I happened across an interesting website, Servicesavvy.net, hosted by several South Florida businesses and the chamber of commerce. The website’s entire focus is customer service. In one of the site’s videos on customer service is this simple acronym: LEARN. Here’s how I apply it to self-storage:
- Listen to your customers.
- Empathize with the reason they need storage.
- Apologize about the difficult time they’re enduring (a move, divorce, layoff, etc.)
- React by providing the best service and product you possibly can.
- Notify the appropriate supervisor of any problems or concerns that arise during the customer’s stay.
So, we have the smile down―at least we’re working toward perfecting it―and we all know the basic rules of customer service. The next major focus is to develop the ability to truly listen, which requires focusing your full attention on the person in front of you. As you listen, you’ll pick up clues. This information can be used to determine what’s important to that person.
Consider this scenario: Mrs. Jones always eyes the chocolate jar on your counter, but she never indulges. The next time you notice her eyeing the jar is another chance to engage her in conversation. “Mrs. Jones, I admire your willpower. I’ve seen many a big, strong, guy succumb to that jar. How do you do it?” It turns out that Mrs. Jones is a diabetic. Consider adding a second jar labeled “sugar-free delights,” so the next time she walks through your door, you have something specifically for her.
Customer service is not one-size-fits-all. You need to adapt to your customers, see what they need or desire, and do your best to fulfill that want. A small, sweet gesture like the one above shows you’re aware and considerate, and your care translates into a wealth of goodwill with customers. A customer who willingly sings your praises is advertising that’s invaluable.
Just as customers are individuals, so are the people who provide the service. While the basics are a constant, how you deliver them is unique to you. Determine what comes naturally to you, and pay attention to how others respond and interact with you. Whether it’s always professional or cajoling, or a combination of interaction types, your style will morph into a fantastic sales tool. All you need to do is watch, listen and learn to determine what works best for you and your customers.
React and Notify
Next up in our customer-service evaluation is to determine our own company parameters, within which we can give our customers more value, whether perceived or actual, and ultimately make their experience with us stand out. It’s the R and N from our acronym: react and notify.
You and the facility ownership need to be willing to react to market conditions and adjust accordingly. It’s up to you, the person on the front line, to notify ownership if you see any trends developing and help determine any necessary adjustments to business practices. All of these are part of providing the best product and customer service possible.
With everyone stretching their dollars, you need to really shine above the competition. Dollar move-ins work, but the customer who desires and responds to excellent customer service still exists, and a well-presented product despite a higher out-of-pocket cost will sell. Shouldn’t that customer belong to you?
From your warm, personal greeting to your astute listening skills, from addressing any problems or concerns and empathizing to providing the best product you can, all of this combined puts your core values in place. Now it’s up to you to pull it all into a cohesive package and sparkle. How will you know when you’ve achieved “IT”? You’ll know from the way you greet each day and from the random comments that will begin to occur more frequently.
What are you looking for in those comments? The young man who walks through your door and says, “My buddy sent me here. He said the people are cool.” Or the customer’s 8-year-old daughter who bursts out singing your praises about all the things she loves about visiting your storage facility.
The validation of achieving the pinnacle of customer service will appear in unanticipated comments, from unexpected people and places. If you’re not there yet, take some quiet time to self-evaluate, and then move forward. Life and work are infinitely more enjoyable when you’re at the top of your game.
Gina Six Kudo is the general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 15 years of self-storage experience, and a strong customer-service and sales background. She can be reached at 408.782.8883; e-mail email@example.com.