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Tony Jones

Tony Jones
Manager, Inside Self-Storage Store
tjones@vpico.com

Tailor Your Self-Storage Service to Individual Customers

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When I was a little kid, my older brother and I would make a weekly trek to our neighborhood “dime store” to buy baseball cards and whatever cheap trinkets and toys caught our eye. My middling allowance of 35 cents stretched pretty well in that place—a type of “5 & Dime,” variety retail outlet that kids today know only as “dollar stores.”

This was a small, independent business, not a chain, and every time I walked through the door, the man behind the counter (I always presumed he was the owner, but I really have no idea) would greet me by my first name. More often than not, he called me “Tony the Tiger,” and his friendly demeanor always made me smile. When I was 6 and learned how to ride a bicycle, he gave me a license plate emblazoned with my name across it. Man, did I think I was cool.

I don’t remember a whole lot from when I was 5 or 6 years old, but I remember this man and how he made me feel special as a customer—as if every 15-cent purchase I made mattered to the success of his business. This type of personal touch should be the hallmark of every great self-storage customer-service program.

The more you can make customers feel like they have an ongoing, positive relationship with your business, the more opportunities you create to establish brand loyalty and drive referrals. The core principle here is strategically applying personalization to your marketing, customer service and sales efforts.

You’re likely already applying one-to-one marketing principles in some of your strategies, whether using personalization in e-mail campaigns, newsletters and special promotions, or simply having the customer’s name displayed on your website after they log in to pay bills online. These have become commonplace and remain effective, in part, because customers now expect them. In addition, consider acknowledging customer milestones like birthdays and even anniversary dates that celebrate when longtime tenants became customers.

Personalization should also be integral to customer service and sales. How many of your customers do you know by name when you see them? If they have a reason to walk in through the office door, do you greet them by name? If you’ve developed rapport with your tenants, exploit it at every meaningful opportunity. For example, when you drive a prospective customer around the property and pass a tenant at his unit, do you call out his name and ask him how he’s doing? If so, you’re not only reinforcing with the tenant that he matters to you, you’re impressing upon the prospect that you run a friendly, personable business.

An easy customer-service and sales technique is to repeat a person’s name on occasion while on the phone or in person. You don’t need to do it a lot, but when weaved naturally into the flow of conversation, it indicates that you’re paying close attention and care about the outcome of your discussion. I’m amazed how infrequently this happens, particularly since it’s a technique that can subtly nudge a negative call initiated by the customer in a positive direction.

Besides the good kind of name-calling, you should also think about ways to tailor your service offerings to appeal to customer needs and interests. This is at the core of providing something as simple as meeting space. Having a space customers can use is handy for them and increases interaction with you since they’ll need to reserve it. It’s an opportunity to provide a service and learn something about the customer. Offering pack-and-ship services is another good strategy along these lines. Wine storage is a prime example of a customer-centric service and supports the argument to incorporate add-on profit centers wherever feasible.

Storage Solutions in Winchester, Va., recently launched a Web-application service called Itimizit that enables customers to rent only the space they need, manage stored belongings online, and request valet pickup and delivery service for individual items. The company says it’s hoping to franchise the service to other storage operators.

Each item stored through the Itimizit system is given a unique, scannable code to make locating and tracking it easy through the app, according to the company’s website. Customers can bring belongings they wish to store to the facility themselves or schedule a pickup. When an item needs to be retrieved, customers can use the app to schedule an in-person pickup or have it delivered.

Sounds pretty personalized doesn’t it? Storage Solutions is the first traditional self-storage operator I’ve heard about that has added a service akin to the valet-style storage businesses that have begun popping up around the nation. It’s an intriguing idea that helps differentiate this operator within its marketplace, which is really the whole point.

How do you tailor your service to individual customers? Please share some examples in the comments section below.

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