Elliott: The customer! For me, having CRM is like having a crystal ball. I know who is calling, how many times they called and, most important, why they’re calling. All of this provides better customer service, company-wide awareness, and the tool needed to create solid targeted marketing campaigns.
Ratliff: We have two primary goals in launching CRM. One is to improve our tracking of people who contact us about renting a unit. The second is to help us more efficiently follow up with those people.
Are off-the-shelf CRM applications suitable for the self-storage industry?
Abdow:Based on our evaluation of several off-the-shelf solutions, we believe they would require significant customization to serve our needs.
Elliott: Not necessarily. When we looked at a few of the off-the-shelf providers, it was more about fitting into their world, how they defined a customer and their needs vs. our world and what’s valuable to us as a company.
Ratliff: I imagine there’s something out there that would work, but all the integration issues and the hidden costs associated concerned us.
What are the main factors a self-storage operator should consider when choosing a CRM application?
Abdow: Our main factors were integration with our existing POS, business-intelligence and call-center applications.
Elliott: Look for someone who listens and understands your industry. Can they make customizations based on your needs? Are they available for you at all times?
Ratliff: First, figure out exactly what your goals are—what you do have to have and what would be nice to have. Then, figure out how whatever you’re looking at matches up, and how it will integrate with your current systems.
Dave Skarzynski is the senior sales rep and Sachin Bhakta is vice president of development for E-SoftSys, a provider of management software for the self-storage industry. Products include Self Storage Manager, in Windows-based Standard Edition or Web-based Enterprise Edition, and add-on modules such as e-CRM, a contact-management module with e-mail campaign and online chat features. For more information, call 800.469.1740; e-mail email@example.com; visit www.selfstoragemanager.com.