I frequently hear stories from self-storage owners about managers who are “natural-born salespeople.” I’ve heard tales about the imaginative use of merchandising displays and signage to trigger impulse sales, as well as the clever packaging of related retail products into all-in-one kits. But the story that really got my attention had little to do with selling.
It was the end of a particularly hectic day. The manager was looking forward to a little downtime as he walked through the parking lot to pick up any trash or debris. That’s when he found the pink diaper bag. Inside were diapers, bottles of formula, a pacifier, even a small teddy bear—but no identification of any kind. He was about to toss it in the lost and found when he remembered how his little girl couldn’t sleep without her pacifier. So with a sigh, he took out the day’s receipts.
After a little detective work and a few phone calls, he managed to contact the relieved parents. A little while later, crying baby in tow, they returned to claim the bag, and thanked him profusely. After a week or so passed, his boss showed him a nice letter the young couple had written about his good deed. Over the next few months, there were more than a few new customers who asked for the manager by name. It seems the grateful parents hadn’t stopped talking about him.
The point is, while we can measure the effects of direct sales, we can’t measure the long-term effects of outstanding service. We don’t know how many new customers we earn by providing customer-oriented service or how much our business image improves each time we go out of our way to be helpful and friendly. We do know, however, that it’s worthwhile to teach and encourage employees to give outstanding customer care.
Creating a Service Culture
Great service begins with the creation of a service-oriented work culture. Visitors to your facility should be welcomed in a friendly, polite manner and addressed formally. “Thank you” and “please” still go a long way toward creating a positive impression. Although managers should cross-sell, they should also remember that customers’ needs are always their first consideration. Show customers how to save money, and they’ll remember you for what you didn’t sell them.
Another way to create a service culture is to make use of an “Employee of the Month” or similar incentive program. Invite customer feedback by displaying self-addressed, postage-paid postcards on the counter or including them with monthly statements. These cards can use “check the box” questions on service, site cleanliness, etc., as well as space to write personal commentary. Encourage customer participation by entering every reply in a monthly drawing for a modest prize, and reward employees based on who receives the most favorable responses.
If a manager gets a compliment, make a big to-do. Take the manager out to lunch, and post notices around your site. Consider putting the manager’s picture in your next ad or newsletter.
The idea is to encourage a service culture by teaching and rewarding customer-oriented behavior. Remember: Service starts at the top. The more service-minded you are, the more service-minded your employees will be. Not only will it add to your bottom line in the long term, it’s the right thing to do in the short term. That alone makes service worthwhile.
Roy Katz is president of Supply Side, which distributes packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including Storage USA, the U.S. Postal Service, Kinko’s and Mail Boxes Etc. For more information, call 800.284.7357 or 216.738.1200.