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32% of the companies tested use online forms for customer inquiries.
Of the 8 companies we successfully contacted via an online form, only one
"If an encyclopedia of rent to own terms is ever published, a picture of Larry Carrico's Rent One
will be placed next to the term Customer Relations"
The rent to own industry prides itself on customer
service. It is often said that no other industry spends as much time developing
relationships with customers. We train constantly on techniques that insure we
never miss a selling opportunity. Companies employ entire divisions to train
staff on how to answer phones, greet customers, and communicate in a way the
maximizes customer satisfaction and revenue. We decided to conduct an experiment
to see if this world class commitment to customer care extends to e-shoppers; potential customers visiting
rent to own websites. The results of our test range from a disturbing lack of
attention, to an elegant virtual sales pitch that is a textbook example of rent
to own customer care.
On Saturday, June 5th, between noon and 2:00 pm CST, RTO Online staff, posing as
shoppers, used the "Contact Us" pages of 27 rent to own company websites to
request information on renting big screen TV's (If the form required an address, we listed an address in a town where the company had an existing
location. We used email@example.com (account now cancelled) and the alias
David Maguire for all inquiries.
The inquiry we sent was very simple; "I need info on renting a big screen TV"
signed David Maguire.
Of the 27 companies we attempted to contact via online forms or email:
66% (18) had not responded as of noon
Wednesday CST, 96 hours after the inquiries were sent.
None of the sites utilized auto
responders (automatic email replies that let a potential customer know
that the email was received).
Two emails bounced because the email address on the
contact page did not exist.
One contact form had repeated errors and was
One company had a "contact us" page with
a picture of a living room suite and no contact information.
One company had a "contact us" page that was
actually a form to sign up for the company newsletter and had
no space to enter notes or comments.
Of the 9 companies that did respond
Only 3 included a link back to the company
Only 2 included a company phone number.
Only 3 of the responses included the name of
Only 1 company responded with a sales pitch
that would encourage the customer to visit or call the store.
Interestingly, smaller companies performed better than large ones. None of the 5
largest rent to own companies in North America have responded to the inquiries as of
First the good news
If an encyclopedia of rent to own terms is ever published, a picture of Larry Carrico's
Rent One will be placed next to the term Customer Relations. On Rent
One's contact page, only 3 email addresses are listed. Company owner, Larry Carrico
who), is listed first. We did not have high hopes for a quick response to a
customer inquiry sent to the owner of one of the largest independent rent to own chains in
the nation on a Saturday afternoon. We were wrong.
Rent One responded faster than any other company tested. 57 minutes flat! This
initial response was followed up minutes later by a digital sales pitch that
would make even the most hardened trainer weep with envy.
Below is an exact copy of the email received from Billy Davis, manager of Rent
One's Blytheville Arkansas store in response to our inquiry. Keep in mind that
Billy had only 9 words to go on; "I need info on renting a big screen TV" signed
I was replying to your question about Rental Rates on Big
First we have several to choose
We have the high definition 60”
Phillips which rents for 44.99 x 104 weeks or $198.00 a month.
Just some of the features include progressive scan, Picture in
We have 55” Phillips which
rents for 39.99 x 104 weeks. (also a high definition)
We have 50” Toshiba, 49” Jvc,
and 51” Phillips, and a 50” Zenith which rents for 34.99 x 104
weeks (also high definition)
Then we have 2 51” Apex rear
projection for 24.99 x 52 weeks or 800 cash
Also 1 43” Apex rear projection
for 19.99 x 52 weeks or 600 cash.
We also provide a club warranty
program with your rental selection which in case of fire,
theft, or death. Also the club warranty program offers many
more benefits while you are renting the big screen.
Such as the following.
We will pick your big screen up
, bring you a loaner in its place so that you are never
without a big screen, send it to our service center. Have it
fixed at no charge to you. If you decide to keep the product
for at least 52 weeks or 12 months we will carry an extended
warranty of 2 years if its paid off in 52 weeks, 12 months.
That gives you basically a 4 year warranty on your big screen
2 years that the agreement is set up on, and 2 years extended.
We want to ensure that once you pay off your big screen that
you still have good quality customer service with the
merchandise and with the staff.
The other wonderful thing about
our club warranty program is that while you are renting and
receiving all the other insurance benefits that you also earn
bonus bucks for making timely payments on time. What’s a bonus
buck you ask? Well at Rent One we are always finding a way to
give back to the customer in some way big or small. Every
weekly payment made on time you receive 1 bonus buck per
agreement, 4 if your monthly. Once you have acquire enough.
You are welcomed to use them for new purchases or in case of
emergency where maybe a family emergency where you needed your
hard earned cash then you could supplement your bonus bucks if
you had acquired enough to make a full payment or even use
them to make a partial payment.
