Call centers are more important than ever in the self-storage industry, for several reasons. First, in spite of the fact that people like to use websites for research and shopping, they still want to talk to a real person when they’re buying something with which they’re unfamiliar. The more people live their lives online and the better facility operators get at marketing themselves there, the more phone calls storage businesses will generate.
Second, data capture is becoming increasingly important. Call centers generate a lot of data. You want that information to know the effectiveness of your advertising channels, the proficiency of your telephone sales reps, and your conversion rates of leads and reservations.
Lastly, call centers offer more services to callers. They’re growing past handling only sales inquiries and becoming more involved in customer service, account management and competitive intelligence gathering.
Both the call-center and the self-storage business have changed a lot since 2000. Technology has developed in many ways, and consumers have changed their habits many times. What’s it going to be like at the intersection of the call-center and self-storage worlds in 2013? The following insight will help you make the most of that partnership.
Consider Your Goals
To make the most of your call-center relationship, you need to know what you want from the partnership. How will it fit into your current systems and business practices? Which strategic goals and tactical roles will it serve? Who’s going to oversee the relationship, and how involved are they going to get?
If you’ve been working with a third-party call center, review your 2013 goals with your contacts. Make sure those goals align with the mission and directions you’ve given them. Take a step back and examine what areas that may need re-examining or revising.
Understand How You're Different
Running a call center is nothing like operating a self-storage facility. To give you some idea what it’s like, imagine every one of your storage units is a living, breathing, feeling person you needed to train, manage and motivate. Operating a storage facility is about asset management. Running a call center is about people management.
For another perspective, imagine each one of your doors runs on a different computer and each light bulb is wired to a different main circuit. That’s kind of what it’s like having a computer and phone set at every desk, and bundles of phone and data lines to power them. Self-storage is about building maintenance. Call centers are about technology and communications maintenance.
Those of you who use a call-center service don’t get to experience any of this firsthand. Operators who have their own call center or have tried to cobble one together have some appreciation of the comparisons.