Every Sunday the BIHA sends all FULL members a newsletter which includes the very popular “Spotlight on an inflatable hire company”
Please see below a sample:
SPOTLIGHT ON AN INFLATABLE HIRE COMPANY.
NAME OF YOUR INFLATABLE HIRE COMPANY?
WHAT IS YOUR AGE?
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED HIRING OUT INFLATABLES?
A multi-purpose builder. (Kitchens, Extensions, plastering, plumbing, electrics etc. basically everything apart from gas! I still am a builder. I also hire bouncy castles as I love the business.
WHAT MADE YOU START AN INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
A few years ago, I hired a bouncy castle for my son’s christening. The service I received was appalling! It was agreed beforehand that the castle would be delivered at 12 noon just before the christening, and then the kids could play on the inflatable between 3pm and 8pm with collection around 9pm.
However, at 7.30am the castle arrived unexpectedly. I explained that it was for a christening do, and wouldn’t be needed until much later in the day. Later on at 5pm it got even worse, the delivery chaps arrived to collect the castle even though it was agreed for 9pm or later.
I explained that they were there far too early, but they insisted on being paid quite a lot extra to pick up later.
Out of principle I decided not to be “stitched up” for another few hours use, and so I had the unenviable task of having to entertain 25 kids myself for the rest of the afternoon.
I thought to myself, how difficult can it be to deliver a bouncy castle at a time convenient to the customer and then collected at a time convenient to the customer?
As a direct result of this bad experience, I decided to start my own bouncy castle hire company.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?
Riding my 1998 Vespa 125cc scooter. Restoring my old Ford Escort XR3i. Spending time with my family.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE?
Memphis Belle (1990)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL?
Egg, Chips and Baked Beans. (Must be Heinz Baked Beans!)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE UK HOLIDAY DESTINATION?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION ABROAD?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TV PROGRAMME?
YOUR FAVOURITE SONG?
Pretty much any Soul Music (E.g. Northern Soul) Glenn Miller 50’s/60’s/70’s
WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT THE INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
I love turning up on time and then seeing the kids’ faces light up as the castle inflates.
IF YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
I would like more regulation in the industry.
This might help prevent the following scenario…. It shocks me that just in my own local area around 10 new inflatable hire companies sprouted up from nowhere, took lots of bookings from the unsuspecting public, and then at the last minute some of them cancelled the booking and let the customers down. E.g. only recently, I heard of a new hire company that arrived at the customer’s house with the castle, but because there were 4 steps up into the back garden he refused to honour the booking and drove off saying his apologies and massively disappointing the customer.
I then get a frantic call from this same customer begging me to supply a castle for their party.
Some of these new start-up companies don’t seem to realise that if they let the customer down the party is effectively RUINED because the customer invariably hasn’t planned any other entertainment for the kids.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HIRING FROM HELL? (Horror story or an unusual booking?)
Yes, I once had a booking from hell that would even strike fear into the toughest inflatable hire operator.
The customer’s house was on a very steep hill. There were 10 full sized concrete steps from the road to the side gate which led to their back garden. Their back garden contained a massive amount of debris and litter which had to be cleared.
However, it gets worse. The garden was in 3 tiers on 3 different levels – and the customer wanted the castle on the top level at the back.
If that wasn’t bad enough things were about to get worse – much worse!!
As the customer wanted to keep the castle overnight, I explained to her that she must switch everything off, put the blower and extension cable indoors and cover the deflated castle with the massively oversized rain-cover which I supplied. She said “no problem”, and I left to do my next booking.
When I returned early the next morning to collect it, I discovered to my shock that the customer had left the castle switched on all night during torrential rain :-(((
As can be expected there was a lot of bubbling on the bed seams but the real problem was hidden from view. There was at least 8 inches of water deep inside the castle (Hundred gallons or more!)
This water had to be painstakingly removed in order for me to be able to roll the castle up and put it in the van.
It took me and my helper TWO HOURS to do this, and all the while she never even offered us a cup of coffee!
As we were finishing, and were both completely soaking wet, she said “Do you want a cup of coffee?
The following year – she wanted to book us again – but I will leave it to your imagination as to whether we agreed!
BIHA Note: It always amazes me that on rare cases the inflatable will be left on all night – one lesson to be learnt from this story is to perhaps text the customer at the end of the day to get confirmation that the castle has been switched off and electrics put indoors.
To read lot’s more of these types of true stories – please click on:
DO YOU HAVE ANY USEFUL TIPS OR IDEAS THAT YOU COULD SHARE WITH THE OTHER BIHA MEMBERS.
Yes, 3 tips….Firstly, as the BIHA often says, it’s really important to team up with your competitors and help each other out, and pass bookings over and vice versa etc.
It will help grow your business!
HOWEVER, and this has NOT been mentioned by the BIHA, it can be a very fine line, and you have to be careful that it doesn’t hurt your own business.
E.g. Once I was helping out a competitor with his bookings because his van had broken down, but as a result, it made me late for my own deliveries that morning.
With hindsight, I should have done my own bookings first and then helped him out.
Second tip: Make sure that you have regular communication with your customers at EVERY stage of the booking process including just before delivery!!
You can then double check delivery times, and also remind them that it’s kids only!
Customers love it when you REASSURE them that the castle will be delivered in time for the party.
Earlier in this “Spotlight” I mentioned how a company badly let me down for a christening. The problem was a lack of communication.
Regularly contacting customers shows good service and care, and should result in more referrals and repeat bookings!!
