2011 has been an eventful year, both for us here at LensRentals, and for the photography industry as a whole. In case you've been asleep for the whole year, we thought it would be helpful to create a series of blog posts documenting what the heck happened this year. We'll start with a post about what happened here at LensRentals in 2011.
2011 Changes at LensRentals
One thing that makes this a really awesome business to be a part of is our relationship with our customers. Unlike a lot of businesses, we really love getting to know our customers, and making them part of the LensRentals family. As part of that, we are always as open as we can be about changes we make around here. As part of that, we want to update everyone on what we've accomplished here this year, and what we have changed (hopefully for the better!).
First off, we moved. Unlike in past years when we have expanded our office space, this year we finally broke down and moved into an entirely new location that is better suited to our business rather than continuing to expand in our former building. Amazingly, we were able to move our entire operation, including thousands and thousands of inventory items starting on a Friday night, and were completely moved in and ready for business on Monday morning.
While the need for extra space was a primary reason we moved, an even more important reason we moved is because our current space is much more suited to our operations. By being able to group all of the departments involved in our outgoing operation into one giant room, we've been able to create a more efficient operation. In our new setup, it often takes less than 15 minutes from the time you place the order for us to approve, bill, pull, clean, inspect, pack and ship your order. It is also structured to have the fewest opportunities for mistakes to happen (outside of replacing our employees with robots) so that the already small chance that we might make a mistake with your order has been lowered even further.
We have always strived to have the highest quality in the industry. For instance, we've always inspected and tested our equipment both when it comes back from a prior order, and again before it goes out on a new order. We've also always sold our lenses on a set schedule, rather than continuing to repair and rent old equipment with a significant chance of failure, unlike other firms.
We challenged ourselves to find ways to improve our quality even further in 2011. The first thing we did is purchase and set-up a computerized testing system. This allows us to identify and repair lenses that have begun to develop issues, but haven't degraded to the point to where these issues are obvious to the naked eye in our normal optical testing. Since in many cases, lenses will continue to degrade once they develop these issues, this has allowed us to repair lenses before they cause an issue for a renter, rather than having to wait until the problem becomes bad enough to notice through normal use or testing.
Lastly, we've also substantially increased our equipment purchasing, so that our fleet of lenses is younger, on average, than it ever has been before. This has also helped us ensure that we put higher quality equipment in your hand that is less likely to fail or give you any problems during the course of your rental.
We try and do things the right way around here, even if doing the right thing isn't always the most profitable thing. Rather than looking at what competing firms price their rentals at, we develop our own prices using an internally developed pricing model. It isn't our goal to try and squeeze every cent out of our customers, but rather, we want to offer prices that are both fair to us and fair to you. This fall, we realized that some assumptions we included in our pricing model weren't entirely accurate. When we adjusted the model, we found out we were underpricing some items, but many items were actually overpriced. Rather than continue to charge the higher prices that were very successful for us, we lowered our prices, because it was the fair thing to do.
Our 2012 Resolutions
We want to be the best company you've ever dealt with. Because of that, we are always striving for improvement. We've identified several goals for 2012, and rather than keep them to ourselves until we are ready to implement them, we want to go ahead and share them with you, so that you know we are still working hard to get even better.
A Better Website
The current iteration of our website is less than two years old. However, it was created for a simpler time with a simpler product mix. We know it is sometimes difficult to find certain items using our current navigation. We also know that sometimes we give you so much information on a product that it can overload your senses. We are in the process of completely redeveloping our site and hope to have a faster, easier to use, and more feature-rich site for you soon.
We know that our 4 PM CT shipping cutoff can be frustrating, especially for our west coast customers. We are currently working towards being able to offer longer hours for you at some point in the near future.
It seems like every day a customer asks us to test their lens, repair their lens, or clean their camera sensor. We are flattered that everyone thinks so highly of our quality that you'd want us to work on your equipment, and we really want to help. There are some logistical issues that we have to work out (you sending us your lens instead of us sending you our lens is kind of the opposite of what we are used to), but as soon as we can get those things figured out, we are going to start offering these things in some capacity.
Friggin' Awesome Service
We think we already have the best customer service around, and we are committed to continuing it. We promise you'll always get a live person when you call, instead of an automated system. You'll always get fast, concise answers to your questions. We'll continue to have someone monitor our emails even at night and on the weekend to ensure we are there to help if you encounter any difficulties. In 2012, we'll continue to find new ways to deliver even better service than in 2011!