Daily Facility Maintenance
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Tom Berlin|
|Posted on: 10/01/2000|
Daily Facility MaintenanceThe key to meeting expectations and keeping customers' business
By Tom Berlin
Americans are becoming more sophisticated. Starbucks and other coffee shops have educated us on the sundry ways to enjoy coffee. The Internet has connected us to an entire universe of information. Cable and satellite television has allowed us to peek into the lives of different cultures. And the American economy continues to provide most people with an unprecedented standard of living.
As a result, our expectations of what is acceptable to us, as consumers, have risen. This is a trend impacting all retailers. For example, one long-time discount department store chain is in the midst of renovating hundreds of its stores in order to staunch the flow of its customers into more contemporary discounters that feature newer stores with wider aisles, brighter lighting, nicer displays and an overall cleaner environment.
Self-storage is no exception to this scrutiny. As the population becomes more educated about our product, their expectations and requirements of a facility are reaching higher levels. In the past, a metal building sitting in the middle of an unpaved field was completely acceptable. For some prospective tenants, it still is. But the vast majority of our customers has become accustomed to, and even demands, a higher standard.
As is regularly pointed out in industry trade journals such as this one, many new self-storage facilities are virtually indistinguishable from the most upscale office buildings or residential developments. They feature every new technological bell and whistle available, and provide customer service rivaling that of the fabled Nordstrom's chain of department stores.
Many of us with older facilities try to do whatever we can to compete by upgrading our properties with new storage doors, computer-controlled gates, surveillance cameras, door alarms, etc. But these are high-cost, capital- intensive improvements. Don't get me wrong--these are very worthwhile expenditures. We all need to consider installing what is increasingly becoming the norm at self-storage operations. But there is one area that is often overlooked by managers and operators that can keep a facility competitive even as new facilities nip at your marketshare: daily maintenance.
The Importance of Maintenance
Managers and operators are always extremely busy with the day-to-day activities of running their facilities. It's easy to forget the important role a facility's appearance and cleanliness plays in the decision-making process of the prospective tenant. Often, the customer doesn't even realize the influence of these factors. He just knows he "didn't feel comfortable" at a particular store and moves on to a competitor. Small d ifferences between competitors can decisively impact a potential customer's storage decision.
Certainly, every owner needs to ensure that his roofs don't leak, lighting on the property is adequate and working properly, paving is in good condition and doors operate smoothly. However, the daily "housekeeping" at a self-storage facility can be a critical factor in the facility's success. A new store that looks dirty will give customers a worse impression than an older location that is immaculate.
Our managers complete a daily checklist of housekeeping items. This helps ensure that easily overlooked items are still completed. Since each facility is different, every manager should develop his own list of duties that need to be handled every day. Here is a sample of the items on our list:
Our managers do both the interior and exterior housekeeping at the beginning of the day. The manager, in some cases, is scheduled to start work before the office opens in order to get everything accomplished before our first customers arrive. When a manager is doing the morning site inspection, he can also overlock past-due spaces and remove overlocks from paid spaces.
Some of the activities listed above may need to be done several times a day if an office or property is especially busy or the weather is bad. It is important to keep in mind tht the acceptable standard for cleanliness should be immaculate.
Maintenance of Vacated Units
Whenever a tenant vacates, the site manager should perform a thorough inspection of the space before it is rented again. Our managers use the checklist on the following page for this purpose.
The completed checklist is placed in the vacant-space file. When a store is audited, the checklists for all vacant spaces are reviewed and the spaces inspected to ensure they are ready for the new tenant.
Keeping a property clean at all times is one of the most important aspects of a manager or operator's job. It is neverending, but it can mean the difference between a potential customer choosing to store at your facility or moving on to your competitor.
Tom Berlin is vice president of operations for Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Pogoda Management Co., one of the largest owners and operators of self-storage facilities in the Midwest. For more information, call (800) 326-3199.