You also have the privilege of
only making a nominal payment of $10.00 to enjoy the product
in your home for 7 days then you have the choice to keeping
the product and making your first payment or making
arrangements for pickup. I’m sure once you have shopped our
selections and have had the chance to enjoy the entertainment
of the big screen you would most definitely keep the big
That’s correct $10.00 takes it
Thank you for choosing Rent One
and you are always welcome to stop by.
You may contact me at or any of
the staff at:
650 E Main St
Blytheville, Ar 72315
This is a textbook example of never missing an opportunity to sell. After
reading this email I could barely resist the urge to buy a plane ticket to Blytheville
Arkansas and rent a TV from this Billy character who so obviously wants to give
me "what I want-when I want it." Based on his performance I also know with unquestioning certainty that
his store is now, or soon will be, the market leader in Northern Arkansas.
Mention goes to Scott at
National Rental Centres Brockville, Ontario location. Scott responded in 1
hour and 20 minutes with relevant information and a contact phone number.
response time: 1 Hour 20 minutes
The price depends on the size & model you are looking
for. We try to keep RCA 52" TV in stock, they can start
from $34.99/week & up. We also have the new high def.
widescreen televisions. Any other questions you can
e-mail or call us @ 613-342-4585.
Following are the other responses we received. Company names and phone numbers,
have been replaced with underscores. It should be noted that any response is
better than no response. Compare the following responses.
Replies are reproduced in their entirety
response time: 66 hours
what do you need to know
they start at 149.88 a month over 24 months with taxes it is
about 199.00 a month
response time: 20 hours
We need to know legal name, address, phone
________ Rent to Own
response time: 44 hours
Thank you for visiting ______ Rental's
In order to better serve your needs, we will require your city
of residence to forward your request to the store nearest you.
response time: 43 hours
Mr. Maguire, Please let me know where you
live, along with contact information, and I will have someone
contact you. Thanks for your interest in our company. _____
response time: 45 hours
DAVID, THANK YOU FOR YOUR INQUIRY. WE HAVE
BIGSCREEN TVS RANGING IN SIZE FROM 40" TO 60". WE HAVE MOST
MAJOR BRANDS THAT YOU CAN THINK OF SUCH AS JVC,PHILLIPS,RCA,ZENITH,MITSUBISHI,SONY, AND HITACHI. THE
MAJORITY OF OUR BIGSCREENS ARE HIGH-DEFINITION MONITORS, BUT
WE DO HAVE A FEW ANALOG(OLD STYLE) TVS STILL IN STOCK. MOST OF
OUR BGS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR OUR NO PAYMENT TIL JULY 5TH SPECIAL
PROMO THAT WE ARE CURRENTLY OFFERING! THANKS AGAIN, ____,
response time: 5 hours
Thanks for your enquiry. Can you please forward your
details and I will arrange a response from our nearest store
Regards, _____, customer assistance centre
response time: 14 hours
Thank you for contacting us. Feel free to
contact the nearest store for
any specific details regarding Bigscreen televisions whether
HDTV ,size ,new or previously rented ,etc.
click here for the nearest location.
We are running a few specials ,such as discounts when payments
are made with
Again , thank you for contacting us and we welcome your
Tips for email communication
DON'T USE ALL CAPS. An email in upper case is the
internet equivalent of screaming at the top of your lungs. It
is generally considered bad manners.
Be quick. Web surfers are an impatient lot.
They want information now, not tomorrow or when it's
convenient. An email is just like a phone call...don't put
them on hold for 3 days. Email auto responders offer some
level of instant gratification. They are easy to set up and
are offered by most email providers. Companies that
receive a large number of inquiries may want to invest in
intelligent systems that scan incoming messages for keywords
and phrases. These systems automatically respond with relevant
Just Talk. When answering email, carry on a
conversation with the customer. Pretend they're standing in
front of you and you have 2 minutes to rent them a TV.
Be personal. When possible, use the persons
first name. It's good email etiquette and good salesmanship.
Always sign an email with your full name.
Don't leave them hanging. The first rule of
cyberspace "Always give them something to click." Never send a
business email without a link to your website or relevant
page. Think of it as the email equivalent of handing a
departing shopper a brochure or business card. Also include a
phone number and actual address.
Relationships require communication
With the vast majority of Americans online, more and more first impressions will
be made via the web. Your website should be maintained with the same enthusiasm
as your physical location. And email should be treated as a selling opportunity
and handled with the same urgency as a customer on
hold. When you've got mail from a person saying "I need info on renting a big
screen TV"... how you respond and how fast you respond can be the
difference between gaining or losing a valuable customer.
RTO Online is the official channel for Rent-to-Own Industry News and the
only independent source of news for the rent-to-own, rental-purchase,
lease-purchase trade. RTO Online (Rent to Own Online) represents the choice
of the entire RTO Industry for trusted information, as it happens.
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