Converting The Customer To A Client?? Some of you may be saying “what’s the difference”? Aren’t we talking about the same thing, calling the tenant by another name? Gosh, even the word tenant seems harsh to me. We can change the way we think about our self storage investing business, our client’s, our employees, and even our competitors, simply by looking at them differently, starting with what we call them. By changing the way we think of your business and “customers” will simply add to our cash flow and profitability of our self storage investing business. Period.
One of the most prolific authors and innovators of business strategy today is Jay Abraham. In one of his most recent books, Jay defines the difference between a client and a customer. It made perfect sense to me. Jay writes in his bestselling book Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got:
“Customer: A person who purchases a commodity or service. Client: A person who is under the protection of another”
Jay illustrates his point by using the example of a father buying a first bicycle for his child. He is not really just buying the bike, he is buying the lifelong memories for both child and father that learning to ride and bonding during the process can bring. “Look, Dad, I’m riding a two wheeler” is in Jay’s example, and the thoughts we derive from that statement are far reaching.
That bike needs to be safe, and my personal suggestion to fathers is to buy one already assembled so that the experience starts on a positive note! The point is that the bike seller is selling much more than a piece of riding equipment or a toy. He is selling memories.
In the self-storage investing business you may be thinking you are only renting space, but you are actual providing a safe and secure ‘home away from home’ for the personal belongings of your client. Consider all of the “things” we have seen in storage…urns with ashes of loved ones (dogs and cats included), heirlooms, and yes, many a first bicycle.
Self Storage Business Expert Defines Customer Service
Let’s turn to some self-storage industry experts to see what they think qualifies as a superb customer skill. Jim Chiswell, a leading self-storage industry business consultant thinks that we can start with something simple and basic. Jim says “The most important thing that a manager can do is make people feel comfortable when they come into the storage office. The first step is simply shaking their hand. Extending your hand psychologically is saying I am here to help you.
Except at church, there are few business or social situations in today's busy life style when people shake hands. I feel that this simple act will change the dynamics between the manager and the prospect. It creates a bond between the two people that says, ‘You can count on me to help solve your problem’. And no matter what the circumstances, shaking a person's hand as they are leaving is the best way to say thank you for your business”.
Jim has another thought on customer service: “critical need for every employee to have a personal business card along with a store brochure to hand out or mail to prospects.” I travel the country and find countless stores without brochures and managers without business cards. How can you expect an employee to think of himself as an important part of the management team if the owner was not willing to spend $25 or $50 dollars to get a couple hundred business cards?”
Jim is right, it is basic. We agree that the Eight |S’s| of self storage service are simple but important:
[S] Shake Hands
[S] State your name and introduce yourself
[S] Solve the clients storage problems
[S] Suggest other goods and services to enhance the guest’s storage experience
[S] Sell – Nothing is quite as satisfying besides a job well done as making the cash register ring
[S] Send a Thank you card for their visit (or business) and ask for a referral
Jim brings up a good point about the business cards. In fact, you can even get business cards for FREE (a nominal charge for shipping and handling). Instilling confidence as Jim has suggested is one of the methods of converting a customer into a client. Sure, renting the space is the defining action, but the conversion to client is in the process of getting to the sale.
Consider these steps in selling:
What Does Killer Service Get You In Self Storage Investing?
You get the customers attention with a smile and showing respect by standing up when they see you. When the client begins to explain their situation and the need for storage, you are an active part of the conversion to client process. The credibility you establish with solutions to their storage needs builds with each step to the sale.
Remember, storing goods is the function, but that is the end result of a much more important issue – solving their need on an emotional level. You are going to take custody of their possessions, sometimes an entire lifetime of collective purchases or heirlooms.
So, what is ‘Killer’ Customer Service? A constant focus on the basics. Doing things right and doing the right thing 100% of the time. Great customer service means keeping your promises and over-delivering on customer expectations. Great customer service doesn’t always mean coming up with a new slogan or creating a 1-800 customer service number that goes directly to the owner’s desk; it means following policy and keeping commitments to the most important person in your business – YOUR CLIENT!
Get down to the basics, use self storage product knowledge and some basic manners to address your clients, and then, take it a step further by making them feel extra special. This moves a customer from a goods and delivery association to a consultative, client relationship. We transcend the economic “quid pro quo” transaction and move to a long term, caring, bond that exists in the “client” relationship that is not present in the “customer” transaction.