From Self-Storage Renter to Employee: What I’ve Learned About Customer Service
By Juan Chabriel
When I started my adventure in the world of self-storage it wasn’t as a storage manager but a potential client. I was jobless and forced to minimize my way of living. I came across a new self-storage facility, Big Key Self Storage, in Miami. Self-storage was something I had never found myself needing before, but suddenly it became a necessity.
Did I know what I actually needed as far as space wise? No! It was an enlightening experience as all of this self-storage terminology was exhibited by the storage expert behind the counter. It wasn’t until after I was shown a 10-by-10 climate-controlled unit that I realized the reality of my situation. I would have to literally stuff all of my belongings into a unit and walk away from it until I got back on my feet.
In light of this situation, my wife and I found ourselves with this storage employee, who was very helpful, courteous and extremely knowledgeable, all seldom found nowadays. She made the entire process seamless, and all my worries seemed to have been sidetracked that one less project in my to-do list was scratched off.
My moving process was another story altogether, but we made it through. I later decided to ask the storage expert if Big Key Self Storage was hiring, not knowing she was the operations manager for the company. Soon after I found myself on the other side of the counter learning—from software to policies and procedures, and let’s not forget the legal items, too. I became an assistant manager.
I knew this was an opportunity to show the next person the same treatment I was shown in the unfamiliar world of storage. I felt I could really connect with the clients that came in because I was myself a client at this facility. Maybe the person was in a similar situation and I understood his needs better. I was soon given an opportunity to conduct secret shops in the local area because getting an understanding of storage as a whole includes an integral portion of business.
It was very sobering to see how I was blessed not only with a very well-kept and professional working environment, but also a real sense of belonging as both a customer and employee at Big Key Self Storage. I will never talk ill of a competitor, something I was taught to be taboo from the beginning of joining the industry. I will be honest in saying that the Latin term, “fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris” or “the grass is always greener on the other side,” did not apply in terms of what we offered and what other options were out there.
If someone new to the self-storage industry asked me what’s the single most important tidbit of knowledge one could pass along, I’d say it’s how you treat and communicate with a tenant from the beginning. It’s the most determining factor of whether your job is really completed. In turn, it directly affects a customer’s length of stay, chance of recommendation, and whether he’ll store with you again.
Let’s be frank here, customer service really is a lost art and we have to keep it in mind with every single interaction with our tenants. When you find yourself talking with a potential client about storage, ask yourself how would you like to be treated if you just lost everything you had and found yourself at the mercy of a self-storage operator.
Juan Chabriel grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and now resides in Miami. Juan has had experience in many trades. He’s been an assistant manager at Big Key Self Storage since February 2009.