Whoever came up with the U.S. Army slogan, “Be all that you can be,” wasn’t thinking about self-storage managers, but they could have been. The responsibilities of storage managers certainly require them to be all that they can be on a continual basis.
Topping off the list of responsibilities is the need for managers to provide quality customer service. Fulfilling that job, though, is another whole list. What do I mean? Below, I begin to define the many facets of customer service:
Providing assistance and counseling to our prospective customers when they first inquire about our storage facility. A good customer-service provider can interpret the specific needs (size of space), the value of the product (security, cleanliness, bright well-maintained units, etc.), and the price the customer is willing to pay, and then translate those needs into our objectives (profit). Guiding customers to choose the right unit size for their needs assures them they have made the right choice for the product that they are using.
Adapting to a variety of situations professionally and smoothly. For example, a skilled manager can go from signing a contract with a new customer to handling a delinquent tenant over the phone without missing a beat. Moreover, when conversing with the latter, he can diplomatically convince the tenant to pay late fees without sounding offensive or prompting the delinquent tenant to vacate the unit.
Knowing when to step up to community service by donating space for charity programs, providing boxes for a specific cause or volunteering personal time.
Willingness to open/close gates after hours in order to accommodate a special need by a customer.
Taking a bottle of water out to customers during the hot summer months or a cup of hot chocolate in the winter, just because you have their comfort in mind.
Solving problems with customers, be it to help reserve a rental truck or make a copy of a lost key for a military wife who needs to gain access to the family’s stored records.
Greeting everyone with a smile and firm handshake just to show you care about them and their business.
Way of Life
Is my list conclusive? Not in the least. I’m sure you can think of many other examples. The moral is this: Customer service is an attitude and a way of life.
When I hear from my customers that our managers provide good customer service, I am always interested in what exactly they mean. The points made above were collected from several current and former customers regarding managers. They outline services self-storage tenants identify as the most helpful, courteous and meaningful.
These services are particularly meaningful because they require personal interaction with renters. In a world that has become less personal via e-mail, voicemail, electronic billing and kiosks, whenever we have the opportunity to provide personal courtesies to customers we should. These moments can be extremely valuable and memorable. Make them all count.
True customer service is a way of developing personal relationships and loyalty with customers. It shows we, as self-storage managers, have a genuine concern for someone’s business, and we are willing to extend ourselves to cultivate a relationship. Don’t forget, the process of storing belongings can be tedious, usually marking a significantly stressful time in people’s lives (a move, downsize of a home, divorce, etc.). If you can provide a positive, friendly, courteous manner for sailing through this tumultuous time, you have succeeded in your role as a manager.
So ask yourself this question today, “Am I being all I can be, and will the people I come in contact with leave with a positive image?” If the answer is “yes,” then you can certainly pat yourself on the back for being a true customer-service manager.
Mel Holsinger is the president of Tucson, Ariz.-based Professional Self Storage Management, which offers self-storage facility management, consulting and development services. He is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Inside Self-Storage. For more information, call 520.319.2164; visit www.proselfstorage.com.