Over the last 30 years, technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. This major change started in the mid-80s with the adoption of the personal computer. Fast forward to today, and technology is the epicenter of our daily lives. No longer are people forced to carry a cell phone the size of a brick or use a computer with the bulk of a file cabinet. Consumers can buy a refrigerator with Internet access and Hi-Fi speakers or control their home’s thermostat with a smartphone.
Communication is now almost instantaneous. Smartphones have more processing power than a personal computer had just 10 years ago. This new technology will open more doors for the self-storage industry than ever before. The ability to be in constant contact with customers, existing or possible, is an almost overwhelming wave of potential. The changes in customer service will revolve around three items: product quality, communication and information storage.
Product Quality and Your Online Reputation
The Internet has already permanently changed the way consumers shop for products and services. How many times over the last year has a customer contemplated purchasing an item in a brick-and-mortar store such as Walmart or Barnes & Noble only to be overheard saying, “I wonder how much it costs on Amazon?” or “I wonder what the reviews say?” There are smartphone applications that will allow a customer to scan a bar code on an item and pull up a price or review. How about using the Internet to find a good restaurant or a great dry-cleaner?
Perception is reality, particularly in business. How do your self-storage customers perceive your facility online? Do they like the services you provide? Do they rave about your great managers? Do they talk about how clean your facility is? Do you even know what potential and current customers are saying about your business?
If you don’t, stop reading this article right now. Go to Google, Yelp, Merchantcircle and Citysearch and search for your facility. These sites will give you a good idea of how customers value your facility’s services and what they’re saying about you on the Internet, which is now essentially the world’s largest billboard. (To read a great blog entry on how powerful the Internet can be in self-storage, read "The Power of Viral Media: Angry Customers Armed With New Weapons," by Teri Lanza.)
It wasn’t long ago that to connect with a current or potential customer, a self-storage operator was limited to three options: call the customer, wait for him to visit the facility, or send a letter. Technology has changed communication forever. Today, the options are limitless. Telephone calls, personal visits, letters, e-mails, text messages, instant messaging, video conferencing, website and social media are just a few ways to keep in contact with customers.
Do you have military customers stationed overseas or disabled customers who can’t visit the facility on a regular basis? Why not speak with them using Skype? Google just launched a new service called "Hangouts" within Google+, the Web giant’s new social-media platform. Why not hold a hangout with some of your customers? Did one them disappear? Try searching for him on Facebook. Quite often a customer will update his Facebook status before updating friends and family directly.
Do you want to announce a new product or service at your facility? Update your website and social-media accounts and then e-mail current customers. Remember, one of the issues customers have with any business or service is the feeling that they’re not important or the company takes them for granted. With the tools available today, none of your tenants should feel that way.