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Convenience is the watchword for busy firms

Competition among tool hire firms has led to innovations in customer service. By Sat Dhaiwal

When it comes to hiring tools, contractors certainly have no shortage of choice at the moment.

Name any area in the UK and you will find several players competing for the same business. The hirers have to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

More than any other hire sector, tool hire sees a large number of independents targeting their local DIY and builders’ markets.

But the competition for fewer, larger customers is increasing the pressure on prices and driving consolidation, so a good local service may no longer be enough.

Guarantees on service are crucial in tool hire, as customers so often demand a rapid response. Convenience is one of the main drivers in the market.

Often there is very little notice given when equipment is needed, so it is time critical. If a provider offers a guarantee that they will deliver within 60 minutes of the quoted delivery time or the hire is free, this is undoubtedly attractive and it also enables customers to meet their own KPIs.

Enhance the service

Our research has shown that customers want and need more information to help them understand the ever-evolving health and safety regulations.

Tool hirers must be able to provide fuller information and guidance on health and safety issues such as hand-arm vibration; hazards of working in confined spaces; manual handling methods and noise.

To enhance the service, a real development for the future is remote frequency identification (RFID) tagging of equipment.

This is an automatic identification method relying on storing and remotely retrieving data from the RFID tags. If equipment is tagged, it provides far greater asset control for the hirer and customers can immediately see where their equipment is and when the item needs to be paid for and so on.

RFID tags can be fitted at the time of purchase and they are tamper-proof.

Customers are also increasingly wanting a broader range of equipment – plant and tools rather than just tools alone – and there is a new drive to establish ‘supersites’.

With both plant and tools being supplied from a single site, there are inherent benefits in terms of cost efficiencies and reduced emissions.

If this is combined with the use of electric delivery vehicles, it will also further reduce the impact on the environment – a consideration for every construction company today.

Larger customers now also want dedicated account management and salespeople with expertise across the board, rather than having different reps going on site at different times to talk about different products.

With most of the ordering for tools coming from a central base rather than at site level, this is very important in tool hire.

For large projects, the provision of on-site hire facilities is rapidly growing and this provides an ideal solution both in terms of the environment – by cutting down on the number of journeys – and in terms of asset control and convenience.

By offering such a facility, the control and management of assets can be managed much more efficiently for contractors and their subcontractors alike.

Sat Dhaiwal is chief executive of A-Plant