The long and grinding road that is the Major League Baseball regular season will come to a close this weekend. The postseason will begin in earnest next week, and with it, every borderline called strike and close play on the base paths will be scrutinized with more intensity than usual. It’s tough to be an umpire under normal conditions, much less heightened expectations. It’s a position with little thanks that comes fitted with a target for vitriol thrown by players and fans.
Are self-storage managers much different? Someone once told me that any business is only as good as the last customer it served. This certainly makes sense from some customers’ perspectives, but self-storage operators who have distinguished themselves by consistently providing quality amenities, customer service and accountability tend to have greater leeway and acceptance from loyal customers when errors or issues inevitably occur.
To me, service businesses are much like baseball umpires. Customers or fans tend not to appreciate or take notice of performance until something goes wrong. That’s because when expectations are met, patrons tend to take it for granted and simply go about their business—unless the end result exceeds expectations. In those cases, customers tend to stop, admire, remember and recommend.
But when something goes awry, the spotlight is on, and a situation can quickly escalate from innocent to confrontational. Just as umpires have to diffuse volatile situations with players, self-storage managers sometimes have to calm customers who genuinely believe damage has been inflicted upon their property or well-being, or services haven’t been properly administered or delivered.
Of course, a couple of major differences include the fact that an umpire’s ruling is the law, and he rarely admits fault or changes his mind. Meanwhile, there are instances when storage managers have to acquiesce and make some sort of accommodations with complaining customers unless there’s clear evidence or a rental-agreement clause to the contrary.
Are you familiar with the incident when former Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had a perfect game taken away on the last play of the game because of an obvious blown call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce? The umpire held his ground on the safe call until he saw the replay after the game. When he saw how badly he had missed the play at first, Joyce tearfully admitted his wrong, apologized to Galarraga and hugged him. "I just cost that kid a perfect game," he said.
The next morning, Joyce was again in tears as he exchanged lineup cards with Galarraga at home plate before the next game in the series. The two men shook hands, and in a moving public display, Joyce put his hand on Galarraga’s shoulder. Detroit fans cheered. To Galarraga’s credit, he took the bad call in stride and never lashed out at Joyce. The two eventually even wrote a book together titled “Nobody’s Perfect.”
The pitcher didn’t benefit from the instant-replay rule in effect today and put on a tremendous display of sportsmanship given the circumstances. Wouldn’t self-storage operators love it if customers adopted a similar attitude? That’s not likely to happen, of course, but there’s also a lesson to be learned from Joyce’s actions.
I’m not suggesting facility managers burst into tears when something goes wrong with a tenant, but accountability and quickly resolving a cantankerous situation with contrition is meaningful to customers when they believe they have been wronged.
In a survey conducted last year by research company Opinion Matters on behalf of NewVoiceMedia, a provider of cloud contact centers and voice solutions, 70 percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to a company after experiencing good customer service. Perhaps more importantly, 69 percent said they would recommend that company to others, and 42 percent indicated they would spend more money. Just 7 percent said good service would not affect their relationship with the company.
It’s interesting to note that before the perfect-game incident, Joyce was the highest rated umpire in Major League Baseball. In a survey of players after the dust had settled, Joyce was far and away the highest rated ump.
Admitting fault when warranted and demonstrating accountability is sometimes a necessary but valuable part of meaningful customer service. When sincere actions are a part of your everyday service, honestly fixing errors will often serve to strengthen loyalty, not weaken it.
Please share some examples of how you have benefited from resolving tricky customer issues in the comments section below.