Examining the Value of 24/7 Customer Care Service

The first week of October was the 14th annual National Customer Service Week, but in recognizing the occasion, it's worth taking stock of how well American businesses • the rental industry, in particular • are actually serving the needs of their customers.

During the past decade, technology has increasingly been used to answer customers' questions through either voice-automated call centers or on-line help desks. Granted, these tools are wonderful time-savers for the companies that use them, but what about urgent requests that require the expertise and rapid response of a well-trained, live person? And how well are companies providing this support to their customers after normal business hours? These questions are especially important in industries that rent construction and industrial equipment, given the high value of jobsite time and the 24/7 nature of many projects.

Are American Businesses Striking Out?

Before addressing rental equipment specifically, it's useful to see how American businesses are doing. The consulting firm Accenture recently completed a survey of customers in various business and consumer industries about their satisfaction with customer service. Amazingly, almost half had changed at least one service provider in the past year because they were unhappy with customer service.

Accenture commented on its survey by saying that customer service becomes the key reason for changing a service provider when industries fall victim to commoditization and when barriers to changing service providers are removed. Accenture's findings make the need for well-trained, accessible, live customer service agents more important than ever.

The Live Voice

A common occurrence in the equipment rental industry is for a local store to use a telephone answering machine to field calls after hours. One step better might be an answering service, but when time is of the essence after normal business hours, this simply isn't enough.

RSC Equipment Rental's after-hours demands were demonstrated by the rise in call volume, which escalated up to 1,800 calls on a typical, high-volume day. To meet its customer service needs, RSC developed its Customer Care Center, a call center that provides a live voice backup to customers when RSC's North American stores are closed for the day or the weekend. While many in-bound calls are routine questions, such as the location of a nearest store, the center's 21 agents are also there to handle more difficult questions, access real-time customer records and information on specific pieces of equipment, or put customers in touch with on-call technicians in the field.

Demonstrating the Customer Care Center's effectiveness, a call came in on Easter Sunday from a Chicago movie producer who had an emergency order for a 60-foot boom lift. She needed the lift for lighting, but through a scheduling mishap, her company had not ordered one.

The producer called RSC after being unable to reach other equipment rental companies in Chicago, and the Customer Care Center immediately put her in touch with a local RSC district manager. The district manager confirmed that there was a lift available and called the local, on-call driver right away, who delivered the boom lift within two hours of the original call.

Online Help Still Important

A live voice from a trained and qualified customer care agent is the single most reassuring resource to a customer in need, but research also reveals that customers want and need good online tools.

In the rental industry customers need the ability to search available equipment, schedule deliveries, and call equipment off-rent online. For RSC, registered users of RSC Online have the ability to book equipment and report its usage any time of the day. Customers also have instant access to up-to-the-minute information by account, project, or equipment, which helps a procurement manager more effectively utilize resources, schedule projects, and manage expenses.

Companies in a number of different industries also offer online bill pay, making it convenient for the person handling the bills to pay invoices online to save on labor and time expenses associated with cutting a paper check. RSC also offers free online bill payment to qualifed customers via RSC ePay.

While online services are all important, nothing surpasses the importance of a live voice when an emergency happens. It's been said recently that if email had been invented before the telephone, that the telephone would have been heralded as a vast improvement on those text messages passing through cyberspace. Just imagine, with a telephone you can talk with an individual across town or across the world “live,” hear the inflection in that person's voice, and obtain instant information • just by talking. That's what first-class customer service is all about.

Contributed by RSC Equipment Rental