By Bernard Fensterwald
To many if not all self-storage operators, “discounting” is a four-letter word. Agreeing to reduce your rent is about as pleasant as getting a root canal, yet it’s often seen as a necessary evil.
Why are discounts viewed so negatively? Because they hit directly at the bottom line—and not in a good way. Discounting immediately reduces a facility's economic occupancy. It's money lost that’s never recovered, and less income means lower facility value.
However, there’s an alternative to discounting. It involves simple, commonsense investments you can make in your facility that create a willingness in consumers to pay more rent because they believe it's worthwhile. This creates more income and higher facility value, too. Following is a brief discussion of these investments and how they enhance revenue. Many can be implemented with little or no cost to ownership. This is by no means a complete list, but food for thought.
First, the visibility of your facility is of utmost importance. You paid dearly for a decent location on a main thoroughfare, so make it work to your advantage. While the Internet continues to grow as a marketing tool, drive-by rentals are always a staple. To attract a drive-by customer, you must be visible from the street, and often. You should maintain good landscaping, but don't let it obscure potential customers' view of the site. Consider using bright colors to attract the eye. The use of flags is a good tool, too.
Cleanliness is an important counterpart to visibility, not only from the street, but inside and out. How often do you go to a restaurant or service station and find the restrooms dirty or messy, as if they haven’t been tended to for some time, or the trash bins are overflowing? Your reaction is probably that the owners don’t care enough about their business and customers to undertake routine maintenance. What does that say about their operation as a whole? Would you come away with enough trust to visit them again in the future? Maybe or maybe not.
The same is true with self-storage. An unclean and untidy facility doesn’t engender trust; it’s just the opposite. If the operator cares little about how the facility looks, the customers will question how much he will care about them.
Your Operating Duties
Related to the issue of cleanliness is the matter of organization. Are your processes and records well-maintained and organized so they make sense? Are they streamlined and convenient? An organized office saves time and money. Equally important, however, is the customer's sense that you’re at the top of your game.
With this in mind, be sure your facility always puts it best foot forward. Office, grounds, common areas and units should be well-maintained, clean and tidy. Establish a daily routine. Cleaning up after move-outs should be a priority. Create a re-painting and unit-maintenance schedule. Be sure your staff is neatly dressed and groomed. Your dumpster should not be allowed to overflow. Burned-out lights should be replaced.
In addition, review all your operating procedures regularly. Are they fair? Convenient? If not, make some changes.
Security: Real and Implied
Speaking of trust, an important issue to every customer is security. Not only should you use the most up-to-date security equipment, it must be maintained and in good working order. Remember, the perception of security is just as important to your customer in his decision to store with you as the actual security itself. You must show you care about your customers’ safety and that of their goods.