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Don't Lose the Personal Touch! Customer Service Is Still King in Self-Storage


By Pamela Alton

When I moved to the East Coast from California a few years ago, the first thing I noticed is how friendly the people were. At first, I would get impatient when the cashier at the grocery store took the few moments to ask the customer in front of me how his son was doing in college; and then I realized he was just being friendly. It dawned on me: That's how good customer service should be!

In today’s world, everything seems to move so fast. We use the Internet to purchase our goods and pay our bills. We’re all wrapped up in our smartphones, texting, playing games or walking and talking, not paying attention to anyone around us. When was the last time you actually got a live person on the telephone when calling a business? Or when you did get one, you had to wait for what seemed like hours? By that time, you were about to pull your hair out!

How many times have you gone to a restaurant and been ignored by the server? How about going into a store and standing at the counter while the clerk keeps talking to the other clerk and doesn’t even acknowledge you’re standing there? It doesn’t really make you want to go back to that business, does it? In contrast, businesses where you were greeted warmly by the staff are the places you’ll visit again and tell your family and friends.

Over the years, for good or bad, the use of call centers has become the norm in self-storage, and some industry operators may have lost the “personal touch” with tenants. Offering superior customer service almost seems like a thing of the past. In reality, it’s what makes a business successful and keeps customers—the key ingredient that sets you apart from competition.

Self-storage is a people business, and the manager behind the counter is the face of it. That person’s attitude can make or break the operation. There are a lot of aspects to a facility that you cannot change, but you certainly can offer good customer service.  

Let’s face it: To our tenants, a 10-by-10 space is just a 10-by-10 space. It’s not a place where they’re going to live; it’s just a space where they’re going to store their stuff until they don’t need to any longer. Of course, they want a good value for their money. Most people seeking storage call or visit at least four facilities before they rent. Why so many?

Price is one factor, but the rates in any given market are usually pretty comparable. Customers sometimes look for specific amenities such as security gates, doors alarms, video surveillance, climate control and others, but a storage business doesn’t have to offer all of these to be successful.

So why is it some facilities in the same market are more profitable than others, no matter if it’s new site with all the bells and whistles or an older, but well-kept one with manual gates? It’s the customer service the tenant receives that sets it apart from the competition.

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