By Irv Shapiro
New developments in voice-based marketing automation can alleviate many of the self-storage market's current challenges, enabling facility operators to be more efficient while growing revenue.
For the uninitiated, voice-based marketing automation ties the most powerful elements of voice communications and Internet technology―including call tracking, forwarding, automation and recording as well as customer notifications and online lead generation―into a single solution that builds better customer relationships. Good voice-based marketing automation is like a Swiss Army Knife in that it offers a number of powerful tools when you need to solve real-world business problems.
Moreover, a good solution can be configured based on a specific operation’s business rules and organizational goals. It works in tandem with a self-storage facility’s website, marketing, customer service and collection cycles, yet it's flexible enough to accommodate changes as the business expands.
The alternative to voice-based marketing automation is a hodgepodge of disjointed phone, software and website components, which rarely streamlines the operation’s processes. Operators who feel like they’re spending too much and delivering too little are probably good candidates for voice-based technology. Here are a few ways it can address common challenges faced by business owners and managers.
Challenge No. 1: Driving New Business
Most self-storage facilities desire more customers but have a lower marketing budget than in the past. With a limited amount to spend on online advertising, Yellow Page ads, search-engine optimization and print materials, how can operators allocate their marketing resources to maximize new rentals?
Voice-based marketing automation provides up-to-the-minute intelligence on your marketing return. For example, an operator can place unique toll-free and local phone numbers on print and online ads, Web pages and marketing collateral; then every call he receives from these numbers is tracked and reported in real time. This gives insight into exactly where sales leads are coming from, making it easier to assign marketing dollars to the most effective channels.
Tracking phone calls also enables operators to provide customized messages to callers. For instance, if a call originates from an ad about an upcoming auction, an operator can automatically direct the caller to an auction line, providing him with more details and routing him to the most appropriate contact. In this way, voice-based marketing automation focuses best-selling efforts on the best prospects. At the same time, it lets the system take care of tasks that would otherwise distract owners and managers from obtaining new customers.
In April 2011, Uncle Bob’s Self Storage determined it needed a more efficient process for managing the surge of inbound calls it was receiving as a result of TV reality shows focused on storage auctions. The more than 3,000 monthly inquiries about upcoming events put a drain on the company’s resources. Calls fielded by its customer-care center were routed to the appropriate storage facility. If these callers wanted to learn about upcoming auctions at other locations, the only solution was to hang up and dial again. It was an inefficient, time-consuming process for operators and callers.
To accommodate the call volume and better route inquiries, Uncle Bob’s hired a voice-based marketing company to set up an information hotline using a unique toll-free number and store locater. After being prompted to enter their ZIP code, callers automatically received details about all upcoming storage auctions at multiple facilities within a 25-mile radius of their specified location.
“To streamline the process, the company provided an affordable solution with a customizable user interface,” said Chris Laczi, advertising director for Uncle Bob’s Self Storage. “The technology behind it is remarkable, enabling us to convert data, dates and times about the auctions into a text-to-speech format a caller can hear. As soon as we update information, the hotline reflects it. We’ve been able to reduce the calls by providing a resource callers may use on a recurring basis, any time, day or night.”
Call recording and reporting also enables self-storage operators to identify the volume of calls, the specific prompts callers press for more information, and other call-tracking information. Maintaining a streamlined process for a direct phone line is just as important. It’s a reality that self-storage operators are away from the main phone for a portion of the day, out among storage units, talking with customers, or even simply out for lunch.
Since consumers typically choose to work with the storage company that answers the phone, missing one call can mean losing a potential customer. Voice-based marketing automation ensures phone calls are automatically forwarded to the appropriate sales associate, a call center, or even the operator’s cell-phone number. That way, operators will never miss another call.