A guest installment by Matthew Van Horn, vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management
I hope everyone had a great time at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas. I always enjoy listening to the different presentations and having face-to-face time with all of my vendors. It never ceases to amaze me how fast our industry has grown over the last decade. Now that I am back home, I like to take time to think about Vegas because its one of the most customer-oriented places in the world. Between Las Vegas and Walt Disney World, which is in my backyard, I cant think of two other places in America where I am treated better.
While at the expo, I had the wonderful opportunity to dine at Gordon Ramsays steakhouse at the Paris Hotel. Having been in operations for most of my professional career, I have learned that some places just live up to the hype and others do not. Gordon Ramsay Steak lived up to that hype and then some.
To begin, the inside and outside of the restaurant are aesthetically pleasing. The lighting inside is neither too dark nor insanely bright, but illuminates just enough to enjoy dinner with your party. The inside of the restaurant is exceptionally clean, including the bar area, restaurant area, kitchen and restrooms. The restaurant had a very open floor plan, and I could see the dining area and kitchen. The kitchen was running in an almost military manner of precision. All of the employees, from the hostess to the servers to the people in the kitchen area, were all dressed in matching uniforms.
Once we were seated, the hostess left and our server came right to the table to greet us. The server immediately executed our drink order and explained a number of items on the menu. Once our order was taken, the server brought us some bread and immediately refreshed our drinks. During our entire meal, our drinks were never less than a quarter full.
Our order was brought to our table by four separate servers, one for each member of our party. They made sure that each dish was cooked to each individuals satisfaction before they left. One item of note: I had to leave my seat for a moment before our food arrived. The servers were so concerned that I was not at my seat, they did not plan to leave my meal at the table. Why? Because meals are to be served fresh to the customer.
This type of service shouldnt be limited to a great restaurant. I know some people will say, Well, the meal was expensive so they had to provide you good service. Actually, no they didnt. I could have had my meal and been provided horrible customer service. The same is true for our self-storage facilities. You could be McDonalds in pricing but provide your tenants and potential customers with off-the-chart service.
I cant tell you how many times I have shopped different self-storage facilities where the service ranged from phenomenal to amazingly bad. I once shopped a facility manager who was watching an adult movie while I was in the office. Im not kidding. It only takes a little bit of time to make sure the restrooms are cleaned, the office is spotless, and the grounds are cleaned. It only takes a little bit of pride to spend some time with a potential customer, show them a unit, explain how your service can help them, and listen to the story of how they lost their job or how their loved one passed away. I often say that being a self-storage manager is like being a bartender without the alcoholyou will hear it all.
Is it so hard to send out a welcome card or a thank-you card to your current and former customers thanking them for their business? Is it so hard to give someone a bottle of water in the middle of June? Its not hard to go the extra mile. People want to make a connection and trust the businesses they use on a regular basis.
A Stanford University study found that 13 percent of people will choose a service based on the lowest price, 17 percent based on the highest price, and 70 percent based on something other than price. Your potential customers are no different. Lets shoot for the highest rates possible and provide the best customer service so we can close the 87 percent. No worries, you can still shoot for some of the 13 percent as well.
Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. He is also president of 3-Mile Domination, a full-service self-storage marketing and consulting firm. For more information; visit www.cuttingedgeselfstorage.com and www.3miledomination.com .