By Stephanie Tharpe
I recently had the privilege of speaking to members of the Pennsylvania Self Storage Association during their annual fall conference. My topic for the manager education track was customer service. We’ve all heard proven techniques on what to do to close a sale, but how do we go above and beyond for our customers? During the session, I explained that self-storage customers are typically struggling with major life events when they come through our doors. As managers, we have the unique opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, which can have a huge positive impact.
I never eat before I speak, so after my session and a full day at the conference, I was starving. I decided to grab a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant. Since I was alone, I sat at the bar. There was a gentleman who was also sitting alone, and after several minutes, he struck up a conversation with me. After engaging in typical small talk and explaining why I had come to Pennsylvania, he asked what my session topic had been. I told him how, in our industry, we typically deal with people going through major life events, such as divorce, death of a loved one and, obviously, moving. I explained how I addressed the fragile emotional state many of our customers are in when they visit us, and that we should go above and beyond to help them.
He sat for a minute and then teared up. “Recently,” he said, “I went through that (divorce). It was devastating, and I had to get a storage unit. I had to pack up all of my belongings and find a place to put them. I went to a storage facility, and the manager was so nice. He didn’t have to be.”
Then he said something that really got to me, which I felt compelled to share with you. He said, “I found kindness where I never expected it.”
Let that sink in for a minute. Our industry is amazing. There are tons of exciting things happening with technology. Our rental rates and occupancy levels are seeing record highs. Facilities are selling at a fast pace with amazing returns. Employees are being paid well. But in these good times, are we missing what’s really important—what we do? We have the power to make an impact. Facility managers have the opportunity to make a difference.
So, smile when you greet someone. Think of how you’re treated when you’re the consumer. Go to work, be proud of who you are, and make a difference in someone’s life today.
Stephanie Tharpe is senior vice president of operations for A+ Storage of Tennessee LLC, which operates seven self-storage facilities in Nashville, Tenn. She has 18 years of self-storage experience and serves as the events committee chair for the Tennessee Self Storage Association. She has been a featured speaker at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo and serves as a moderator on Self-Storage Talk. For more information, visit www.aplustorage.com.