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Small-Town Service

Pamela Alton-Truitt Comments
Posted in Articles, Archive

I recently relocated from Santa Barbara, Calif., to a small city of 30,000 people just north of San Luis Obispo. It’s a cozy little town where the cashier at the grocery store talks to everyone in line and the bag boy still asks if he can carry out your groceries. Everywhere you go, people greet you with a smile and ask how you’re doing today. At first, it felt a little strange. Here is a town where customer service is still alive and well!

In a world where everything is increasingly computerized—we use the Internet to purchase goods, find services and pay bills, and get lost in a nightmare of push-button automation every time we call a business—customer service seems like a thing of the past. How many times have you gone to a store and failed to be acknowledged by the person behind the counter? In the “good old days,” service was what kept customers coming back and set you apart from competition. Nobody wants to frequent places where the waiters are rude and the clerks ignore you. On the other hand, we appreciate the business that greets us with a smile, treats us with respect and seems to want our patronage.

Let’s face it: To people looking for self-storage, a 10-by-10 unit is only space. They’re not going to live in it, they’re just going to store their goods for a while. But they still want value for their money, and most prospects will call at least four facilities before they rent. Price is always a factor in their decision-making process, even if most facilities charge within a few dollars of their competitors. To lure tenants these days, many sites offer heightened security features and other amenities, such as individual unit alarms, climate control and ancillary services like truck rental. These are nice, but you don’t need them to be successful.

The Value of Service

Why some facilities in the same market more profitable than others, regardless if they are state-of-the-art sites or 20 years old with manual gates? It’s the service tenants receive that makes one store fare better than another. Good customer service begins with how you treat callers on the phone. If, during the course of your phone conversation, you can make a caller comfortable, convince him his goods are important to you, answer all his questions, and build value into your offering, he will likely rent from you.

But service doesn’t stop there. Once the prospect has become a tenant, you must continue to meet and exceed his expectations. Stand and greet everyone who enters your office with a smile. If you’re on the phone, immediately make eye contact and acknowledge their presence.

Keep your gate log open on your computer so you know when tenants enter your facility and call them by name when you see them. Walk through your property several times a day and talk to tenants. Ask them how they’re doing, or offer them a bottle of water or soda.

Consider printing some “How are you doing?” cards to mail to tenants. These simple postcards can ask them to rate your facility or offer other feedback, such as suggestions for improvement.

Offering first-rate customer service will not only keep current tenants satisfied, it will win you valuable referrals. Remember that a kind word and a smile don’t cost you anything, and The golden rule is a great foundation for your service philosophy.

Pamela Alton-Truitt is the owner of Mini-Management, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini- Management also offers full-service and "operations only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.

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