I have a confession to make. Earlier this month, I delivered bad customer service. A new developer (and ISS reader) reached out for advice on building a boat/RV-storage site. Of course, I always want to help … it’s my job! But I was just slammed that week. So, in my rush, I didn’t really give him my full effort. Fortunately, this was pointed out to me and I realized that I needed to take a breath and truly help this guy. So, I followed up with him and offered more information.
I’ve been on the receiving end of fabulous and terrible customer service. I’ve written so many blogs on this topic! I’m sure you’ve experienced great and poor service as well. But how often do you think about the customer service you’re giving. My email exchange with a reader was an eye-opener for me. Yes, we all aim to give our best during every interaction with our customers, but it doesn’t always happen. We’re busy. We’re tired. Our cat/dog/parakeet/bearded dragon isn’t doing so great. We’re hungry. We’re feeling anxious. We’re living in a PANDEMIC! There are a zillion reasons why you might not give your best effort at any given time.
The thing is, self-storage is a retail business, so customer service is more than just important. It’s necessary. A sales prospect or tenant who has a bad interaction with you will have no problem sharing the story with friends, coworkers, family members and, of course, on social media. And this can be problematic! Bad customer service causes higher customer turnover, which means more money must be spent to attract new ones. It can also affect brand loyalty. Tenants might continue to store with you for a time but don’t have a high regard for your business, which can damage your facility reputation, especially online. And we all know how important online reviews are these days.
How can you prevent bad customer service from slipping out? No one expects you to be Suzy Sunshine every day. Life happens and you might not feel awesome every single day. But your customers don’t need to know that. Nor do most of them care that you’re having a bad day. They might be, too! It’s your job to paste on the happy, make the time and give them your best.
In a thread on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, members are discussing how they push through downer days. They recommend leaning on your sales scripts when your patience is running low. Another tip is to always make the customer feel heard. Sometimes it’s more about listening than reacting, which allows you to passively give good service. Of course, you need to keep an eye on your tone and words. “How can I help you” can be a great opening line, but can also come across snarky or disinterested. Ditto on the simple phrase thank you. Be clear in your communication but chose your words carefully.
It’s not just about words but actions, too. Not returning sales queries in a timely manner, failing to follow through on a customer request and even avoiding eye contact with a tenant on the property so you don’t get dragged into a long conversation are all examples of bad customer service.
Most of us are internally motivated to provide great service. It’s our job, but those with a solid work ethic aren’t just punching a clock. We want to succeed at work. We want to help people. This means you need to care and connect with all your customers, even the ones who push your buttons, are needy or seem indifferent to your guidance. You can tell the person with a loaded rental truck that all his items aren’t going to fit in the 5-by-5 storage unit he’s eyeing, but he might need to see for himself. Rather than an eyeroll when he returns to your office sheepishly, give him a smile and move on. Perhaps you can share a chuckle. Then when he tells the story, you’re reflected in a positive light rather than that [insert expletive] who was impatient or irritated when he rented a storage unit.
The same week I failed to provide the best info to an eager reader, I got another shot at it. This time, I made the time! And the recipient of my better customer service effort was thankful for my input. Of course, this made me feel good and motivated me to do better the next time around. How about you?