Manager's Memo: Service Starts at the Signature

Mel Holsinger Comments
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As managers, we’re always focused on drawing customers to our business to rent units. We obsess about marketing strategies to lure potential customers to pick up the phone and call; we practice our phone skills to sound personable and trustworthy; and we go to great lengths to make visitors feel comfortable and safe at our site during their initial tour.

We work so hard to get the customer to sign a monthly agreement that too often we don’t see beyond the sale to provide ongoing care for tenants. Once they’ve signed on the dotted line, it doesn’t mean you can sign off on providing professional services. In fact, you’ve only just begun.

Your goals should be to provide customers with the resources to make their stay with you as enjoyable as possible, giving them peace-of-mind that their belongings are safe and you are ready to care for their needs. You must also set the record straight that they are responsible for understanding laws regarding insurance and policies dealing with delinquencies. These discussions should be thoughtful, yet professional. Let’s talk about them in detail.

Assurance and Insurance

The first step is to talk to tenants frankly about insuring their goods. In most states, we have what are called “care, custody and control” terms. This verbiage basically informs renters that operators are not charged with the care, custody and control of their possessions. In a simple sense, once they have placed their “valuable” belongings in your facility, they still have the responsibility of ensuring they are protected from possible damage or theft. Your part is to provide security at the building level. You can offer to sell a lock and provide video surveillance, but none of this promises complete safety.

Perhaps an analogy will help customers with this line of thinking. You can tell them that when a person moves into a new home or apartment, the furniture, clothes, tools, appliances, etc., are the owner’s responsibility, and it is his prerogative to insure them against potential damage. Thus, they buy homeowners or renters insurance to compensate them in the event of a loss. This is the same when renting space at a self-storage facility.

Many customers assume incorrectly that since they have put their possessions in a self-storage unit, the facility owner is responsible for protecting them. To some extent, this is true: You have an obligation to provide some security and a building that is constructed well enough to provide a safe environment, but you are not responsible for the contents of the unit. Convey this to your renters while offering them choices for acquiring insurance.

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