In addition to the devastation it has wrought on human lives, physical health, and mental wellbeing, the pandemic has also left a nasty, lasting mark on the American economy – not only shuttering thousands of businesses and putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, but also leaving the surviving companies to struggle with severe understaffing and hiring challenges as we wade into “the new normal.”
But struggling, understaffing, and hiring and training new folks are all issues American businesses have faced before. If rental dealers want to succeed, says Nancy Friedman, Founder and Chair of Telephone Doctor, Inc., they can’t let any and/or all of that serve as an excuse for less-than-stellar customer service.
APRO: When should rent-to-own businesses start up customer-service training again?
NF: NOW. If you’ve got some sort of customer-service training already in place, then step it up. If not, then start something to help your staff go above and beyond. Even a “Thank you for choosing us,” or “We really appreciate your business” can earn you lots of customer-service credit while costing you absolutely nothing.
APRO: How often should RTO staff be comparing customer-service notes?
NF: Daily. Meet with your staff at the end of every day to talk about what went wrong and what went right during the day. Then capture the ‘right.’
APRO: What’s the best way to deal with ornery customers who seem to have lost their patience and possibly their manners during the pandemic?
NF: Let your employees know you understand there are some grumpy customers out there, and remind them rude behavior is rarely about them. Urge your staff to put on a ‘mental suit of armor,’ and let verbal projectiles simply bounce off of them.
APRO: What’s the most important attitude adjustment employees can make?
NF: Make sure you’re showing you care. Customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So when a customer walks into your store, you should immediately jump up, walk over, and say hello. Then introduce yourself – names matter – and try to give that customer extra-special attention, every single time.
APRO: What is one thing any RTO company can do to improve their customer service right now, today?
NF: SMILE. Don’t let your staff go out on the floor without a smile. Have smile lessons if necessary. A phony smile is better than a real frown, and consistently wins folks over. Now is no time to be stingy with courtesy, kindness, positivity, and that all-important smile!
“We cannot let this virus cripple us; it’s done enough damage,” concludes Friedman. “If you’re lucky enough to be declared ‘essential,’ and you’re lucky enough to still be open and serving customers, then do more than you used to. Customer service is not a choice; it never has been. Customers expect great service 24/7/365; they always have, and they still do.”