TAKING TIME TO do the job right the first time is a lot cheaper than doing the job over. Party rental pros, tired of spending time and money on go-backs, have developed smart strategies for getting the order out right the first time.
Celebration Rentals, located in Pipersville, Pa., reduces go-backs by anticipating client needs. “We try to cover all the bases,” explains sales manager David Buckley, CSEP. “For example, if a client orders coffee cups, will they need teaspoons? Or creamers and sugar bowls?” Once an order is entered into the system, it is added to a master pull list. “Any changes that happen must be reported immediately to the operations manger so he can update this list,” Buckley explains. “The list is then subdivided by truck, and each driver must double-check his orders against the list.” The lists are quite specific — “down to the number of stakes required for a certain size tent,” he adds. “Attention to detail is the key element here, and it is expected of everyone.”
ATTENTION TO THE MAX
San Diego-based Raphael's Party Rentals cut second trips by 60 percent this holiday season by paying “maximum attention” to every order, according to event services manager Mati Arya. The company runs reports on upcoming orders early each week, “looking ahead for any info, equipment or notes that raise a red flag,” she explains. All orders are reconfirmed with the client two days before delivery. If a second trip is required, that fact is documented and the reasons behind the go-back analyzed at the next weekly management meeting.
Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals of Carrollton, Texas, managed an impressive 98 percent accuracy rate for the 25,000 deliveries it made last year by relying on one watchword: “check.” The order is checked twice in the warehouse (by two different workers), triple-checked on the truck by the delivery service representative — as the company refers to its drivers — and a warehouse supervisor, then checked a final time on site by the DSR and the customer.
Backing up the four-step order-check process is thorough staff training, according to Jay Cooper, Ducky-Bob's director of marketing. “Order desk staff members go through an extensive training program with our desk manager to learn all of the equipment — the various patterns, color names, styles, shapes, the mechanics and assembly of certain pieces. Continuous training assures that the order desk keeps up to date with new items that are added to inventory,” he says. In addition, “All DSRs go through a month-long training program to learn the inventory before they are assigned to a truck. DSRs train in the laundry and kitchen departments to learn about equipment and maintenance, and [to] appreciate the jobs that others do and what their role is in the process.”
“The more, the merrier” is the approach to orders at Minneapolis-based Apres Party & Tent Rentals. As an order moves through the system, the various departments count each order twice, and the driver counts it a third time, explains president Charlie Feldbaum. “Many people handling each order is key in making sure that what is ordered by the client is delivered to them.”
Apres hosts monthly “crew chief” meetings of head drivers to talk about procedures, problems and concerns. “We know they are our lifelines to the customer, and they must be as professional and as caring as the sales staff taking the orders,” Feldbaum says. Also, head drivers are eligible for an annual cash incentive based on work performance.
No system can eliminate the challenges posed by order changes, “always our biggest headache, especially if they are last-minute,” Feldbaum says. But, “We have no choice other than making those changes happen. It's all part of customer service.”
Apres Party & Tent Rentals, 952/942-3399; Celebration Rentals, 215/766-2700; Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals, 972/381-8000; Raphael's Party Rentals, 858/689-7368