Friday Q&A: Who decides how to deal with damages?

Within your event rental business, dealing with damages is a given. Accidents happen. Things get broken. Repairs and replacements will be required. As a rental business owner, how do you decide what kind of damage policy to adopt? And once you choose, do you give your customer any options? Or is there a one-size-fits-all solution?

This week, we offered our DO MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE: THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO BOOKING MORE EVENT RENTAL ORDERS Webinar. We had a great time sharing again about how event rental businesses can become more successful, generate more orders, and increase the size of their rental orders.

The webinar was well attended and we got some great questions. One of the questions was about how to deal with damages in your event rental business. We promised a blog post on the topic but then remembered that we've already got one. :) We shared some thoughts about how you should manage damages to your rental inventory in this post. I talked a bit about these options of eating the cost of damages, charging damage fees after an event, holding a security deposit, or charging a damage waiver in the webinar as well.

But that question lead to another question.

I'm glad we were able to start this discussion in the webinar. Thanks for asking some great questions Cammie!

When it comes to damages, you definitely have to choose a policy that works well for your business. You'll need to consider how to control your costs, the interactions you want to have with your clients, how your policies will be perceived, and how you communicate about them.

One thing I hope that everyone took away from the webinar was that no matter what your policies are, you should be communicating about them early, often, and verbally. Whether you're talking about a damage policy, what your customer can expect of your delivery crew, or services fees, you should be talking about your policies in your sales meetings. Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, talking about your policies upfront will be a whole lot easier than coming back to your client after-the-fact and hitting them with a surprise charge.

In addition to setting your customer's expectations early, talking about your policies in your sales process allows you to add tone. As you describe how you deal with damages, you can add a little humor or emphasize your understanding of a potential worry. You can interject examples of how clients have dealt with the situation in the past. You have the opportunity to show how you've managed the issue successful before and thereby demonstrate your expertise.

Instead of viewing talking about policies as a "negative" or "downer" in your sales meeting, I encourage you to reframe it. Think about how you can show your customers that you have their best interest in mind. Use the topic as an excuse to show your company's strengths and successes. Once you've crafted the message and language about your policies, including your damage policy, you'll see them as an asset, rather than a drag on the sale process.

To answer Cammie's question more directly, you can absolutely offer your customer options when it comes to your damage policy. You may adopt a policy that allows your customers to choose between a damage waiver and fees after the fact. However, I typically would discourage making your customers choose for two reasons.

The first is that your customer likely already has decision fatigue in the party planning process. Having to decide which option is better for them is one more barrier to actually closing the sale. If you make the decision for them by telling them the policy rather than asking which they prefer, you're one step closer to a confirmed order. In my experience, there are not many customers who won't rent pieces they want to rent because of a damage policy. If you find that a majority of your potential customers are saying "no" because of your policy, I would reconsider your policy. But I don't think that you'll find that to be the case once you implement a consistent, professional, thoughtful policy.

The second reason I personally wouldn't offer a choice is because you may end up upside down as far as economics go. For instance, if you offer your customers the options of a 10% equipment protection plan and only 20% of your customers choose that, you may find that you aren't collecting enough of a pot to cover the actual costs you're incurring from damages. Additionally, the cost of staff time to manage and implement the choice may be cost prohibitive.

My best advice is to create clear, thoughtful policies that help you execute the most successful, beautiful events possible. Communicate those policies upfront and consistently. Follow through in the easiest, most efficient way possible to set yourself up for the most, best, largest event rental orders you can handle.

Happy renting!

Allison