Loaners9 Oct, 2001 By: Jim Intravia imageSource
got your name from the phone book. Our machine is down and we can’t live
without it. Can we have a loaner while you are fixing ours?”
get a call like that about once or twice a year. The answer that is in my head,
and that I usually avoid blurting out is “Hell no!” Everybody thinks that
they can't live without their machine, but they can. However, it is nice to have
them be that dependent on us, and so my natural arrogance and nastiness has to
give way to being a businessman with a family to feed.
machine is down and things are tough all over, but there are situations where
loaners are appropriate, and there are some situations where a rental is
appropriate. Offering a rental instead of a loaner is often a good compromise
method. Typically, the customer will decide they can live without their machine
for a short period. It’s funny how they couldn’t when they thought they
could use a machine at no charge.
shop machines, the rental and loaner practically never happens. With old thermal
faxes, it wasn’t bad. However, modern plain paper fax machines, with either
expensive ribbons or expensive toner cartridges, can backfire on you. A low buck
rental that requires a cartridge on its second day out can make you wish you
didn’t offer it. Unlike thermal paper, customers cannot use their own
supplies. Rental and loaner copiers are never done, except for very unusual
circumstances. If they can bring us their copier, they can also drive to a some
place that they can make copies. True, we don’t like acquainting them with
places like that, but it amounts to a cost benefit situation. You can't win em
all! Consider how likely it is that the loaner copier will be dropped or
otherwise abused. Of course, we would get a deposit before it left here, but it
is so much easier to just say no.
company that requires a working fax machine for their flow of income has to have
a backup. They are dumb if they don’t. Everyone needs a fax for the usual
stuff, but some require it as a step in their day-to-day business. They have to
have a backup. A loaner should not be necessary, but repairing their primary
machine promptly is necessary.
Large Heavy-Duty Machines
I love those things. That is how I've made a living since 1973. Loaners are
sometimes desired, and sometimes necessary. If it is a chargeable customer, they
will often object to a rental fee or delivery and pickup fee. However, the cost
of repairs is always a mystery number. If you wish to supply a machine while
theirs is down, rather than offering a rental fee, just build it into the price
of the repair and tell them it is no charge. You are not lying, just packaging
things for them.
Your Own Life Easier
you are going on a call and are anticipating the need for a loaner, bring it
with you if possible. This has several advantages: One, it obviously saves you a
trip to the customer. Two, if you are doing this enthusiastically and wish to
get the repair job, you have increased the chance of doing so. The customer is
more likely to say yes, if they know they will be up and running (via your
loaner) almost immediately. If they have a day or so to decide, they may call
Cousin Joe who is a salesman for another dealer.
loaner should be as simple for the customer as possible. The perfect situation
is to lend them an identical machine, but a perfect world this is not. Don’t
worry if your loaner does not match their machine in terms of features. They can
live without collator, feeder, and a second cassette for a week, most likely.
The simpler your loaner, the better you like it. The more complex, and the more
unlike their own machine, the more trouble you will have. It is very frustrating
to do a service call on a loaner while it is on loan. The cost of your labor
puts a huge dent in the money you intend to make on the repair. Of course, it is
up to you to supply a machine that needs minimal maintenance and is operating
well. Even a machine with a set of minor problems and special instructions, is
asking for trouble.
Say No Sometimes
their machine is going to be down for 3-4 days awaiting a part, it almost never
makes sense to supply a loaner. You have to prep the loaner, deliver it, train
them, etc. Then a few days later, you have to reverse the process. A minor
problem, phone call, or service call in between, is quite likely. I usually
convince them that they are better off waiting for their machine to be fixed.
Realistically, a 4-day loan amounts to about two good days of use. Your costs
and trouble are way out of proportion to what the customer gains.
Loaner Is A Courtesy, Not An Obligation
not mention it in your service contract. The law of averages says you will only
need one or two at a time, but Murphy's Law supercedes the law of averages. I
once had a contract customer demand a loaner for an irreparable machine and got
one for the 10 months remaining on his contract. I was young and naïve and
could not very well argue with my own contract, could I? During an electrical
problem in California in 1984, an entire series of machines melted down.
Certainly, contracts should not cover problems such as this on the other hand;
loaners were requested all at once. California energy problems, doesn’t sound
so unfamiliar now does it?
As A Sales Tool
am not saying this is a good idea or a bad one. It depends on the situation and
on the individual. A sales strategy is to pull a machine in the shop for
overhaul or repair and lend the customer a brand new model. In some cases, the
customer is so impressed with the new machine that they buy one. It works in
some situations, but is not for everybody. If you have an under-utilized new
machine that you want to amortize, it is a good way to make use of it.
are not a given. They apply in certain situations. Consider all aspects of the
situation, both machines and the customer.