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First Impressions Matter in Self-Storage! Make Those First Seconds With the Customer Count

A customer’s first impression of a self-storage business has a huge bearing on its success. Here’s how to make those first seven to 17 seconds count through great sales and customer-service skills.

If you’re still not convinced that first impressions have a huge bearing on the success of your self-storage business, read this excerpt from “Statistics on First Impressions” from match.com:

Statistics based on research reveal that the first impressions are largely affected by an individual’s image. It is said that in about the first 30 seconds of our encounter, the first impression is created. In fact, to be precise, there is ample research that supports the notion that the first impression is formed in the first seven to 17 seconds itself. This first impression is based 55 percent on appearance, 7 percent on the words we use during course of our conversation and 38 percent on the tone of the voice.

The statistics related to first impressions alter with face-to-face interactions and telephonic conversations. During a face-to-face encounter, 93 percent judgment is based on nonverbal input that includes one’s appearance and body language; while only 7 percent rests on the words one utters.

In comparison to this, during a telephonic conversation, 70 percent of the opinion is influenced by the tone of the voice and 30 percent depends on the words one speaks. This data clearly showcases that in a personalized meeting, the first impression is about one’s outer portrayal; while over the phone what matters is how one speaks rather than what one says.

This goes to show that even before we get sufficient time to demonstrate our capabilities, the first impression is already cast. In a matter of seconds an opinion is formed, and the main consideration for this first impact are clothes, body language and attitude. This holds true for a business as well as romance. We all know the first impression is most often irrevocable in the minds of many, and it stays that way for a long time. Since it’s so important, shouldn’t we strive to do it right?

It’s busy season in the self-storage industry, a good time to take a renewed look at the first impression you’re offering to customers. What do people experience when they call or visit your facility? Here are some tips to enhance your first impression that won’t cost a lot of money but will have a big return.

Staff Appearance

Since 55 percent of first impressions are based on appearance, focus on this aspect of your staff. If uniforms are stained, wrinkled, ripped or worn, it leaves a bad impression. When you see that hole under the arm or bleach stain, you can be sure customers do, too. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

It’s your business, so set the dress code and the expectations. Survey your staff and replace uniforms as needed. Supply replacement shirts for the staff once or twice a year to keep up that professional appearance. Check shoes, too. It’s a nice morale booster for the staff if you buy them new shoes once in a while.

Encourage employees to be mindful of their appearance. It’s better to be a bit overdressed than sloppy. When they look good, tell them they look nice and are wearing the uniform well. This will reinforce the image. Presenting a professional-looking staff will not go unnoticed by your tenants.

Office Sights and Smells

Walk into your office from the front door. What do you see or smell in the first seven to 17 seconds? Does the office look and feel its age? It may just need a good cleaning and air freshener, or it may be time for an update. Sometimes, even when something isn’t broken, you do need to fix it.

Take a look around at the things that have “been like that for a while” and make a point to repair them. Whether it’s the office chair with a broken arm, the copier that makes copies with a streak down the right side or the cracked coffee pot, don’t wait until it breaks completely. Keep up on the little things to maintain your image. The office is where you often create your facility’s first impression, so make it count.

The In-Office Greeting

Make a great first impression when people come through your door by standing up, making eye contact and offering a friendly “hello.” It really is that simple. A smile and a handshake is a bonus, and it all starts with how you treat your staff. Set the example for how people are greeted when they enter your establishment. When you visit the store, make it a point to greet each staff member with a handshake and eye contact.

When tenants enter, don’t slink around in the background. Instead, greet them with a kind word and a smile. Take a break from what you’re doing and chat for a minute or two. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about your own business by talking with tenants.

Say the words “thank you” at every opportunity. Let your customers know you value their choice to do business with you. Your staff should be genuinely pleased to see each and every person who walks through your door and treat all of them pleasantly. If they don’t see you doing it, why should they? Visit some of your competitors to see what kind of greeting you receive. It shouldn’t be difficult to exceed the best you find.

Over the Phone

Many things have changed over the years in this industry, but good phone skills remain the key to success. The prospect often makes a decision about your business based on that first phone call. Does your manager sound bored, bothered or indifferent? Does he say the name of your business so fast the caller doesn’t understand or, worse, fails to say the name at all?

Don’t settle for a manager with poor phone skills. He might be a nine out of 10 on everything else, but if he’s a zero on the phone, you’ll never be as successful as you could and should be.

Phone-sales training is an ongoing process. Continual practice, evaluation and retraining is required to keep these skills sharp.

How one speaks makes all the difference. Remind staff to prepare themselves before answering the phone. They should stand, smile and be genuinely ready to have a conversation that will result in a solution for the caller and business for you. Develop and practice with employees on the words, body language, demeanor and tone to use when answering the phone. When 70 percent of the first impression on the phone is a how you speak rather than what you say, it’s important for staff to understand how they’re being perceived by the caller.

Using tools like mystery-shopper companies or call recording to monitor how your business is being represented to new customers is now standard practice. The quickest and easiest way to turn things around is to put laser focus on how phone calls are handled.

It’s easy to present a good first impression, but you must be proactive and incorporate it into the core of your business. Present yourself as the example for how people should be greeted and develop a standard phone etiquette that’s practiced with every call. Put a critical eye to the impression people get when entering your establishment and fix what can be easily fixed. First impressions matter! As quoted by John D. Rockefeller Jr., “The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.”

Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a self-storage management and consulting firm in Sarasota, Fla. For more information, call 941.350.7859; e-mail [email protected], visit www.limetreemanagement.com.

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