, they should take another trowel, or find another renter.

Check It Out Safely

McCoy demonstrates all the safety features on equipment leaving the shop. The automatic emergency stop mechanism is vital to safe operation. "It must shut the trowel off if it gets away from the operator," Barrow cautions. Otherwise, the entire trowel could start to spin, perhaps causing an injury.

The regular, 30-rental-day maintenance ensures safety as well as productivity. Engine oil, air filter, spark plugs, belt tension, and a dozen other items that are attended to keep the renter working instead of servicing the equipment themselves.

Washing down a trowel before renting also has a safety component. It is company policy that every machine rented must be clean, with all warning and operating decals totally visible and readable.

Both McCoy and Barrow stress that each piece of equipment must be started before the customer leaves with it. If there's any trouble, it needs to be fixed right away, or swapped with another machine. If they are delivering a walk-behind trowel to a job site, it will be started in the shop and once it makes it to the job.

"The one thing you don't want is to have the customer wait while you try to start it up," Barrow stresses. "When the concrete's there, you can't affordany delay."

Check It In Thoroughly

"The sooner renters clean a walk-behind trowel the better," McCoy advises. "If you get to it right away, a quickhosing will do the job. You don't need a power washer. If you wait too long, it could mean trouble." McCoy doesn't see the need for using any tools, if you move quickly. Tools, like scrapers, may damage the blade. All moving parts should be greased.

Washing down a walk-behind trowel is not all that easy in the field. Ideally, it should be picked up, held level and hosed off. Barrow notes that many operations just put it in the back of a pickup and wash it there. Just leaning on its side is very hard on a walk-behind trowel. Not only can you bend the blades, but you could leak oil or gas from the unit. In the shop, McCoy can easily use a hoist to thoroughly clean the trowel for the next renter.

Waiting For The Next Renter

The stand down on a machine is usually not that long. Equipment that doesn't get rented fairly regularly should probably be sent to another location or sold. Any trowel that does sit unrented will still be serviced according to company policy. If the wait gets too long, McCoy will add some gas stabilizer to the tank.

Remembering that the Kansas City Community News also noted that Barrow's operation was voted one of the best places to work in the area, I asked McCoy about it. "I've worked here nine years and we've yet to lose any employee to quitting or reprimand. You couldn't ask for better people to work with or for."

Both McCoy and Barrow know that there are plenty of rental operations out there. They realize that if they don't offer sound, working equipment and good service, that contractor will go someplace else. The other side of the coin is that if a customer has a bad experience with another renter, they may just call or walk into RSC in Olathe. What's going to keep them coming back to Barrow's rental operation? "When someone brings back their equipment, I ask if everything worked OK," Barrow says. "If it didn't, I stand by my responsibility. If it did work out, we talk about the next job. It's all about building the relationship."

Editor's Note: Special thanks to Russell Warner, Ingersoll Rand product marketing manager, for some of the information supplied in this story.