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01 Aug 2019

Systems, Not Smiles


Jon Dario

Executive at Edison Properties

In your quest to deliver a great service experience for your self storage customers, what do you focus on? If you are like most, you preach to your team about smiling, greeting customers by name, and offering extras, like a free cup of coffee. But is that the best way to make customers happy?

In his 2002 book, Customers For Life, Carl Sewell lists his 10 Commandments of Customer Service. Number 2 is...

Systems, not smiles. Saying please and thank you don't insure you'll do the job right the first time, every time. Only systems guarantee that.

There is a famous story which tells how a particular Ritz manager solved the problem of customer complaints about slow room service deliveries. Did he yell at the kitchen staff or the room service waiters to increase their sense of urgency? No, he increased the number of bed sheets that housekeepers were allowed to stock on each floor of the hotel.

What? How did having too few bed sheets cause room service to be slow?

It turned out that housekeepers were having to run from floor to floor to get more bed sheets in order to complete their room cleaning duties. They were propping open elevator doors to save themselves time in getting sheets and getting back to their floor. That caused the elevators to be less available for room service waiters, and room service deliveries ended up being late. So, a supposed cost saving measure (reducing the number of stocked sheets) messed up the system for room service, and guest satisfaction suffered.

The lesson - Great service is often less about "nice," "caring," or even "hard-working," and more about process.

Focus first on the things customers expect (clean, well-lit facility, equipment working, easy access, etc.), and if you are delivering all of the basics 100% of the time, take the extra stuff to the next level!

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