Though an increasing number of self-storage operators are moving toward contactless services and automation, personal customer service is still a facility’s best asset. Why? Because despite the ability to conduct business online or through a kiosk, people still crave face-to-face interaction.
The simple act of just being there for your customers still goes a long way. In addition to providing assistance and advice to those who buy your products and services, good service is about looking out for their best interests and acting on their behalf. The goal is to build loyalty and trust. Exemplary customer service should be a top priority for everyone in your self-storage operation, from the top down. After all, consistently providing it can help you spread the good word about your business, just as poor service can harm your reputation and bottom line.
Meaningful, personal service still matters to our self-storage customers. The trick is to provide it well and consistently. The following guidelines will help.
Know Your Role
It’s important for self-storage managers and other facility staff to understand their role as customer-service representatives and the level of service the company expects. You’re the face of the facility and, therefore, an extension of the organization. Self-storage units and properties often appear the same to consumers who don’t know any better. The level and quality of service is often what sets one property apart from competitors. What you do to close the sale and retain existing tenants is significant.
A lot of our prospects are experiencing some type of stressful situation or life-changing event. They’re changing residences, getting married or divorced, grieving a death in the family, moving a child into or out of their home, selling a business, etc. What makes the difference in their shopping experience are the staff and skills they experience when interacting with your facility. In other words, every employee must sell themself every bit as much as they’re selling the features and value of the property.
There are many ways to build a positive relationship with your self-storage customers, but here are a few tried-and-true methods:
Acknowledge them. Have you ever walked into a place of business and been completely ignored? The staff didn’t address you or even make eye contact. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? In a sales and service environment, this isn’t the first impression you want to make. Even if you’re dealing with another customer or a co-worker, you can always create a welcoming environment for anyone who walks in the door. Stand up, smile and look them in the eye. Let them know you’re ready to serve them or will be right with them. Adopt a people-first attitude!
Listen! Let the customer know you’re there for them—whatever the issue—and they have your full attention. Once you know their needs, concerns, wants and expectations, you’ll be able to discern how you can assist them effectively. Never treat any request as though it isn’t worth your time. Be the person who takes an additional few minutes to listen. This type of customer service can be the reason a prospect ultimately decides to rent with you.
Make the customer a priority—and show it. Whether it’s a first-time encounter or a customer who visits you frequently, be visibly supportive. Show them that resolving their issue is your main goal, whether you’re able to do so on your own or need assistance from a supervisor. Sometimes it’s the little things that solidify a customer’s opinion about a business. They’ll remember the small gestures that made their day easier.
Timeliness also demonstrates a level of concern. Research has shown that 70% of customers are likely to endorse or come back to your place of business if their issue was dealt with efficiently.
Keep your cool. The ability to remain courteous and respectful in all situations is the ultimate test of anyone’s service skills. If you can be calm under pressure, even when confronted by an emotional customer, you’ll convey a high level of care.
Learn to de-escalate a situation rather than provoke the other person. You won’t always know what they’re going through, so respect, patience and usefulness should be your go-to tactics. The customer may not be right, but you should still do everything possible to help them through their trial with a smile. Putting out a small fire is much easier than dealing with a raging inferno. Stay calm and keep your mind focused on a positive solution.
Be a problem-solver. Steer clear of saying things like, “I don’t know” or “No, we can’t do that for you.” If you don’t have an immediate solution to a customer’s problem, let them know you’ll look into the issue or contact someone for help. Just don’t make any promises you know you can’t keep. Think before you speak. Nothing angers or annoys a customer more than a broken commitment.
Share your knowledge. Demonstrate to the customer that you’re the self-storage expert and can help them obtain the right size space for their needs. Share all of the helpful hints you know on how to pack, protect and store items. To help earn their trust, raise issues of which they should be aware. Educated decisions are the best decisions, so the more your prospects know and understand, the more likely they’ll feel that they’re making the right choice by renting with you.
Show your appreciation. Thank them for their business, whether by hosting a formal Customer Appreciation Day or having something small on hand to give to each person who comes into the office. Pick a day of the week or month on which you’ll always offer donuts and coffee and let your tenants know about it. If you send a regular newsletter, pick a customer or business to feature in each issue. Little promotions like these will show people you appreciate their continued patronage. Remember, the customer who already rents from you is the best referral source you have!
Personal customer service still matters in self-storage. Outstanding service requires you to be a good listener, helpful, courteous, respectful, considerate, honest, positive and supportive. Most importantly, be thankful for your prospects and tenants. If they leave your facility feeling better than when they arrived, you’ll win them over every time!
Diane Gibson is owner and president of Cox’s Armored Mini Storage Management Inc., which manages self-storage facilities in Arizona. As the immediate-past president of the Arizona Self Storage Association, she’s participated in roundtables and panels at the organization’s conferences. For more information, email [email protected].