In the Drivers Seat

Much to the surprise of my family, I recently agreed to take a vacation in Florida. Ill admit it was a very special occasion: our granddaughters third birthday. Four days with Mickey Mouse, and I was not missing the telephone as much as I thought I would.

Typically, when I arrive at an airport, my subconscious automatically takes me to the Hertz Gold Counter. This time, our daughter told us about a car service she had discovered, and how easy it is to make a reservation on the companys website.

So before the trip, I found myself on the site for Tiffany Towncar Service of Orlando ( The site was simple, downloaded quickly, was easy to navigate, and answered every question I needed to complete my reservation request. Within six hours, I received an e-mail confirmation. The company had already exceeded my expectations with a 24-hour turnaround time guarantee and a fast confirmation delivery. This was certainly a good start.

When our flight arrived, we went to the baggage-claim area where we found our driver, who was wearing a neat, clean uniform and holding a sign that read Chiswell Party. Our drivers name was Hector. He offered to wait for us to carry our bags, or he would go and retrieve the car from the parking lot and meet us at the bottom of the stairswe had the option. Not wanting to waste any time, we agreed to meet him by the stairs.

Within minutes, we arrived at the loading area. Our black Towncar was waiting with the air-conditioning running at full blast to compensate for the 90-degree-plus temperaturesHector was obviously concerned about our comfort. Our ride from the airport was not rushed, and clearly, the driver knew his way. His polite questions about our visit made us all feel very much at ease.

When we arrived at our hotel, I was already a satisfied customer. What I did not know was it would be the return trip five days later that would prompt me to write these comments. We came out to the front of our hotel 20 minutes ahead of schedule to find our car already waiting for us. As an additional surprise, our driver was one of the companys owners, Keith Hinkle.

I discovered this a few minutes into our drive as he asked how our service had been on the day of our arrival. Hinkle said he tried to get out of the office as often as possible to drive and talk to his customers. He explained that in the past seven years, the three partners had worked hard to make customer service the hallmark of their business. It was paying big dividends, as they had grown to be one of the largest transportation providers in Orlando. He and I talked about our experience and the visions he had for the company.

What is the moral of this story for you as a self-storage manager or, especially, an owner? From the moment of my first point of contact with the companyits websiteit was working to exceed my expectations.

Is that the mission at your store? Is everyone in the organization working to exceed peoples expectations? The car we hired was clean inside and out. Can you say the same about your facility? And most important, when was the last time you spent time behind your own counter? Or walked the property on a Saturday just to say hello to people laboring at their units? I dont expect I would see many hands if we were all sitting in a room. Give it some thought. Not only would you surprise your customers, you would give your managers a pleasant shock as well.


I have been putting off writing about this topic. Get it?

In the May 12 edition of The Virginian-Pilot, the BizLinks column, compiled by Laura Laing, provided four great links to help my fellow procrastinators out there. I would like to pass them along with my recommendations. Each site has a slightly different take on a problem everyone faces at one time or another. I found some good suggestions, and I hope you will, too. Take a minute and at least write down these web addresses for future reference.





Buy Me Some Peanuts and Crackerjacks...

At close of summer, this popular baseball refrain took on new meaning at some minor-league baseball parks across America, including the home of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Buying food at any sports venue can be a trying and sometimes frustrating activity, especially when you miss that winning homerun or inning-ending double play.

Now, armed with your trusty cell phone, this problem has been eliminated forever by these innovative ballparks. All you have to do is dial a special telephone number, order your food and, within a few minutes, a runner delivers your selected delicacies directly to your seat. Getting people to eat more at a ballgame through the application of technology and increased convenience is a great way to overcome customer resistance to a buying opportunity.

It made me wonder if our industry is applying technology in such an inventive manner. I would be very interested to hear from owners and managers about how they are using technology to benefit their stores. Please take a minute to drop me an e-mail or fax. I will share the best of the best in a future column.

A Couple of Great Books

In one of my recent columns, I discussed the idea of creating a book club. I wanted to recommend two books I have enjoyed this summer. The first is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This fictional book has raised a number of issues involving real-world information the author included in his mystery adventure. I could not put the book down.

The second book is Charlie Wilsons War by George Crile. The book is a factual account of the methods used by Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson. It details his covert support for CIA operations in Afghanistan in support of the Mujahideens battle to expel the Russians from their country. The insights of this book have given me a new perspective on the battle against terrorism.  

Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos and various national and state association meetings. He has introduced the new LockCheckTM inventory data-collection system to the self-storage industry at  He can be reached at 434.589.4446; visit

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