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How to avoid your rental contract becoming a toxic relationship

We’ve all been there: all things must come to an end, and all too often that end is a messy one. But when it comes to the breakdown of a customer/provider relationship, why is it that contracts so often end in conflict?

Breaking up is hard to do, according to Dawsonrental Vans MD Gareth Jones, but van renters might find that ending a contract can be particularly fraught. Once committed to a contract, even a fixed term one, the partnership goes through more than its fair share of ups and downs. Yet still, even when the relationship is wrong, the fear of disruption, hassle and cost of change keeps customers bound to their providers.

A major reason that the relationship deteriorates is that customers are often susceptible to hidden damage charges from rental companies. This is a prevalent problem throughout the industry, and one that is in dire need of redress. If rental providers refuse to be upfront, or fair, about the potential cost of damages, customers will find themselves hit hard, with little room for escape.

This is a serious problem for those locked into longer van rental contracts, fearing that the costs of leaving might be even higher than those incurred through unfair policies. This creates a damaging situation of its own, with customers stuck in a toxic relationship with providers, getting few positive outcomes from the contract but believing they have nowhere else to go.

Wear and tear is par for the course with any product, but is often exploited by vehicle rental providers to accumulate what can amount to millions in revenue

In order to avoid this inevitable souring of professional relationships, van rental providers need to accept the errors of the past and get on board with a cultural change throughout the industry. The core of this new business ethos must be an “innocent until proven guilty” approach that places reasonable expectations on customers to maintain their vehicles.

Wear and tear is par for the course with any product, but is often exploited by vehicle rental providers to accumulate what can amount to millions in revenue. It will be a challenge to persuade some in the sector to abandon their existing policies and lose out on the revenue results, but it would go a long way towards restoring faith in the rental services.

What could really help van rental providers step up their game is throwing the financial key performance indicators in the bin and replacing them with customer service driven measures across their entire business.

What we need is a standard based on keeping VOR, replacement vehicles and credit notes to a minimum. We need to actually encourage core vehicle uptime rather than impeding service. We need to measure first fix rate, average attendance time and average days off road on a daily basis, publishing the statistics internally and externally.

Taking active responsibility with this approach will establish the attentive, reliable van rental providers, versus those that negotiate fleets at a distance from the day-to-day operational aspects. If, as a provider, you are operating apart from daily operations, you can still benchmark in 5 key areas; the commercial experience to make sure the solution is aligned to the reality, vehicle quality, the delivery and collection process and breakdown and end of life damage management.

Across these 5 key areas you engage with the decision maker, the operator of the vehicle and often the site responsible for the cost allocated to the vehicle. You get to find out a lot doing it this way and it’s not always what you want to hear, but by awarding your team for overall service delivery of 90% good to excellent then you can assure consistently excellent standards.

For any relationship, honesty is always the best policy. These alterations could revolutionise the services provided by the commercial vehicle rental sector, mending customer/provider relationships and building long-lasting, credible contracts. However, it is only part of the solution.

Customers must also be discerning when entering a contract, and when entertaining the possibility of switching provider. The fear of being charged unaffordable costs for switching providers or ending difficult contracts means that many stay with those that do not always have their best interests at heart.

If a customer is being charged over the odds for damages and gradually paying more for a vehicle than it’s worth, then it could be time to switch things up. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with seeing what’s out there and checking to see if a competing provider could be a better fit for your needs.

There’s always plenty more fish in the sea, and when all is said, there are still providers that work tirelessly to make sure that customers receive sufficient support, ensuring that fixed term contracts end as smoothly and painlessly as possible. We need more of this responsible attitude from both customers and providers to maintain trust and stability in the market.

So if you’re a customer dealing with a player or a manipulator, there’s time to get out and save yourself the heartache. If you’re a rental provider wondering why you can’t keep the relationship together, it might be time to change your ways and guarantee everyone their Happily Ever After.


Gareth Jones is MD of Dawsonrentals

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