AriensCo’s RapidCare division recently made some major improvements to its call center structure to help dealers and customers build relationships with its technical experts. Established two years ago, RapidCare is comprised of a call center that provides speedy responses to customers and a dedicated Rapid Response parts shop that supplies replacement parts for equipment from any year or production.
The goal is to deliver the best aftermarket support in the industry. Arguably, that goal was already achieved, given a remarkable 96% of on-time replacement parts availability for its distribution center in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as well as directly to customers — even during the pandemic.
But there’s always room for improvement, and Vice President of RapidCare Nick Ariens is aware of the occasional grumble.
“Business is about building strong relationships, but there was a growing feeling that our service was becoming less personal,” he said. “Some callers were saying things like, ‘They didn’t remember me,’ or, ‘I used to know who I was talking to, but not now.’ It became difficult to maintain that connection as our business grew.”
In March 2021, a regional hubs structure was adopted, dividing the customer base into three regions: Midwest/Northeast; Southeast/Mid-Atlantic; and Central, Southwest and Canada.
Now when dealers input their unique code in the automated telephone system, they are immediately redirected to their own dedicated regional team — and with each team currently consisting of five agents, stronger working relationships have already developed between agents, dealers and customers. (Residential consumers can enter their zip code for the same purpose).
As Barbara Neumann, director of customer support at AriensCo, explained it, the grass in Texas is very different to that in Minnesota. Basically, customers in different regions have different needs. The point of the restructure was so that AriensCo teams will immediately have a better understanding of their unique concerns.
“We wanted our customers to have the best chance of speaking to the same person each time they call, so we implemented a call center philosophy of ‘relational vs transactional’,” she explained. “Transactional is basically doing the minimum — but relational is, ‘Hello again. I remember you. I know who your parts person is, what kind of snow you blow and what type of grass you cut.’”
Having adopted the Net Promoter Score (NPS) method to measure customer perception, RapidCare’s new arrangement is already enjoying success, with positive feedback increasing each month.
“Our goal is to continue to steadily increase our score and build relationships,” Neumann said. “The score is obtained by conducting monthly surveys with our dealer network, using a scale from 1 to 10. Anything 9 or above, or any feedback that says, ‘my concerns were heard, and my question was answered” implies that we’re increasing our score. It says, ‘we heard you, now were going to act upon it.’”
At the start of this implementation, customer service attended a soft skills development class to help them build relationships with our customers. They were encouraged to take the “What can I do for you?” approach rather than “What do you need from me?” and moving on to the next call. Their call handling is monitored and appraised, ensuring the level of support provided constantly improves.
“It’s been great to see how the conversations and relationships have changed,” Neumann said. “As an example, one dealership was joking around with one of our agents over the summer, saying, ‘Hey, it’s really hot here, maybe you could send us some ice cream?’ It became a running joke, until one day we arranged to have ice cream delivered to the dealership. They were thrilled! It was a small gesture that was only possible because of our emphasis on building relationships.”