Facility Communications Systems

Karen Genualdi and Courtney Doerfler Comments
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In today's competitive environment, exceptional customer service is what makes a self-storage facility stand out from the rest. One of the most effective ways to promote exceptional service is a state-of-the-art communications system.

The quality of the security system you select is critical. Of course, the location and general appearance of the property plays a major role in attracting customers. However important these basic considerations may be, they represent only part of a facility's attributes. A comprehensive communications system will keep customers informed and offer immediate access to assistance.

A communications system can include a combination of intercom and paging capabilities for convenient customer service. In addition, broadcasted music creates a more comfortable, pleasant storage experience; and broadcasting of canned messages transforms the communications system into a savvy marketing tool. While the system incorporates state-of-the-art technology, the price is surprisingly affordable. Once you have purchased a system from a reputable supplier with installation expertise, the benefits are immediate.

With communications technology in place, your storage facility transforms from a silent maze of corridors into a more welcoming place of business. Customer assistance is available at the touch of a button should a problem arise. Important messages can be transmitted in a heartbeat. A wide array of choices exist to enhance customer service through a communications system.

Customer Communications

Imagine one of your customers entering your facility on a Saturday morning. It's hot outside, and he is burdened with a long list of errands and time constraints. Spending one more minute than necessary at the storage unit is the last thing he wants. Although this customer has never encountered trouble with his lock in the past, on this busy Saturday, the lock isn't functioning. After jiggling key and lock to the point of complete frustration, he admits he needs help. Can you sense the mental and emotional state of this customer? Do you think he would rather rush all the way to the office to find the manager, or push a button on a conveniently located intercom and call him directly?

Most customers will never require assistance, but every customer can appreciate that level of service when it is available. Should a problem or question arise, the office managers are as close as the push of a button. "We are here for you" becomes more than an empty promise. By placing two-way intercoms strategically throughout the facility, the manager is ready to assist the customer and resolve any issue at the time help is needed.

The Convenience of Paging

In a world where cell phones and pagers are commonplace, the value we place on being accessible is beyond question. Being able to receive personal messages during a visit to the storage facility is convenient to any customer, but especially to those who make regular pick-up and drop-off trips to their units. Whether they forget their cell phone--or even if they have such a luxury--their family, friends and associates will have a consistent line of communication to reach him.

Similar to the paging/telephone system in a large airport, the facility paging capability integrates directly with the two-way intercom system. Should a call come into the office for a visiting customer, the manager will usually know whether the customer is on the premises. A facility-wide page can request the customer contact the manager via the intercom. This approach makes it possible for the original caller to remain "on hold" for a quick answer to an urgent question.

A Pleasant Storage Experience

Along with paging capability comes one of the most appealing features of a facility communications system: the potential to fill the air with soothing music. The value of music as a calming, uplifting influence has been proven again and again. Silence seldom prevails in public areas where an atmosphere of warmth and comfort is important. In fact, our culture is so accustomed to the lulling effect of background music that we are not always consciously aware of it playing. Still, we respond emotionally.

Today's self-storage facilities focus on high security, including controlled access, individual door alarms and surveillance. The addition of facility communications, especially the constant flow of music or another human's voice, can diminish the sensation of being alone and enhance the feeling of security. Knowing that assistance is available at the touch of an button adds even more subliminal reassurance.

Enhancing Profitability

Have you ever called a business that promoted its image, products or services in a recorded message that played while you were waiting to speak to a representative? A complete and comprehensive communications system allows a facility to promote its unique special offers, products or policies. These prerecorded promotional broadcasts can be a powerful marketing tool that increases profitability.

Studies show customers remain at their storage units an average of 20 minutes per visit. Perhaps you are offering a special incentive for customers who refer new business to your facility. Maybe you are introducing new merchandise for sale. Through a comprehensive communications system, the possibilities are endless for promoting and enhancing the facility, extending customer appreciation, offering helpful storage hints, conveying important announcements or all of the above.

From the moment you introduce a potential customer to your facility, the added convenience and service of your communications system can serve as a strong selling point. Any advertising, including direct mailings, posters and signage, that highlight these service-oriented benefits will attract prospective customers above and beyond the competition.

The Overall Value

Communications systems provide value-added service to any self-storage facility, from sprawling single-story properties to multistory structures with long hallways and elevators. Each of the system's features can be customized to a facility's exact needs: quality and number of intercoms and intercom placement; music sources, including CDs, radio or tapes; and frequency and content of broadcasted messages. When the goal is enhancing the overall appeal of a self-storage facility, adding a communications system is one of the simplest and most cost-effective solutions in today's self-storage market.

Karen Genualdi is a marketing representative with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based PTI Integrated Systems Inc., which offers a complete, integrated management-control system for self-storage. For more information, call 800.331.6224; visit www.ptiaccess.com.

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