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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

On the Way Out: Exit Surveys Help Self-Storage Operators Do Better Business

By Teri Lanza Comments
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2013 is on the way out, getting ready to exit stage left. At our organization, it's a time for strategy meetings and planning sessions regarding the year ahead, but also for annual retrospectives and summaries. The best time to appraise and prepare for any new venture is before it begins. On the flip side, it's critical to engage in a final evaluation process when a relationship or initiative comes to a close.

Put this in perspective with your self-storage business. I recently wrote a blog about conducting a storage facility's annual operational checkup and budget planning for the year ahead. It makes sense to look forward and strategize your marketing, expenses, repairs, expansions, etc. These are the activities that allow you to serve current tenants and court new ones. Hopefully, you're also analyzing performance reports from 2013 to discover where you excelled and can improve.

Now I want you to think about a different kind of "exit survey," the one you should be conducting with every customer who ends his stay with your facility. Just as discussing the rental agreement at lease signing lays the foundation for a successful business relationship with the tenant, chatting about his storage experience and level of satisfaction once he's ready to move out provides insight to areas of weakness and an opportunity to create referrals.

Earlier in the year, Centreforce Technology Group sent out a newsletter addressing exit surveys and why self-storage operators should use them. The article held that while most managers know why tenants store their goods, an equally important policy is to understand why they stop. A simple questionnaire can help you learn why they move on, the likelihood that they will store with you again, ways to keep in touch with them in the future, and how likely they are to recommend you to others.

When you identify why customers exit their storage lease, you can better develop strategies to make them stay longer. It also gives you the chance to respond to and rectify any complaints before they're shared in person or via social media with prospects.

According to the Dec. 10 installment of industry blog The Storage Facilitator, "Roughly 90 percent of disgruntled customers don’t complain; many just quietly leave. So, rejoice in the complaint—it’s the best way of uncovering issues that need attention. And customers who feel heard and whose issues are dealt with often become even more loyal than before, because they see your willingness to work with them and go the extra mile."

Once they're gone, marketing to past tenants can be a powerful source of referrals and repeat business. Referrals are one of the most inexpensive yet rewarding forms of advertising, the Centreforce article asserted. "A positive exit survey reaffirms the policies that you have in place are delivering good customer service," it read. When customers are happy with you, it's the perfect time to ask for what you want.

Centreforce is the international representative for SMD Software Inc.'s SiteLink Web Edition. This self-storage management software features a ready-to-use exit survey that can be used automatically during the move-out process. Once the survey is completed, the results are available in a marketing report. This is a very handy tool, but you don't need a software version to reap the benefits of exit surveys. A simple form or feedback card will work just as nicely. There are also many online tools that will allow you to create your own surveys and questionnaires, such as CreateSurvey.com or SurveyMonkey.com.

The important thing is to seize each move-out as an opportunity to learn more about your customer base and business as a whole. Do you use an exit survey with customers? Have you found it advantageous? What are the most important questions to ask? Please share your insights in the "Comments" field below. Here are some suggestions to get you started, courtesy of SurveyMonkey:

  • How convenient is our company to use?
  • How professional is our company?
  • How responsive is our company?
  • Overall, are you satisfied with the employees at our company, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with them, or dissatisfied with them?
  • Do you like our company, neither like nor dislike it, or dislike it?
  • How likely are you to recommend our company to people you know?
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