Providing stellar customer service is a no-brainer for certain businesses like retail stores, restaurants and hotels. But for other industries—self-storage included—some owners and managers may push customer service toward the bottom of their priority lists.
However, just because your employees have less customer interaction than, say, a singing-telegram performer doesn’t mean you can afford to hold back on good service. Potential self-storage customers typically have several options within a community—sometimes within a single block. So it’s vital for managers and owners to continually improve service to stand out from the competition.
Not sure where to start? Keep reading to learn four effective strategies for taking your company’s customer service to new heights.
1. Change Your Hiring Tactics.
A single employee with a bad attitude can turn off countless potential renters and make existing customers vow never to return to your facility. And if one of those negative encounters fuels an angry review, tweet or Facebook post, it could harm your business for years to come.
To keep a bad apple from spoiling your business, beef up your hiring strategies so you’re consistently adding employees who have top-notch service skills. Not sure what to look for in a new employee? “Hire for attitude before experience,” said Susan Haviland, a partner at self-storage management and consulting firm Self Storage 101.
In other words, while it may be tempting to bring on the candidate with a dazzling smile and a perfect résumé, go instead for the applicant with a naturally bright personality—even if he or she is slightly less qualified. Remember that you always can train a new employee on certain skills for a position, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to teach compassion and friendliness.
2. Make It Personal.
“When people are looking for self-storage options, there is typically a ‘story’ related to their need,” said Carol Heady, author of “Turning Rants Into Raves: Turn Your Customers On Before They Turn on YOU!” If your employees can remember personal stories and bring up those details when renters come back in, you’ll create lasting impressions that promote long-term customer loyalty.
Worried about employees getting confused about who’s clearing out his home after a flood or who’s making room for a new baby? Heady recommends training employees to automatically plug these details into a customer’s account file.
3. Create a Good First Impression.
So you’ve hired a team of employees who are warm, friendly and bring a personal touch to every face-to-face interaction. In other industries, this might be enough to ensure that your customers are happy.
However, you still can’t ignore the “self” aspect of self-storage. Even if renters go straight to their units and don’t have any contact with employees, you still can improve their rental experiences, said Richard Mathis, vice president of operations at Personal Mini Storage, a self-storage operator in Florida.
“Always make sure facility is clean and inviting,” Mathis said.
Mathis pointed out that a customer’s first impression of your business begins as soon as he or she pulls into the parking lot. Keep close tabs on details like landscaping, trash removal, bathroom supplies and lighting in the storage area, he said.
And while you’re sprucing up your property, don’t forget to review your online presence. Make sure your website is well-organized and easy to navigate, and lets renters pay bills and check account information.
4. Respect Your Customers’ Time.
Many self-storage businesses struggle to take care of their customers in a timely manner, Mathis said. However, time often is a big concern for renters.
“Most storage customers are coming into the office to rent space, but their minds are really on the movers or unloading the truck into the space,” he said.
So how can you help renters get in, get out and get on with their lives? Mathis’ company sped up its rental process by condensing and streamlining the paperwork that customers are required to fill out when renting a unit.
Companies also can cater to time-strapped customers by investing in automated kiosks that carry out certain steps in the rental process. These machines can take the pressure off employees and speed up the flow of customers during busy times.
Whether you carry out all of these tactics or just one, remember that great customer service boils down to making your customers feel appreciated. If you and your employees keep this philosophy on the top of your minds, you’ll be well on your way to providing better service to every customer.