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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

5 Minutes To Good Customer Service

I was at the bank this morning, about 10 minutes before the bank officially opened, joined by a few of my fellow customers.  And as we waited, it occurred to me that a 5 minute change could make a big difference to your customer service!

Sometimes it's the small things that make the biggest differences, both good and bad, so even when  something seems unimportant, those small "unimportant" moments can add up to either a great or not-so-great experience.  So getting back to my morning bank visit, here we are, the three of us, waiting for those doors to unlock and us to stroll/rush in to get our business done.  We all got there 5 to 10 minutes early, and when the clock struck 9am, I could see them stop looking at their phone, fidgeting, and waiting to get in.  My guess they had somewhere to go, so they were anxious to get in those doors!  Then it progressed to 9:01, and you could see them trying to see through the windows, wondering where the person was to let them in.  For some reason, a minute can seem like an eternity when something should be open but isn't.  Finally, at 9:02 they open the doors and we all go in. 

So at this point, I am sure you are thinking, "What, 2 minutes late and they are freaking out?"  And you would be right!  It wasn't rational that they were getting amped up, but that is life isn't it?  People get annoyed in irrational ways all the time, so the question is, should we do anything about it?  Should we bother?

In the end, even if it isn't really "fair" that people get unnecessarily upset by minor inconveniences, it doesn't change the fact that they did get annoyed, and there is a really, really easy way to not only alleviate that, but actually provide great customer service at the same time!  If the bank team had gone the opposite direction and went ahead and opened up the doors 5 minutes early, then it would have felt as if they were going above and beyond, even if it was just by a minor gesture.  And frankly, I think that is what great customer service is - a build-up of small, minor ways to improve the customer experience.  The bank would have allowed me to get 5 minutes extra of my day, which is one of the most valuable commodities we have.  Imagine this text from a resident:

"The office opened a few minutes early for me, so I think I might not be late after all!"

So I have a suggestion:  Don't change your official open hours, but instead, consider unlocking your doors 5 minutes early.  That really has a negligible impact on your operations but can deliver great goodwill for those trying to quickly move on to the rest of their day!

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Such small things can add up to big benefits! Thank you, Brent!

  Mary Gwyn
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Just a few weeks ago, I went to a vendor's showroom to check out some of the furnishings they had available for staging. Of course, Seattle traffic being what it is (that is: a curse I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy), I got there after their posted closing hour.

I checked the door (because I can read the hours sign, but why not?) and got back in my car, bummed that I'd missed them. As I'm getting ready to pull away, there's a knock on my window! After swallowing the heart that lept into my throat at the sudden surprise, I realized it was one of the vendor's sales team who'd come out to get me.

Instead of having to take time out of another day in my already hectic week, I was able to get in, take a look at the things I needed to see and get on with my business. She didn't have to let me in. It was clearly after hours, and there was no obligation to open up.

But she did. And that turned a normal, everyday disappointment into an awesome experience. You better believe the first place I consider for furnishings will be her company!

  Jay Koster
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Love this story, Jay, and a perfect example!

  Brent Williams
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Have you ever noticed that all clocks/phones are not synchronized and set for exactly the same minute; that there are often a few minutes' difference? The bank clock and the customer's clocks may not have matched and the bank was following its clock. I've been in situations before where I was declared "late" for an appointment because of such a difference. Opening a few minutes early may seem like a small thing, but how do you handle customers who arrive 10 minutes early? What's the cutoff? I personally would appreciate an early opening, but understand when businesses stick to policy.

  Gayle Kenney
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Hi Gayle!
The opening 5 minutes early program wouldn't be "official", so it wouldn't be a situation where the residents necessarily expected it. So if they were 10 minutes early, they would still have to wait for 5 minutes, but it would still be a nice surprise to get in the doors a bit earlier than they anticipated.

  Brent Williams

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