Year round, rental companies are working to deliver unmatched customer experiences. While well-kept equipment, skilled instructors, and excellent customer service are the forefront of great business, it's equally important to provide smooth onboarding — which is typically attributed to how bookings are managed. Rental merchants operating small, medium, and large sized businesses often face the challenge of maintaining a great customer experience, while balancing a large volume of equipment rentals.
In chatting with several different rental companies, it became clear that different size companies experience different types of challenges. For example, small companies may favor pen and paper in lieu of technology to foster a more personal experience. At the same time, a large company may feel that their rental offering is too complex to be managed by one system.
No matter how your company manages its bookings, there are pros and cons involved in your current process. Here is a look at how three different sized companies manage the challenge of seamlessly accepting bookings and renting out equipment.
Small Businesses: The Pros and Cons of Pen & Paper Bookings
Windsure Adventure Watersports, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is by no means new to the rental scene. Operating since 1977, the company has been teaching and renting out equipment for windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and skimboarding to individuals and groups. The company prides itself on providing customers with a safe and enjoyable way to get out on the water and learn new skills. During peak season, Windsure will serve upwards of 2,000 customers a month.
President and owner Bernard Labrosse explains that the company accepts phone and walk-in reservations, and manages their rental bookings using pen and paper. This method holds benefits and constraints. On the one hand, the manual approach to accepting bookings presents Windsure with the opportunity to have personalized interactions with their customers, adding to the overall customer experience. On the other hand, Labrosse indicates that their booking process presents one main challenge: lineups. “The general customer feedback is that they aren't partial to waiting in line for service," Labrosse says.
Will Windsure ever use an online booking system? “I feel an online system would be beneficial, but unfortunately I have not found the right one for our business yet," Labrosse says. Many small business owners share a similar opinion. Some of the most common reasons these sized businesses observe pen and paper booking methods are because:
Many employees are wearing multiple hats, strapping resources and leaving little time to research solutions that could help scale efforts.
Business owners fear that transitioning from a manual booking method to an automated booking method may take away from their personal customer experience.
Rental merchants that don't have an off-season can't find the time to implement a new booking platform.
For some smaller businesses, pen and paper booking methods may be the only type of booking experience that scales. If a small business owner decided to implement an online booking system, however, it could enhance customer experiences (expedite bookings, for example). Partnering with a provider that can quickly help you implement their booking solution allows business to keep moving and actually pick up its pace.
Medium Businesses: Blending Pen & Paper Bookings with an Online System
Surf Junction, located in Tofino, British Columbia, is a “one-stop-shop for camping and surfing," as described by co-owner Kaleigh Day. Perched at the entrance of the Pacific Rim National Park, Surf Junction stands apart from competitors by offering large private campsites and clean new facilities, with surf lessons and equipment rentals readily available.
Seamlessly handling both campsite reservations and equipment rentals is a daunting task for any merchant. Surf Junction tackles this problem, Day explains, by blending pen and paper booking tactics with an online system. “For managing campground reservations, we use a program called Campground Master," says Day. Campground Master is an online reservation system for RVs and campgrounds, and the platform allows Surf Junction to avoid mistakes, process bookings quicker, and utilize their camp space more efficiently.
Although Surf Junction uses this program, they still take reservations by phone and then manually input reservations and rentals into the system — one of the pen and paper tactics the company continues to practice. “While an online reservation system would be easier, I also feel like it lacks the personal connection that we make with our campers when we do bookings via email or on the phone," Day explains. "This method allows us to learn a bit about our customers, chat surfing, figure out what they like and then book a site and/or surf package that works best for them."
Medium sized companies face similar challenges that both small and large do: they want to simultaneously stay interactive with their customers but also require some type of customized and automated booking system. One way that medium sized businesses could strike the balance would be by adopting a booking platform that allows them to easily take reservations and manage rentals over the phone. This type of solution would equip owners of medium-sized businesses to quickly create new bookings or edit and cancel existing bookings — all over the phone. This would alleviate some of the pen and paper administrative burden, while still allowing businesses to maintain personal booking experiences with their customers.
Large Businesses: Complex Offerings Require Customized Booking Systems
With headquarters on the edge of iconic Algonquin Provincial Park, Algonquin Outfitters and its impressive 12 stores throughout the park have been operating for more than 50 years, dealing with thousands of rentals — every single month. From back-country adventures to all-inclusive guided canoe trips to camping packages designed specifically to meet the needs of the customer, Algonquin Outfitters provides an unmatched “choose your own adventure" experience.
To describe Algonquin Outfitters' rental offering as “complex" would be an understatement. In addition to managing a large stock, the company offers an incredible variation of rental activities and equipment, across its many stores. Randy Mitson, the company's marketing manager, elaborates on how Algonquin Outfitters has chosen to manage bookings by saying: “We have a custom designed rental booking system to accommodate our needs. When we originally looked for a system, nothing existed at the time that offered the size, flexibility and one-time cost we were looking for, so we designed our own."
The company mostly works with online reservations, and when asked what could improve their online system, Mitson explains that “it would be ideal if we could upgrade our current system to match our back-end inventory system."
Many large businesses struggle with implementing a booking platform that specifically meets their needs. Customization and merging with other technologies are key considerations for large companies operating with a complex offering. A capable booking software must allow for custom add-ons, promotions, and seasonal pricing, and accept bookings 24/7.
ZOZI Advance, for instance, is an online booking software for tours, activities, and events, offering the industry's most robust online booking system for rentals. Their system makes managing activity rentals easier than ever by accepting rental bookings and payments 24/7 from any device, simplifying complex rental offerings and tracking inventory effectively, and automatically syncing information to avoid double-booking. Request a demo to see how ZOZI Advance for rentals could help your business.