As much as people joke about how no one uses their phone to call anyone anymore, someone out there keeps making the phone at the counter ring.
What if your phones got answered but your in-store team wasn’t constantly being interrupted by the ringing?
A couple of years ago (pre-pandemic!), I visited a large nationwide rental company headquartered in the Midwest. As we toured their corporate offices, I couldn’t believe the large area they had with rows and rows of cubicles filled with employees manning phones.
“What are they doing?” I asked inquisitively.
Well, it turns out that they’re customer service reps taking inbound calls from around the country. These were highly-trained customer service professionals that could quote prices, check availability, give equipment specifications, check on delivery status, and upsell the customer. The branch stores didn’t even have a person that answered the phone.
This gives the company several advantages that result in a superior experience for their in-store employees and customers:
- Their phone customer service team isn’t being interrupted by in-person customers, co-workers that need assistance, etc. They’re able to see all the data a counter person can via their software, but they’re 100% focused on the customer they’re talking to and solving their problems.
- Their counter staff aren’t being interrupted by phone calls. In-store customers aren’t waiting for a phone call to finish; they’re getting the assistance they need, immediately, and with that expert’s full attention.
- Their team is happier and more productive – multitasking can reduce productivity up to 40%, so customers are working with the best version of the company’s staff.
Specialized customer service personnel can be trained for better customer de-escalation and upselling to not only increase customer satisfaction, but also increase revenue.
You might think, “Well, it makes sense for a national company to set up a call center, but not for me.” And you’re right, most businesses don’t have the additional space, the need to set up a separate location, or the call volume required to maintain their own call center.
How, then, can regional and smaller rental companies reap those benefits (and more)?
A call center is really a centralized remote-work situation, and there are plenty of jobs within a rental store that can be done remotely, including dispatching, accounting, and phone customer service.
By offering remote and hybrid positions in these roles, non-national companies can address not only their customer service, but possibly the industry’s biggest challenge: finding, and retaining quality employees.
Not only do you widen your candidate pool geographically by recruiting remote workers, you can deepen your local pool by providing some work flexibility (which can get you better candidates for less money if they’re able to work from home instead of commuting every day).
Ask yourself the following questions occasionally to determine when it might be time for you to implement remote/hybrid positions:
- How much time am I (and how much time are my employees) spending on the phone?
Don’t just consider counter staff, either – how often are your mechanics or drivers answering the phone because no one else is available? Does it affect their productivity? Are your current processes affecting the perception of your business or the performance of your employees?
- Do we have the ability to ensure remote workers are effective?
If you have rental software, it should be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Your remote team should be able to see pretty much anything someone at your counter might know. VoIP telephones can make it seem like customers are talking to someone within your building, even. But these tools are necessary to provide remote employees with the information they need to be useful.
- Can I handle the logistics of remote work?
Hiring workers in different locations (states or countries, in particular) can require familiarity with that location’s employment laws. You’ll also need to be able to track performance – fortunately, the last year-plus has provided a lot of businesses with ideas for how to manage remotely*.
- Can I handle remote employees as a leader?
Rental is a hands-on industry, full of people familiar with tackling projects and obstacles in “real life”. You have to commit to leading your remote employees as well as your in-store team if you’re going to build a consistent customer experience and a cohesive team.
As more people figure out the logistics, determine they’re able to handle managing, and realize the value of remote workers, off-site work – particularly phone service, accounting, and dispatching – will become more popular.
And your on-site team will be able to focus on what they do best, working together to provide the best customer experience possible.
*The linked blog is just an example of some suggestions for managing remote sales/support teams, not an endorsement of their products. A good CRM will help you track a lot of the data you need – consider using the features within your rental software or one that integrates with your rental software for the best data.