The Secret to Keeping Customers Safe

Jan. 1, 2012
The quality and accuracy of content in the instructional videos rental customers use to learn how to properly operate rented equipment is paramount to their safety and your business. Beware of inaccurate videos posted on YouTube.

The number one way to keep your customers from getting injured using a tool you've rented to them is to properly train them in its use before they leave the store.

OK, that was easy, right?

Well, not quite.

It used to be that you ran the rental store and knew everything about everything you rented. These days, things are different. The kid on the cash register doesn't have your experience, or he's more interested in talking on the cell phone than to a customer.

To protect yourself, you need to make sure that every customer gets the proper training on every tool. But how do you do it?

Many manufacturers provide videos of the safety procedures and proper application and operation of their tools. Some rental stores have a video player running mindlessly in the corner. Others send the video home with the customer, but rarely see it come back again. Some rental centers have decided to produce their own instructional videos and post them to YouTube. This approach tells your customer that you are the expert, and reinforces your store identity. But if you're going to do this, you'd better get it right!

If you want to cringe, just go to YouTube and search how-to videos. You'll see many dangerously inaccurate videos — improper safety procedures, missing safety equipment and horribly incorrect operating instructions that could cause serious injury or death. Can you imagine what would happen to your rental business if one of your customers got hurt by following the incorrect instructions in a video your store produced? You might as well hand over the keys to the store. Or at least take a serious insurance hit. Better to use only the instructional videos provided by the manufacturer. But if running them in the store or lending the videos to your customers isn't working, here are other ways to make sure your customers learn the safe and proper operation of the tool they've just rented from you.

  • Most manufacturers post their videos on their website or YouTube. You can add the web address to the tool, if the manufacturer hasn't done it already.

  • Add manufacturers' instructional videos to your company website, then place a decal on each machine directing customers to your site for instructions.

  • Instruct your customers to view the instructions and how-to videos at home by using the QR (Quick Response) codes on the tool. Several manufacturers, including General Pipe Cleaners and Mi-T-M, now have QR code decals on their rental machines.

What's a QR code? QR codes are an advanced form of barcodes. They can be scanned by smartphones, and other mobile devices, with a QR reader app to link to more information about a product. The user just has to open the QR reader on his or her smartphone, point the camera at the QR code, and scan it. The smartphone web browser will take the user directly to a mobile website dedicated to that QR code.

If a user doesn't have a QR code app on his or her smartphone already, he or she can get one through an app store or website such as

In advertising or at retail locations, QR codes allow customers instant access to product brochures and websites with more detailed information. In a rental application, machines and tools with a QR code label affixed to them allow the rental customer to scan the label to determine if this is the right tool for their application, and to view instructional videos and detailed safety information, product applications, and more for free.

The advantages of the QR code are numerous. Up until now, a rental store had to have the counter person help the customer select the right tool for the job, teach the customer how to use it, and be sure the customer understood the safety precautions associated with the tool. Now, any customer with a smartphone (and these days, most people have them) can scan the QR code in the store to select the right tool, then watch the video or read the instructions at the jobsite where the tool is to be used.

Other things you can do to keep your customers safe include:

  • Make sure equipment is properly maintained (lubricated) between rentals.

  • Make sure the equipment is in good working order (no damaged power cords) before renting it out.

  • Make sure safety equipment (leather gloves, goggles, etc.) is provided with the tool.

  • Make sure your customer is renting the right tool for the job.

  • Make sure rental staff is trained in the proper operation of the tool.

The answer to keeping your customers safe is no secret. Instructional videos are available from the equipment manufacturers. All the rental business has to do is make sure its customers (and its counter staff) watch them. Be sure that customers know how to safely operate all of the tools they rent before they use them.

Marty Silverman is vice president, marketing, for McKees Rocks, Pa.-based General Pipe Cleaners.