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Four Steps to Better Performance: Training Self-Storage Staff

Dan Cosgrove Comments
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One way we enhance accuracy and integrity of the data is to record and analyze some or all of our clients’ sales calls. We score employees’ performances on these calls and provide actionable feedback to both managers and employees. Recordings also help us to identify and correct weaknesses in the sales process, and identify employees who need additional training.

Maintaining an effective measurement program requires a variety of techniques and elements. Unless programs are periodically updated, they can become less effective at delivering actionable data to improve operations.

Step 4. Reward, Retrain or Terminate

The key to making the entire program work is accountability for specific, measurable goals. We help clients establish a scoring system for each call that reflects their priorities. Employees are scored on every aspect of the sales process, as well as such factors as how quickly and courteously calls are answered or returned. (Employees actually appreciate knowing exactly what is expected, and that standards are being applied consistently to everyone.)

Facility operators must set minimum performance levels, and use them to reward, retrain or terminate. Standards become empty promises when not enforced—or morale busters when applied inconsistently or unfairly. When employees’ scores don’t meet goals, they receive a follow-up call and coach them on specific aspects they can improve. Outstanding employees also get feedback to let them know their good work is being noticed.

In one organization, the first time employees were scored, three fell well below the acceptable level (90 points out of 100). After coaching, one employee went from a score of 45 to 91, another from 67 to 93 and the third went from 75 to 96!

Over time, the scoring systems can be changed to emphasize specific things. For example, customer surveys showed that if prospects received a follow-up call from a facility more than half of them ended up renting. On average, follow-up calls were being made only about 27 percent of the time! By changing the scoring systems to emphasize follow-up calls, employees increased the follow-up percentage to more than 80 percent.

Sometimes it may be necessary to terminate an employee, if coaching and retraining doesn’t help them reach an acceptable level of performance. But while it is always difficult to fire someone, our clients find it much easier when they know they’ve provided the tools and training to succeed.

Capacity and competition in the self-storage industry have reached the saturation point in many markets at the same time that higher costs are eroding profit margins. Yet many savvy operators have been able to increase their rental rates and market share by following this simple recipe: design a great customer experience, train your employees to deliver it, measure results and make necessary adjustments, and hold employees accountable for performance. In our experience, it’s a foolproof system for success, even in challenging times.

Dan Cosgrove is CEO of Brentwood, Calif.-based Mercantile Systems, a customer-experience monitoring firm that has worked with dozens of self-storage firms to develop programs to improve profit. By monitoring employees and customers and extracting operational data, Mercantile Systems helps managers eliminate revenue-eroding issues that plague all service-dependent businesses. For more information, visit

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