The year 2020 challenged our industry in unexpected ways. Being a witness to this, a few recurring themes have stood out to me:
- The rental industry must adopt new technologies to address the ever-changing landscape.
- Empowering customers to become self-sufficient is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
- Going digital does not mean you will lose your personal business touch – it's an opportunity to elevate it.
Technology, if appropriately implemented, will cultivate stronger relationships and drive value that will set your business apart from the competition. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it has been shown to be consistently true. If you find yourself questioning this, allow me to outline a few positive technological changes in our industry that will increase your bottom line.
Historically, the rental industry has been slow to adopt technology for myriad reasons. The most common deterrents were a fear of losing control over the rental process and not building personal relationships. However, when March of 2020 hit, the world as we all knew it pivoted. The creativity that arose from these new challenges has generated opportunities to help rental businesses reposition themselves and align with their customers' unique needs. The apprehension about online quotes has shifted to a sudden demand for various versions of e-commerce. This shift is exciting, as you now open your business up to automation and more flexible processes that minimize clerical work. The possibility of a customer visiting your website, adding items to a quote, and paying for that rental all on the same webpage can create conveniences and customer journeys that we've all grown accustomed to with the Amazons of the world – and that customers these days are honestly expecting.
As with Amazon, the ease of use – being able to make a few clicks and know that in a few days, they'll have the product at their door – is an experience the customer doesn't take for granted. And allowing customers to maintain and update their payment information, physical address, etc., as they please ultimately saves time
How impactful would it be for rental businesses like yours to empower your customers to become more self-sufficient? With the adoption of a customer portal, you can now create a self-informed customer that sees you as a player within the space. Something else to think about: by offering this self-sufficient customer experience, you build trust and loyalty with your customers because you're providing the experience they want when renting or purchasing.
Adopting technology can seem daunting, but those who have reap the benefits of finally providing services based on what their customers want rather than a process that feels dated and out of touch. Customers are becoming loyal based on those technology adopters' understanding and providing familiar solutions for them. How often have you, as a customer, gone through a transaction that just felt backwards? It may not happen often, but when it does, your brain silently raises red flags. It goes without saying that red flags don't cultivate the customer journey you set out to provide. Your customers will gravitate to options that make doing business with you easier. Once the customer uses your new technologies and processes, your team will be able to build that relationship more than you thought possible.
The rental community has always exuded grit and perseverance, but it's incredible to see so many adopting technologies during a time that is all about contactless processes. Although all businesses form operational strategies, the ones that have invested time and creative energy in their website, customer portal, and customer journey are often the ones who seem most resilient in response to the times.