C Is for Cross Train
All team members, from office staff to the district manager, should be cross-trained to allow for a smooth-running operation. Each member should know how to operate the computer, process payments, complete a lease, prepare daily close-out and run reports, clean out vacant units, and complete a routine lock check and space audit. By cross-training, you can ensure neither customers nor the business suffer if an employee is on vacation or unexpectedly out of the office.
R Is for Referral Programs
Referrals are a low-cost way of advertising. A good referral program rewards people for recommending new renters and lets customers, vendors and the community know you value their business. You can promote your program with referral cards, signage, fliers, mailers, word-of-mouth, etc. Printed materials can also incorporate facility information, such as its street address, phone number, website and e-mail address. When coupled with a facility map and list of features, solicitations for referrals make great marketing pieces.
E Is for Excellent Service
What business can be successful these days without exemplary customer service? Know who your customers are as well as their needs. Always go above and beyond the call of duty, even when it comes to simple things. Tenants appreciate friendly service and a general willingness to help.
Host events and activities throughout the year to show people you are grateful for their business. Consider sponsoring a formal Customer-Appreciation Week during which new and existing tenants can take advantage of giveaways, promotions, entertainment, food and more. Maybe organize an annual tag sale for customers at the facility or hold an anniversary barbecue. Offer coffee and doughnuts in the office every morning. These gestures show customers you care and promote your business through increased community awareness.
A Is for Auctions
Make facility auctions a marketing event from the start. Provide a copy of the auction schedule in your move-in packets, and explain the “opportunity” to new customers. Offer drinks and refreshments the day of the sale to increase turnout and collection potential. You can also maintain a mailing list of your frequent auction attendees, and send them an updated schedule each quarter.
T Is for Telephone Script
Provide team members with a phone script to ensure they ask—and answer—the questions that will get callers to visit the site. The main purpose of advertising is to make the phone ring and ultimately get prospects to rent a unit or buy retail merchandise. The script should address customers’ common questions and concerns, let them know you care about their business, convince them you can provide for their needs, and ultimately sell your services.
I Is for Inspections
Conduct regular and thorough site inspections. These will ensure staff knows what is expected and allow them the opportunity to show off their skills. Inspections should include random checks of vacant units and a review of company inventory and files. An examination of facility reports is also important, particularly those summarizing daily deposits. In fact, if you insist on the daily or weekly transmission of these reports via fax or e-mail, it will force employees to close-out and balance, which prevents theft. Inspect what you expect!
V Is for Value
Your management team should understand and know how to explain the value of each of the facility’s products and services to customers. The phone script and any sales presentations should also outline the site’s features and benefits. Most customers are only interested in what you can do for them, so tell them!
- “We have resident managers, so your valuables are stored right here at our ‘home.’”
- “We offer boxes and other packing supplies, making us the one-stop shop for your moving and storage needs.”
- “We have computerized access, so we know who enters and leaves the property at all times.”
E Is for Endless Technology
Take advantage of ever-improving technology to promote your business and enhance customer service. For example, create a website that will tell your company’s story and invite customers to visit your facility. It can be basic, with just a page or two, or sophisticated, with online reservations and payment options. Always use up-to-date management software with reporting tools, and maintain e-mail communication with staff and customers. Other technological advances include kiosks, electronic locks, computerized access control, digital video surveillance and more.
It All Adds Up
Every day, use at least one creative technique that will set you apart from competition, whether it’s mailing a thank-you card to a new rental, delivering a cold bottle of water to a customer moving into his unit, or giving a gift for a referral. Be imaginative, and watch your business grow. As Dee Hock says, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.”
Madelyn Still holds the Certified Property Manager designation through the Institute of Real Estate Management. She is the director of property management and an area manager for Atlanta-based Universal Management Co., one of the nation’s 50 largest self-storage operators. The company manages stores in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Okalahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. It also provides consulting and training throughout the United States and abroad. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalmanagementcompany.com.