Don’t just rely on emails and Facebook for communication – many customers like the more personal touch!
On the subject of Facebook (which is a brilliant tool for your business by the way, as Blair rightly said in the “Spotlight” last week)
However, I have noticed one problem with Facebook, and that is that some customers will use it to play “TEXT TENNIS” with you.
In other words, they will ask question, after question, after question through Facebook messaging, and before you know it you have just spent half an hour with them answering their questions.
This same half hour of “text tennis” would have taken just a couple of minutes or so on the phone.
A quick tip on this subject – when calling customers up to confirm delivery times etc. Say: Hello Mrs Customer, it’s nothing to worry about, it’s just Richard here from Kingies Castles in Croydon.
The reason for saying this is that sometimes a customer will think you are ringing them up to cancel, and this puts their mind at rest in one short phrase.
Third tip…..Sometimes I will get a call from a customer saying that they have been let down by another hire company in my area, and I can I help even though the party is today.
I might say yes, I can do it (even though I might have to re-organise my entire day) and quote them £65.
They might then reply “But the company that let us down was only going to charge us £50)
If the customer refuses to pay my going rate of say £65, I may then agree to meet them half way e.g. £57.
Customers who have been let down will often agree to this as it’s more than fair!
HOW HAS THE BIHA HELPED YOU IN YOUR INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS?
I use the BIHA logo and it helps me to get more bookings. It makes my business look more professional and trustworthy to my customers and prospective customers.
Also, I find the discussion forum ( www.BouncyCastleOwner.com ) very useful.
Thank you Richard for spending some time answering these questions, and going into quite some detail – it’s greatly appreciated.
HINTS AND TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR INFLATABLE HIRE BUSINESS (From the 2003 BIHA Archives)
a) If a customer rings you to enquire about an inflatable, or just wants a quote, but they are not 100% committed to booking it with you, then tell the customer that you will PROVISIONALLY book it for them – with no obligation whatsoever. Even if they do not book it through you, at least you will have their contact details, so they can be a prospect for the future.
b) Hot tip…..
A good way to distribute leaflets at events when you are not around and this avoids asking the host to give out your leaflets.
Have a look in Office World or Staples and see the range of plastic ‘polyfile’ holders. these are robust clear plastic cases with an envelope style lid which can be closed by a button. you can get a4, a5 or a6 or smaller sizes.(they’re only about 50p each) go into a DIY store and buy 2inch wide heavy duty velcro tape either in strips or a roll. cut about 4inches in length and stick the more rigid ‘hook’ side on the back of plastic case. the ‘loop’ side is best on the castle front as it is more flexible (which helps when it comes to packing away). obviously, you take it off when you deflate the castle.
I think a6 (4 printed on one side of a4) is the best size – big enough to catch attention and hold information but still quite neat.
it’s a good idea to count the number of leaflets you put in at the start e.g. 20, then you have an idea how many have been taken!
there are other leaflet holders, but the envelope style lid and button closure on this one means this one can stay on the castle during a shower and the leaflets keep dry.
it’s also good to put it high (5ft is eye level for adults) so adults can reach it, but not young children!
c) Sometimes when you deliver an inflatable to a garden, the garden is not level. If you take a SPIRIT LEVEL with you, then you will be able to see where the gradient is, and where it varies. This should help you position a slide or bouncer in the safest position for the children.
d) Using you diary (preferable one A4 page to the day – available from WHSmiths or similar) when you have delivered an inflatable – put a large tick next to the booking. When you collect the inflatable simply cross the tick with a ballpoint pen. You can then see instantly which inflatables have been delivered and which ones have been collected. Simple but it works well.
e) Bungee cords (sometimes called elasticated luggage straps with hooks on) can be used to keep smaller inflatables (up to say 15ft x 15ft) rolled up securely. For larger inflatables it is better to use proper tie straps, as they are more robust, and they can be tightened easily.
f) Check the oil level in your petrol blowers every time they are used – if this is overlooked (which one member unfortunately did) and it runs dry of oil, then the engine will overheat and seize – fit only for the scrap heap. There should be a dipstick on every petrol blower.
g) If a castle gets wet, try and put it out again as quickly as possible so that it dries out. Some BIHA members attach so much importance to this that they will deliver the wet inflatable early to a customer so that it can fully dry off in time for the party.
h) Add a childrens inflatable slide to the end of your obstacle course. Makes it a lot more fun and you can charge the customer extra as well.
i) When using petrol blowers on a dry hire (i.e. unsupervised) – it is vital that you inform the customer / user that if they allow the petrol to run out, the blower will stop running, and the inflatable will collapse. Remind the customer that after about 3 hours use they should switch off the blower and top it up with petrol if required. On a supervised hire, it is important that the trained supervisors regularly check the level of fuel.
j) During the busy summer season (May to September) you will find that your phone rings regularly with enquiries especially if you have an advert in the Yellow Pages. Many customers will not leave a message if they get through to an ansa-phone. so to avoid missing vital bookings you have the choice of either call divert to a mobile or alternatively have a secretary (or spouse) handling the phone calls. If you have to leave your office unattended, the best time to do this is between 14-30 and 15-30. The reason for this is because many mums pick their children up from school at this time, so are less likely to call you to book an inflatable.
k) To help prevent the theft of your van and the inflatables inside – use a high quality steering lock. Many would be-thieves lose interest when they see a strong steering lock and move on to another vehicle.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the BIHA members who kindly sent in their ideas, hints and tips.