As lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted and things begin to return to “normal”, projects that have been on hold for many months become feasible. That smell in the air is optimism.
The housing market is booming and demand for repairs, upgrades & conversions will soon be released like the fizz from a bottle of cheap prosecco. DIY-ers prevented from frittering their money away in the pub or on holidays have funds for projects around the house and garden.
Here are 6 things savvy plant hire companies are doing to position themselves to take advantage of this pent-up demand.
1 They overhaul their website.
Plant hire is a competitive field. The days of small ads in the local free paper and door-to-door flyers are gone. Even small businesses need an online presence. It doesn’t need to be big or fancy, but it needs to be there, or how else will customers find them?
Existing websites should be “spring-cleaned” and updated. Links should be tested and email & phone contact information double-checked for accuracy. Stale, out-of-date websites don’t score well in ranking algorithms, so add some new material – updated photos of recently acquired plant, premises or smiley staff members, or an engaging blog post.
For firms new to the internet, there are companies where you can easily build your own basic, yet professional-looking, website using templates. Wix, Site123 and GoDaddy are only a few of the many free website builders available.
Or, if you’d like to support a local business, you can hire a web designer to make a bespoke website. In the unlikely event that there’s not a local web designer nearby, the freelance website Fiverr has over 100,000 freelance sellers vying for your business, often at ridiculously low rates.
2 They answer the phone or call back promptly.
Ideally, the phone will be manned by a real person who can deal with enquiries, or at least take contact details for a callback. Voicemail isn’t ideal during business hours, and many potential customers will just try the next firm on the list.
For out-of-hours enquiries, however, a professional-sounding voicemail message is essential. It should state the company name & business hours and invite callers to leave their name & number for a callback. Don’t ramble – re-record!
Call back enquirers as soon as possible. Make it the first job of the day to respond to out-of-hours calls.
3 They’re pleasant and helpful.
This shouldn’t need to be stated to any business selling goods or services, but we’ve all experienced phoning businesses where, judging by the phone response, it’s a matter of indifference whether we buy or not.
Whoever answers the phone is the first contact between your business and potential new customers. They should be bright & enthusiastic and, ideally, able to answer enquiries or quickly transfer the caller to someone who can. Get a reputation for being easy to deal with and having a “can-do” attitude.
4 They follow-up leads as relentlessly as AC-12 sniffing out “H”.
Plant hire leads will be unlikely from shady car parks or unsavoury graffitied underpasses, but networking with industry contacts and keeping an eye on the construction press will pay dividends. The early bird gets the worms.
Once they’ve quoted for work, successful firms follow up to maintain contact with the potential customer. Even if the job went elsewhere, a friendly follow-up call may be remembered if the first firm falls short in any way. Or it may result in valuable feedback about why they didn’t get the job this time around.
5 They master email communication.
They look professional in their emails. It’s easy to set up templates for commonly used messages – attaching quotes or invoices or responding to enquiries.
They use meaningful subject lines and have a “corporate signature block” with the firm’s name, a contact name, phone number, and possibly a company logo.
The attached quotes and invoices should also look professional, with key information about the company and the job clearly laid out. Attachments should be PDFs so that they can’t easily be altered.
6 They review their insurances.
Theft of plant & machinery is big business. Estimates vary, but £70m annually has been mentioned by ABAX vehicle telematics specialists. Even more depressingly, they say that about 90% is never recovered. PBC Today reported a 50% increase in thefts of plant from construction sites in the first 2 weeks of lockdown in 2020.
Smart plant hire companies ensure that their insurers are aware of all their plant & equipment at current valuations. They have an updated register of their machinery, including VIN numbers and photographs of the equipment and any identifying marks.
They fit trackers and register their equipment with one of the plant databases – TER (The Equipment Register), Datatag or CESAR.
Plant isn’t always stolen at dead of night from the compound. In 2016 Police Scotland investigated a plague of thefts of plant, vehicles & fuel worth £2m by fraudulent companies. Proper due diligence on customers obtaining high-value plant is vital. Failure to carry out reasonable checks could affect insurance cover.
On a less sophisticated level, it’s not unknown for blaggers to turn up at a site on a Friday afternoon “to collect the plant”, never to be seen again once the site staff have helped them load it up.
With loss of plant comes loss of income, but clear-sighted plant hirers will have discussed this with their insurance brokers and arranged cover.
To take full of advantage of market opportunities as we emerge, blinking, from lockdown – embrace technology, be helpful & responsive to customer needs, make a good impression, ensure security is a top priority and don’t skimp on insurance.
hubb (Honest Usage-Based Brokers) can advise on all aspects of insurance for plant hire operators and other business owners.