We were lucky to catch up with Rebekah Eskridge recently and have shared our conversation below.
Rebekah, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you share a customer success story with us?
Our customers either cannot afford their own wheelchair accessible van, or their situation does not require a long-term purchase of a van. Public transportation does not always go where our customers need to go. This is where we provide our wheelchair accessible van rental service to help fill in the gap! We have customers who rent from us regularly to take a loved one to a doctor’s appointment. Other customers rent to get their loved one out of a nursing home/care facility for a visit with family or a shopping trip – something to lift the spirits and help with the mental challenges of being wheelchair bound. Our most touching stories happen around the holidays. It’s a time when everyone wants to be together. We always fill up very quickly for those special days, but we add customers to a waiting list once we are full. Inevitably someone will need to cancel, and we will have an opening. This last Christmas, we had a customer call who wanted to rent but we did not have anything at the time. Her father had just passed away, and she wanted her mother (who was in a nursing home) to be able to come and be with the family for Christmas. It was very important to her family to have everyone together as they were still grieving and needed to create some good memories. We had another customer cancel at the last minute due to sickness. As we went down our waiting list, other customers had already made reservations with other companies, or they had changed their plans and no longer needed a van. That allowed us to call the lady whose father had just passed. When we called to tell her that we had a van available for her, she burst into tears. She was crying so hard that she asked to call us back. It meant the world to her entire family to be able to have their mom with them for Christmas! With tears in our eyes, we made her reservation and were reminded (as we are on almost a daily basis!) how truly blessed we are – that we have our mobility and the option to come and go as we please. It’s something we never want to take for granted!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Premier Accessible Van Rental was created out of necessity. One of our family members was in a car accident that paralyzed him. We discovered right away that purchasing our own wheelchair accessible van was quite expensive. Public transportation would not take him everywhere we needed to go and wasn’t always the most convenient to use. We thought that other people in the same situation must have the same needs, and there weren’t many options to help fill them. So Premier Accessible Van Rental was born! Since 2007, we have grown to have 2 locations (Dallas and Austin) and we have 12 wheelchair accessible vans that we can rent. We offer side entry and rear entry vans to meet the various needs of our customers. We also offer delivery/pickup of our vans if that’s a service our customers need as some are unable to come pick up. We feel that our service is a ministry of sorts as we are helping people physically get where they need to go and also helping them mentally and emotionally as they have more freedom to come and go! It is so much easier for them to stay connected when they have the option of renting a wheelchair accessible van, instead of just making do with whatever they have. It is so much safer than transferring a loved one from one vehicle to another as they risk injuring their loved one in the wheelchair or injuring themselves! We take pride in offering newer model vans that are well maintained and meticulously cleaned! We hand wash and dry our vans so we can offer a clean, safe and pleasant experience to our renters. Customer service is our number one goal as we strive to make renting an easy process and help simplify our customer’s lives!
Can you open up about a time when you had a really close call with the business?
Our company suffered greatly for a year due to Covid. Most all of our customers are either sick or elderly, so our renters were not going anywhere! No doctor’s appointments. No family gatherings due to quarantining. There was very little movement for almost a year. We were struggling along with the rest of the world, trying to figure out what the plan was to survive. Thankfully the company that has our loans for our vans was very workable. We were able to delay several months of payments to the end of the notes. The Paycheck Protection Program allowed us to continue to pay our employees. We sold some of our inventory. It was definitely a struggle to keep pushing forward, not knowing what the future held! We were so blessed to have God’s hand on our business! I know without a doubt that would have had to close our doors had it not been for His provision.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
We pride ourselves on providing the best customer service. We treat our customers as we would want to be treated! We understand our renters are paying their hard-earned money, and no one wants to pay for a dirty van or deal with an employee who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. We provide service with a smile, and I think that goes a long way! People want to be heard. We listen and do our best to help make their lives simpler and easier as they transport their loved ones. We even work with our competitors to help provide their customers with great service if that is something they need help with! Referrals and word of mouth are the strongest marketing tools for us. We appreciate every review we are given as that provides us with feedback and helps get the word out to others that they don’t have to settle!