If you haven’t been monitoring inbound calls, start counting. If you haven’t been paying attention to the comments of your managers that more people are paying later (with cash instead of checks or credit cards), wake up and smell the coffee. As your delinquencies increase (and I feel they might), the answer will not be more frequent auctions to remove the deadbeats.
Instead, you’ll need to communicate with your customers much earlier. Early intervention and dialogue can go a long way in heading off collections problems. It will be more important than ever to find a way to work with tenants. Some creative payment options and a willingness to help people through their own economic crises can pay big dividends in good will in the future.
Some of you reading this will think this is counterintuitive to the traditional laissez faire, hands-off approach we have taken with customers in the past. Once they rent the unit, we only need to deal with them directly when we have a major problem collecting rent when it’s 45 to 60 days overdue. I'm urging you to adopt a different approach and be more proactive by watching the trends of customer payments under a microscope.
Housing will rebound, gasoline will drop below $4 a gallon, but it won’t happen overnight and we'd better be prepared to weather this storm. Don’t wait until the waves are crashing over your head to start asking what a tsunami is and the direction to higher ground. Take action now to be prepared to ride out this cycle.
It starts with paying more attention to the trends and customers’ comments. Be visible and talk with tenants when they are on the property. Taking that extra time to make renters feel like you are looking out for them may entice them to stay a bit longer.
See You in Nashville and at Selfstoragetalk.com
I'm pleased to be a speaker at the upcoming Inside Self-Storage Expo in Nashville, Tenn. Judging from the diversified lineup of industry experts who will present seminars and the long list of exhibitors, this next event will be another outstanding conference. I look forward to seeing you there, Oct. 7-10.
I'm equally excited about the industry’s response to the online community and forum at www.selfstoragetalk.com. Hundreds of owners and managers are actively sharing their questions, comments and recommendations with each other. The online membership includes people from coast to coast and around the world. The cost is free, and the time invested can directly help your career and your facility. Drop me a note when you sign up. I’m “MisterJim444.”
Jim Chiswell is the owner of Chiswell & Associates LLC, which has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry since 1990. He is a member of the Inside Self-Storage Editorial Advisory Board, a moderator for the Self-Storage Talk online community, and a faculty member of theSelf-Storage Training Institute. He can be reached at 434.589.4446; visit www.selfstorageconsulting.com.