As my quest to improve our company’s client service, I came across the book, Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless; Customer Loyalty Is Priceless, by Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales guru I have long admired. The premise of the book is that clients who are only satisfied will turn to the competition on a dime, while loyal customers will not only stay with a company for the long term, but they will go out of their way to rave about you to friends and business associates.
While recently designing a Yellow Pages ad for a client, I asked for his business’s competitive advantages. I was told the main difference is customer service. While that becomes the featured copy point of the ad, the proof is in the pudding.
Many storage facilities boast about customer service, but few truly deliver. Saying that customer service is your biggest selling point means you should be exceeding customer expectations not just providing a satisfying experience. The difference? A satisfied customer says everything was "OK," with feelings ranked somewhere between "impartial" and "happy." These customers haven’t had a negative experience, but you haven’t done anything to knock their socks off either, which would mean you had exceeded expectations.
A loyal customer, one who will rave about your customer service, uses the word "great" frequently when describing the experience. These clients are overly satisfied; they will talk about your service and actively recruit new customers for you.
The best and least expensive source of advertising is a loyal customer. Knowing that, what can you as a self-storage owner or manager do to convert satisfied customers into devoted fans?
The Customer Comes First
The lesson begins with educating staff on the value of a good customer relationship and how it translates to new business. Make sure your managers understand that the customer is the reason they receive paychecks; the boss is only the vehicle for delivery.
Encourage employees to engage customers in conversations to find out what they want, what they like and, equally important, what they don’t like. Promote creativity among the staff and reward excellent ideas as well as stellar customer service. Following are some areas of training on which to focus:
Unit sizes:Product knowledge is a given. What isn’t a given is how it can cement client relationships. Is the staff expertly trained to help customers determine the most appropriate unit size for their needs?
Moving assistance:Do you offer truck rental for move-in? Does your staff have a list of dependable movers if your customer has that need? Dependable is the operative word here, because your credibility relies on the quality of the referral.
Prices:If your prices are not the lowest, can employees give the customer a good "value story" after quoting prices? Not all customers are looking for the lowest price, but everyone wants to know a price is fair and offers value for the money.
Location:Are the employees familiar enough with the area to be able to give excellent directions? There is nothing worse than giving bad directions, except maybe the inability to give directions at all!
Hours:If your office hours are not convenient for a new customer, are the employees empowered to offer a different schedule by appointment?
Competitive advantages:Do the employees know why your facility is better than the competitor’s down the street? Do they know how to "sell" the right features to customers? In other words, are they trained to find out what each customer wants and needs? Once they sell the customer on that product or service, can they deliver?
Attitude:Employees should be able to demonstrate how much they really care about the customers with their attitudes. Does your staff appear happy and willing to answer questions? Do managers go out of their way for a customer? Do they show customers that they like their job?
Appearance:The first impression of the employee is as important as the appearance of the facility. Neatness and cleanliness demonstrate respect for the customer.
Back to the Book
In his book, Gitomer skillfully explains the earnest need to improve customer service and earn fans for your business. Here are some of the many important thoughts I feel are invaluable:
- Customer service across all industries is so poor, people have low expectations. Exceed expectations, and you will find referral rates increasing.
- Customers want and need your help. Work at identifying WHAT they want and HOW they would like the service delivered.
- Try to avoid the words "no" and "can’t" whenever humanly possible.
- Always be friendly and empathetic, even when dealing with a problem or a disgruntled customer.
- Never promise what you can’t deliver, and surprise your customers with what you do deliver.
- Don’t recommend this book to your competitors.
There you have it: The secret to winning the Super Bowl of self-storage success is first to spoil your customers with great service. Do you have what it takes? Turn this knowledge into practice and you’ll be getting rave reviews by your fans, who’ll also be your customers for life.
Sue Weinman is vice president, Yellow Page Services, of Michaels Wilder Inc., an advertising agency specializing in Yellow Pages, Internet marketing and talent recruitment for the self-storage industry since 1989. For more information, visit www.michaelswidler.com.