As self-storage operators, we all encounter day-to-day problems that can be daunting, but they needn’t be. Whether the challenge is with a customer, an employee or a facility-maintenance task, all can be prevented or expertly handled with a bit of forethought.
I always do my best to address things "off season." It's thinking ahead and planting bulbs in the fall that begets glorious beds of blooming flowers at the first hint of spring! The same concept can apply to your self-storage business, employees and customers.
For example, plan ahead for that spring/summer direct-mail piece or ad so you have time to ensure it represents your company, philosophy and product in the best light. This will also provide the added bonus of more time to seek professional designers for a bit of polish on your ideas. Print houses can be quite slow in January and February, so ask if there are any special rates if you run jobs just after the holidays.
Look ahead in your calendar of normal activities, duties or community events. See if you can save money and hassle by purchasing or planning early. For example, buying candy at the big-box store for a holiday event can be costly, and who among us wants to run out of candy? If you think ahead, there are tons of online bulk-candy outlets that will save you a bundle.
As we enter the time of year when folks like to make lists and think about the months ahead, I thought I’d share some helpful hints for dealing with the daily, sometimes mundane things that cross our paths in the self-storage industry. Here are 10 pointers to minimize common operational problems.
1. Be Nice to Customers
Customers are your bread and butter, so always treat them nicely even if you have to plaster a smile on your face for that certain one or two who rub you the wrong way. The side effect is that just by wearing a smile, your day may improve and go by more quickly.
2. Admit You Don't Know
Most any problem can be resolved and there’s no harm in simply stating, “I don’t know the answer, but I would be happy to find out and get right back to you.” Make sure you truly do get back to the customer immediately or as soon as possible with an answer to the question. Keep in mind that not one of us possesses all the answers and it’s OK to be human.
3. Identify Staff Motivators
Know what it takes to make motivate your staff to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Some people are aural learners, some are visual, so respond accordingly with any tasks that need to be addressed. One may love a list of chores while another excels when you put a paintbrush in front of him. Another employee may just jump into action at a simple verbal request. Get to know and recognize each employee’s skill set to help determine how to manage your staff and your property effectively.
4. Keep It Clean
A clean property is a must for a discerning customer base. See trash when you’re showing a unit? Then for goodness' sake pick it up! This achieves two things: Your property stays tidy and it shows the prospective tenant you don’t like anything marring it. Anyone who sees you doing this won’t be prone to leaving trash laying about when you’re not looking. Also, excuse yourself to wash your hands before transacting business with a new tenant.