Canadian Rental Service

At Your Service: Customer service is more than a contract, it’s a commitment

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence editorial

I am a 20-year member of Toastmasters International. Each year, we get together for a spring convention and a fall conference. Our last district meeting was in Medicine Hat at a small hotel and conference centre. I am not sharing the name of the venue, as this story is pretty darn sad.

At Toastmasters conferences and conventions, there is always a call for volunteers to help out in various capacities and this year was no different. But what actually took place, led to some very unusual issues.

The original contract was signed over a year before our conference. Four months out, the hotel notified our organizers that they had fired all their conference staff and we needed to sign a new contract. No problem, it was done. Three months out, the hotel called again and said they had just fired all the new conference staff and we would need to sign a new contract. Really? Ok, done. Less than one month out, the hotel informed our planning committee that they had fired all of the brand new conference staff and were no longer offering conference services. We could leave the hotel or figure it out for ourselves how the food would come into the hotel and be served. Are you kidding me?  One month out – there was no way to find another venue that could house us in Medicine Hat. Who pulls that sort of crap with their customers? Unbeknownst to the 95 of us sitting in the conference (only the seven or eight on the planning committee actually knew), there were no wait-staff at our conference.  Between the efforts of our caterer and some good-humoured volunteers from our group, we made it through the weekend.

There is so much that went wrong with this occurrence and a few things that went right. The good that came of it was a group of volunteers stepped up to make the conference meals happen and did it with a smile on our faces to help out our poor organizers who must have felt a bit overwhelmed with how it unfolded. We could have complained, demanded our money back or even left, but we decided, as leaders, to roll up our sleeves, and dig in to get the work done.

As a leader, do you roll up your sleeves when the going gets tough? Do you assist your team when needed? Do you motivate your team when the morale is low?


On the bad side, this hotel and conference centre, dropped the ball several times. Who goes back on a signed contract, not once, not twice, but three times? Who on the third time says, “Can’t help you. Deal with it yourself or leave.”

In the rental industry, contracts are a given. This is the glue that binds our agreement together. It protects us as a business and it protects our customers as well. What would happen if you treated one of your customers like the hotel treated us? Sometimes things happen in our industry where we are out of what a person wishes to rent or possibly equipment is damaged upon return and cannot be rented to the next person who is waiting for it. What we do in those situations shows our customers whether we are reputable companies to work with or if they should be shopping elsewhere. If you are renting a $100,000 piece of equipment and it breaks down, it may not be that you have a replacement piece that you can easily swap out but you do need to do all you can to get it back up and running as soon as possible. If it’s as easy as swapping out for another piece of equipment you have in stock, you do it, and if your customer is calling from their site, you put it in a truck and deliver it to them if you can. If you don’t have a replacement piece, you offer a free upgrade or rent it off a friendly competitor.

When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, strong leadership is needed to weather the storm and help your team get through them. Deserting your customers in not an option!   

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. For more information, visit or email

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