Construction Plant News talks to West Sussex rental outfit, Kelsey Plant Hire
How can rental firms look to differentiate themselves from their peers? This is a question that companies who have continued to see little upward movement in rates in real terms have pondered for many years, and Kelsey Plant Hire is among them. In response, the Sussex-based hirer has been interrogating a number of key performance indicators to examine what the business is already achieving, and what can be improved upon, and the results have seen the business focus on specific strategic areas.
“From our own surveys we were able to identify reliability as a factor that always scores highly. Not surprisingly, if there’s a breakdown they’ll want it addressed as soon as possible, and the associated downtime minimised. From the data we had on what was going on in the business month-to-month we were able to put together what has become our Two Stage Guarantee. It’s about promising a client that in the event of a breakdown we will get to site and solve the problem within certain times and it gives the contractor who hires equipment from us the reassurance that we will do what we say we will do.”
Kelsey Plant Hire promises it will have an engineer on site three hours from the initial phone call, otherwise the customer is entitled to £50 cashback. If the problem is not resolved to the satisfaction of the end user within a further three hours that cashback figure rises to £100. “This is something that I believe is unique to us and I am firmly of the opinion that customer service is one of the fields in which you can distinguish yourself and that the hire industry overall could be doing better on. Price wars really don’t do anyone any good because they’re ultimately damaging to all concerned. If as a hirer all you have is a cheap rate to distinguish yourself then there will always be someone who will come along and do it even cheaper. The customer certainly doesn’t because a decent level of service just can’t be sustained if you’re slashing the figures to the bare bones.”
“Hire rates have in fact changed very little in real terms, whilst most of the other costs that impact on our business have seen increases, particularly the price of machinery.That’s why it’s now more important than ever to invest in a brand you can trust. We’re confronting breakdown issues with improved response times but tackling the issue at source by investing in reliable machinery is clearly the most cost effective route and that’s why when we took the decision to renew our fleet we went for the 19 new Takeuchi mini excavators. Reliability and resale value are the key determiners, along with what your customers are telling you they want and need.”
“The oldest digger we have on our fleet is actually a Takeuchi, and it has given us very little trouble in the years it’s been in service,” explains Nadine. “We’ve actually found that once our customers have used them they’re telling us not to send them anything else in future, because they’re so easy to operate, have the power to get the job done and are reliable.” In the mini excavator sector, the Kelsey Plant Hire portfolio currently extends from micros to nine tonnes. Dumpers range from the smallest Slanetrac compact tracked dumpers all the way up to 6 tonne units, with Thwaites making up the largest percentage of the 1-6 tonne machines. In addition, the hirer also holds a couple of high lift, skip loading dumpers from the same manufacturer. Merlo and Manitou are the brands of choice in telehandlers, where heights of 6m up to 14m are available, whilst there’s also a range of rollers and compressors for customers to choose from. “We do have a fair bit of competition in the local area so listening to what our customers want is fundamental to what we do,” continues Nadine. “We know that they prefer hydrostatic drive in dumpers, for instance, so that’s what we buy. Similarly, the vast majority of our minis are new, and very little of our stock extends beyond three or four years of age.”
Kelsey Plant Hire began trading some 22 years ago as a husband and wife team, with a mini digger, a telehandler and a whole array of other equipment. For more than the past five years Nadine has taken the leading role in steering the business. Today, it is Nadine who has total responsibility for the company’s operations and new acquisitions after her ex-husband and business partner chose to emigrate. As a business, having launched as a going concern at the back end of the deep recession of the early nineties, this is a hirer that learnt from the moment it embarked a going concern how to navigate stormy market conditions. The company has called its Horsham base home since 1997 and now commands a fleet of 28 excavators. In fact, there’s been a level of consistency in the machinery that Kelsey Plant Hire has offered over those years, dictated by the demands of the market in the company’s catchment area.
Adds Nadine: “I’ve learnt in this industry that it’s important to be forever the optimist but, for 2017, I really do believe that with my great team and our great machines we have everything in place to make this our best year yet!”
In an industry where female involvement remains comparatively rare we asked Nadine what more could be done to encourage more women to consider the construction plant sector as a viable career path? “You are certainly aware of being a woman in the industry simply because there are so few of us,” observes Nadine, “but for me what the industry consistently fails to do is promote the range of roles that are on offer. It’s not just about being on the tools because there’s so much more you can do. The problem comes down to image and the picture that the public holds in its mind’s eye of the archetypal building industry employee. Often that’s a long way from the reality, and far more needs to be done to promote it amongst younger people as every bit as equal to traditional academic routes.”
For further information on Kelsey Plant Hire click here