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Can Customer Service Go Too Far?

Blogger Gina Six Kudo discusses why self-storage owners shouldn't ask their managers to offer their personal cell phone numbers to tenants for after-hours emergencies.

What constitutes off-duty time for a resident manager? When is too much customer interaction detrimental to business operations? 

A recent posting on the Self Storage Talk forum about managers offering their cell phone numbers for tenant emergencies has brought multiple responses.  One poster noted the topic "hit a hot button" for many.

So many owners and managers across the nation enjoy the team approach—everyone working for a common goal. However, one area manager recently took things a giant step backward. He went where no one wants to go back to ever again. This man sent notice to site managers stating they were to post their cell numbers on the exit and entry keypads and the office for after-hours use.

The affected resident managers believed asking them to post their personal cell phone numbers for tenants’ use was asking too much. It's a personal number for a reason.

Any resident manager can tell you stories of abuse by tenants after hours because, in their sometimes small-minded perception, “You live here so you must work 24 hours per day.”  It requires a polite, “Yes, I’m an onsite manager, but I do have a life as well.”

If you need to drive the point home, you can add, “Just like you, I go grocery shopping, out for dinner with friends, and visit my family so I am not here 24/7. Why do you ask?” It opens a dialogue so we can address any true concerns the tenant may have.  

A tenant forgetting his code is NOT an emergency. Neither is losing a key. Ringing the office phone incessantly at 3 a.m. because the fisherman forgot his $3 foam bait cooler is NOT an emergency. A true emergency situation necessitates dialing 9-1-1, and it’s really that simple.
 
Most resident managers will go that extra mile for the after-hours customer. Be it a customer with a loaded truck that shows up wanting to rent, a gate code not functioning, or heaven forbid, a mistake made by site staff not unlocking a unit or entering a gate code. We’re human, it happens, and most resident managers worth their salt will watch for these common occurrences and be proactive about avoiding any after-hours problems.

When something out of the norm does arise, a good customer service-oriented employee will step up and handle the situation and the owner will never even know. These same managers won’t toot their own horn for doing what they think is right, as they have vested themselves in the company they have chosen to work for.

The line of human compassion is crossed when business is ranked above people, as it is the people who truly make a business succeed. No downtime creates burnout, customer service can take a nosedive, and business can be impacted. Every human being needs a break from work and most get it by clocking out at 5 p.m., but a good resident manager can never truly clock out.
 
Determine the last time your staff took a couple days away for their own personal refreshment and enjoyment. I’m not referring to their normal days off when they run errands and catch up laundry, but real time away. Do you appreciate your employees who go that extra mile? Most managers appreciate the relationship with owners, but everyone loves a special treat. Could a dinner certificate, or a night away in a hotel a couple hours away or a simple handwritten note stating your appreciation be a good investment?

Odds are your staff will appreciate the compassion and you’ll get a better return on your investment in after-hours customer service than you will from demanding use of personal property to run your business. A well-rested, appreciated employee is a benefit every facility should strive to have, and it usually equates to a reciprocal relationship. 
 
There are a multitude of  after-hours notification solutions available. To get some ideas or add one of your own, check out this Self-Storage Talk thread.
 
 

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