Customers are the lifeblood of a service-oriented business like self-storage. To retain existing tenants and attract new customers, facility employees need customer-service skills. But what does that mean exactly?
Is customer service about simply providing the product the customer seeks from you? Is it giving in to a demand that is perhaps not part of your offering? Is it in the way you package the product? Or the way you allow customers to pay? Is customer service about what the customer requires, expects, demands, needs or all of the above?
A Personal Experience
I recently went to the store to buy a present for my wife. Not being a sophisticated (or willing) shopper, all I had to go on was a broad description of the product she wished to have. A woman greeted me at the entrance: "Is their anything I can help you with?" Of course, being the macho man I am, I said, "No, thank you."
After 15 minutes of looking in the general area where I thought I might find the item, I finally gave up and returned to the sales representative. Not only was she willing to help, she walked me over to the correct area, helped me pick out the right product, and then walked me up to the cashier. "This young man has found the perfect gift for his wife," she told the cashier with a smile. "Can you wrap it for him before he checks out?" I paid for my now wrapped gift. On my way out, the sales rep concluded my visit with, "Thank you for shopping with us. I hope you have a wonderful day."
Several things should be noted here as a lesson to all of us in the business of self-storage operation:
- Not everyone needs help, but the offer is nice should you be the one to require it.
- The sales rep provided help without making me feel like an idiot. Her assistance was sincere and courteous.
- The sales rep went above and beyond when she suggested the gift be wrapped. I didn't feel pressured, and yet I couldn't say no. In the end, she saved me time and effort and increased her sales total.
- Saying, Thank you for your business is customer service at its finest.
Believing in Customer Service
When someone enters your self-storage office to rent a unit, do you greet him with a smile and ask if you can help? Do you take the time to show him a unit and demonstrate how the doors work, then point out the clean, wide driveways that make moving in easier and more pleasurable? Do you emphasize your amazing security system, including the cameras, gate access and lighting?
When a new customer is signing the rental agreement, do you offer items that will help him move in, such as boxes and tape? Do you talk about how tenant insurance can safeguard his belongings? When the transaction is complete, do you make it a point to thank him for his business?
These are simple things, ones every operator should do during every customer transaction. But if we dont regularly remind ourselves that these gestures can make the difference between a happy and unhappy customer (in the case of the latter, maybe one who goes to our competitor), we may find our sales are not climbing as fast as wed like.
Customer service is an attitude in which you have to truly believe to make it work. You have to live it every day, all day long, and always say thank you. It truly does have a positive impact.
Here are a few customer-service tips that can make a big difference when someone new walks into your premises:
- Display a sign outside welcoming customers to your facility. You can use an A-frame with removable sheets or a display box with a removable front.
- Hang a poster in your office with a cheerful welcoming. If you have an electronic sign, change the welcome message every day.
- Send the customer a postcard after the rental process is complete. A simple Thank you for renting with us can serve two purposes: It confirms the address the customer gave you and demonstrates your gratitude.
There are many simple and inexpensive ways to show customers you appreciate them. Take a minute out of your busy life and resolve to find some. The payoffs are great, and youll stand out from your competitors as a self-storage manager who really cares. Remember, customer service is an attitude. Live it daily and youll have a happier group of family, friends and customers.
Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which oversees the operation of more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.proselfstorage.com.