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Balancing High-Tech and High-Touch in the Self-Storage Industry

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Self-service kiosks that round out ability to offer 24/7 touch points are critical to another cadre of consumers who may prioritize convenience over personal contact. "Through the use of kiosks, call centers and website-rental applications, storage owners are increasing the size of their market radius because there is little competition from neighboring properties,” Sawyer says.

Strike a Balance

How do you go higher tech and keep high touch in the equation? Here are three primary ways self-storage operators can strike the right balance.

1. Give the gift of a smiley face. Touch points don't have to be verbal. Even if you make your operation 100 percent kiosk-driven, think about ways to put smiles on the faces of those using the kiosk.

Here's a fun and relatively inexpensive one: Buy a bunch of smiley-face helium balloons at a dollar store. Make them available to those stopping by with a short note such as, "Have a great day. From _______" or, "Smile ... You're NOT on candid camera." In addition, consider tying them to the front door handles of nearby residents with a short friendship note. (I do this periodically with my immediate neighbors. Boy, does it put smiles on their faces!)

2. Ensure consumers know they can go face-to-face. Consumers initially accessing the facility via self-service kiosks need to know how and when they can deal with someone face-to-face, if that’s their preference. This gives the consumer a full set of customer-experience options, and ensures he’ll feel in control of the process vs. being pigeonholed into a specific customer-service system.

3. Promote the call center in conjunction with kiosks. Even the most tech-savvy consumers generally appreciate the omnipresent option of conversation if confused, want to clarify or need information beyond what’s provided through the kiosk system. This is an ongoing hotbed of discussion across the country. For example, Verizon Wireless emphasizes availability of its website to address consumer questions and concerns. At the same time, it has beefed up its call center with generally fast response times and ubiquitous "how did we do?" follow-up surveys.

Clearly, major companies see the value of a robust presence in both the high-tech and high-touch arenas. Self-storage is no different.

Mark Lusky writes for on topics of interest to self-storage owners and operators. Coverage areas include marketing, operations, administration, finance and technology. Contact him at .

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