We have a guest post today from Arthur Gould, the division manager of Â The Self Storage Company. Â He contacted me about contributing an article and came up with this one! Â With the year coming to an end, it just seems natural that we’re looking back on some missed opportunities and chiding ourselves for all the time wasted and opportunities missed. Â Art has a different outlook on wasting time — take a read!
Its no surprise that most of us subscribe to the theory that time is money. Some would argue that time is even more valuable than money. So it’s really not too surprising that in our culture, there is a real stigma associated with wasting one’s time. How often have you heard the phrase “What a waste of time!”? Or maybe “Don’t waste your time!” Or perhaps “Why are you wasting your time with that??” It seems we are expected to always find a way to fill every second of our lives with “productivity”.
Being that it’s SO bad to waste time, then what does that mean about a person who might toss away a few idle moments while on the job? Prison time, maybe? Or do I dare say that there might ever be a
situation when what appears to be wasting time at work can actually be a good thing?
I am a division manager for a busy self storage company which operates in numerous locations. My tenants are not only my customers but they are my company’s entire reason for being. Without them, we would no longer exist. Many businesses sell products to their customers through a series of well-defined transactions, where each one has a neatly ordained beginning and end assigned to it. In these atmospheres, customers come and go. But in my business, our customers are with us over prolonged periods of time. Customer satisfaction in my line of work is not a one-time thing; my employees need to maintain customer loyalty on an ongoing basis.
So what does all this have to do with wasting time? Plenty!
Building and nurturing a lasting relationship with our customers is not only a vital part of our business, it is our business. But as everyone knows that lasting relationships are not built overnight. They take a good amount of time to development, especially meaningful relationships. A huge chunk of my workday is often spent doing things that an untrained observer might easily characterize as “wasting time” because they are the same things that most people tend to do on their coffee break. I often find myself wandering around aimlessly, cup of coffee in hand, looking for tenants to talk with. And when I find one, I usually latch on and just start shooting the breeze aboutâ€¦..well, nothing important (or so it would appear). But what is really going on is something much more profound and much more valuable. I am engaging my customer and, whether he knows it or not, constructing a brick-by-brick foundation of trust and loyalty between the two of us.
What exactly am I saying to my customers during my “wasted time”? Well, most of the time I am not talking at all, just listening (further reinforcing the impression that I am really wasting time!). And when I am talking, I am usually asking them questions themselves which are open-ended so they do not result in simple yes or no answers but instead engage the customer in a real honest-to-goodness dialogue. I want to learn everything I can about my customer: what motivates him, what is going on in his life, what he is feeling at this particular time in his life, and maybe what I might be able to do for him. And because I focus a great deal of my time on listening, I am able to find out who my customer really is and this how our dialogue becomes truly active. This is also when I realize how important it is for me to avoid placing limits on the amount of time I am “wasting”. I know that every minute I waste this way is a minute I am investing in creating trust with my client.
Simply put, my form of “wasting time” is nothing more than a very effective marketing strategy! This is easy to see when you consider that two of the most important aspects of marketing are Research and easurement. Companies pay enormous sums to research firms in order to acquire the same kind of information that I can get on a daily basis by wasting time asking my customers questions and then wasting even more time listening to them. Once you understand your client’s values, needs, and personal situations, then marketing becomes easy. Simply put, one man’s wasted time is another man’s marketing program.
If you agree or would like to try out my strategy, here is a quick summary of the basic ideas;
- Make it a daily practice to “waste” as much time as you can with your customers; avoid placingÂ time boundaries on these encounters.
- Ask strategic questions that facilitate information flow so that you can learn as much as possibleÂ about your customers while at the same time bonding with them and building mutual trust.
- Do much more listening than talking. Let the customers do most of the talking; your role is toÂ reinforce and gently guide the flow of the dialogue.
Time is an investment. One of the reasons our operation has been successful is that we recognize theÂ value of investing time in active dialogue with customers. Through the years I’ve learned that “wastedÂ time” is an effective tool in establishing and keeping healthy customer relationships Interacting with my customers is something I truly get personal satisfaction from andÂ it makes me look forward to coming into work every day.
In the words of T.S. Eliot: “Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time.”
About the Author: Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a Illinois self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients when traveling between sites from Florida all the way to the California self-storage centers.