Recent acquisitions have dramatically altered the relationship between rental companies and manufacturers and will continue to do so in the future. A few years ago, the relationship between the manufacturer and the rental owner was based on a handshake. Manufacturers and owners built a solid relationship based on experience and trust. A rental owner's word was as good as gold. Manufacturers, on the other hand, found it relatively easy to forecast changes in the economy and the industry as a whole.
But because of consolidation and the growing attraction to e-commerce, these relationships will become more impersonal. We will see a drop in customer calls, creating a lack of urgency and emotion between the manufacturer and rental store owner. Without the immediacy of personal contact, minor problems could turn into major ones.
Some manufacturers will also become less enchanted with brand loyalty. For more than 40 years, forging strong relationships between rental centers and manufacturers was the most important tool in this industry. But I don't see this happening in the future. Take for instance trade shows, a great place to build these relationships. Trade shows, as well as trade associations, are becoming less important in our industry and that further deteriorates these relationships.
On the bright side, manufacturers and rental companies will be able to predict accurate buying patterns together. The manufacturer will know in advance the quantity and timeframe of shipments from the rental company. The rental company will be able to receive the product in the timeframe they require. Both parties will become more organized and will be able to support the customers in a more efficient manner.
With consolidation, doing business will require more than just a handshake. Business will be handled on a contractual basis. Because customer service is critical in the field, the role of a manufacturers' rep will become more vital. Reps are the eyes and ears of our business, and we must rely on them to provide the manufacturer with the feedback from the rental stores.
This industry will change the way it did business in the past. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that building relationships is key to staying competitive in the industry. We must work together to accomplish this goal. Overall, the relationships between manufacturers and reps will grow, but it will never be the way it was in the past. We must look to the future and build upon the past.