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Four Steps to Better Performance: Training Self-Storage Staff

Dan Cosgrove Comments

Recruiting and training good employees in the self-storage industry can be tough. As with many service-sector jobs, employees may not have higher education or much training in sales, listening and other skills important for effective interaction with customers. But the right training program—combined with holding employees accountable for performing—will succeed in making almost anyone, regardless of skill or education level, achieve at their best.

The following is a four-step, foolproof program for successfully increasing employee productivity and organizational profitability, while enhancing customers’ experiences and satisfaction.

Step 1. Design the Customer Experience You Want to Deliver

Don’t focus on employees; focus on customers. What do they want, and what will make them decide to rent from you instead of the competition? If you know these answers you can design and deliver the desired customer experience.

We frequently hear operators say, “I just want managers to close the sale! I want them to get the customers into the rental units.” But how? Unless there’s a step-by-step process in place, how can your inexperienced employees become effective salespersons? Here’s how: Give them a systematic approach to sales that not only increases productivity, but allows you to replicate success in location after location.

One key is realizing that low prices are no guarantee of success. Our research shows that customers want a combination of attractive pricing, knowledgeable, responsive service and overall value—clean, secure locations, convenient access and additional resources when needed. Deliver this and you even can charge a premium.

Step 2. Help Employees Deliver the Best Experience

When you’ve determined what the customer needs, the next step is designing the right sales process. Our analysis of self-storage customer and employee interactions shows how difficult it is for most employees to take control of sales calls. A prospect might say, “I need a 10–by-10 storage space. What’s the price?” If the employee immediately answered this question, he might never have a chance to discuss features and benefits better suited to the caller’s needs and may differentiate his company from other facilities.

We created a simple script. It starts with the employee saying, “I’m going to go through three steps with you to make sure we meet your needs.” Then, step by step, the employee analyzes the customer’s needs (items to be stored, dimensions, specific requirements such as a temperature-controlled space); discusses the features and benefits offered by the facility (such as security, free access to truck and other resources, the availability of boxes and supplies, 24-hour storage access); then quotes a price, while explaining applicable specials and discounts. This simple, organized approach demonstrates to customers the salesperson’s understanding of and desire to meet their needs. It’s easy for any employee to understand and follow, and improves the odds for closing the sale.

Step 3. Measure Performance

When the sales process is in place, the next step is to set goals and measure performance. Many self-storage companies rely on mystery shoppers for this step, often with mixed results. Applying traditional mystery shopping techniques to the self-storage industry requires shoppers to be carefully selected and trained to look and sound like typical renters. (In mature shopping programs, we often add new program elements or shopper training to make sure shoppers aren’t recognized.)

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