“To be totally transparent... I still have my doubts about surviving this crisis,” wrote Rich Guernsey owner of Rabbit Rentals, on May 21. The business, which at the time had a fleet of 10 vans, was less than three years old.
Guernsey’s company, Rabbit Rentals, a small passenger van rental company serving northern and central Utah, was coming off two months with only two rentals since the coronavirus pandemic had started — and those were freebies. On top of it all, Guernsey applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) but was turned down because his employees are family members, also owners of the business.
Do you remember those moments in life where you could’ve chosen the left fork in the road, or the right? The choice makes all the difference. Guernsey could’ve folded his tent and retired. Instead, he went to work in rethinking his business, attracting new customers, and wringing every efficiency out of his processes.
Guernsey sent this update last week:
“After a rough go with Covid-19 our business has rebounded dramatically. We had the best July we ever had, and halfway through August we had the best August ever. Same goes for September. I don't know what’s going on, but right now when we should be selling vans going into our slow period, business is still booming.
We have been sold out for the last three weekends straight! We are putting in our van orders now for next year and I am optimistic that next year we will have the best year ever.”
Low-Tech Contactless Rentals
One interesting thing that we found as a result of Covid-19 is that no-contact, self-service rentals are not a temporary thing. Changing our procedures to go to no-contact, self-service as a result of Covid-19 has turned out to be a better way to operate and is now part of our normal routine.
All the paperwork is taken care of ahead of time by email or text. I leave a hard copy of the rental agreement in the front passenger seat in case customers want to get a look at the van before they sign the rental agreement. Then they merely take a picture of the signed document, text it to me and off they go.
The keyless entry pad on the driver’s door is a low-tech way that allows us to go to no-contact, self-service rentals. I know a lot of companies use cell phones and GPS to show where vehicles are located, unlock them, and start the rental. While those are great practices, and frankly it was the direction that we originally wanted to go, buying the hardware and the software to make those kinds of systems work is expensive. The maintenance on those systems and labor to keep them current is another factor to be considered.
We bypass all of that with the keyless entry pad. We text the customer the code for the keyless entry pad, take a picture of the van and tell them where it is located, and that works just fine for us. This is the way that we will conduct operations from here on out.
You may think that we lose the personal contact goodwill that comes with face-to-face interactions, but honestly, I have found that our customers really, really appreciate the simplicity and ease of use that has resulted from this shift in operations. Our reviews bear that out. We don't lose anything by not having that face-to-face contact that we had before. For us, it is the only way to go!