By Michael Sawyer
Self-storage properties big and small deal with similar challenges. Whether flying high or downsizing, facility managers continue to take on added operational workloads while serving tenants and fielding an unpredictable number of phone calls. An examination of two unique self-storage operations reveals some behind-the-scenes insight on why operators decide to partner with call-center services.
Headquartered in Oakland, Calif., SKS Management LLC operates 23 self-storage facilities throughout the state of California. In 2009, the company began exploring the advantages of using a call-center service, with a dual strategy to create a seamless customer-service channel and increase occupancy.
A step-by-step blueprint was drawn to shape a call center that would operate in a service and rollover-sales capacity. The goals included freeing managers to serve clients at the counter, fielding sales calls and developing business in the local marketplace. Rewards were immediate and, in 2012, modifications were made to perfect the model.
Prior to activating a call-center service, SKS studied its daily challenges and successes to build a better sales and service plan. Results show the mission went according to plan. SKS continues to increase revenue and grow an exemplary culture of customer service in today’s tough economy.
Unannounced, calls come sporadically when managers are serving clients at the counter, on another call or away from the desk. Additional calls come during evening hours or when managers are offsite and not in position to view unit inventory and pricing. These predicaments lead managers to question guiding principles and industry standards of customer service. Should a manager:
- Answer the phone or serve the person at the counter?
- Develop new business in the community or wait onsite for rentals?
- When away from the office, pick up the phone and schedule call backs or let calls roll to voicemail?
- Carry out maintenance during business hours or schedule manual tasks after hours?
While there are many opinions on how to manage these dilemmas, the best answer may be the question: Why put yourself into those positions?
Hang Up at the Beep!
Many facility managers are tied to dated solutions, light years away from more efficient ways of competing in today’s market. When used incorrectly, answering machines can aggravate consumers and create lost rentals. Traditional answering services can also transfer a negative impression when the person fielding a call can only take a message.
Leading U.S. telecom providers have released dreadful statistics regarding the effectiveness of voicemail systems. Studies reveal 50 percent to 82 percent of callers don’t leave messages when they reach answering devices. Are these callers voicemail-phobic or simply moving on to the next facility?