It would be nice to see more consistency in the area of self-storage training. It seems we’re programmed to train only when performance is down, making us more reactive than proactive. If we look at staff development as more of an investment than an expense, it can change our business. If we teach employees to be better at selling, marketing, administration, customer service, etc., it will transfer into higher profit.
The time, money and energy we spend on this aspect of the operation will return high dividends in profitability. In fact, I’ve seen training yield one of the highest returns on dollars spent on the operational side of the business!
Knowledge Is Golden
First, the more our team players know about their jobs and what is expected of them, the better they will perform. Create the mindset that “product knowledge is customer service.” Let your staff know that for every great experience a customer has, two to three people will hear about it; but every bad experience is shared with eight to 10 people. Hence, we must minimize the bad experiences and capitalize on the good ones.
This strategy will equate to more referrals and repeat business. This is the highest return on marketing dollar we can experience. We spend very little on this area of marketing and need to maximize every opportunity we have. How? By providing an ongoing training program that will develop, equip and create self-storage professionals with product knowledge and the ability to foster trust and value with the customer.
Units of Measure
Second, we must train staff to track and measure the key components of our operation. Many storage operators do not track the source of their customers. Those who do (hats off to you!) have a much better handle on where to spend their time, money and energy.
It’s imperative that you survey customers during every phone call and lease signing. These opportunities will provide two sets of data to track and measure against your overall marketing program, which will likely need adjustment. Place key measurements on a weekly and monthly tally sheet so staff can monitor results and evaluate future marketing targets. By doing so, you’ll see improvements in both your staff and your marketing effort—a double whammy!
If you determine that 35 percent of rentals are coming key-influencer referrals (apartment communities, housing communities, chamber of commerce, real estate offices, etc.), and more than half of those referrals are coming from apartment communities, make sure your team is trained to use this kind of information effectively. These kinds of measurements will allow you to spend more getting optimum results and improve the profitability of your business.
Tracking can also indicate the areas of the operation that require more attention. If you consistently track the conversion ratio of callers to renters and walk-in customers to renters, you’ll identify opportunities for training. Once you’ve tracked the information long enough, you’ll begin to see patterns and can set benchmarks for performance. For example, industry statistics indicate the average self-storage facility converts fewer than 30 percent of callers to renters. How many are you converting? If you’re not tracking, you won’t know.
The nice thing about benchmarking is you can start to set goals for managers. This works beautifully with multi-store operations, as it creates healthy competition among team members. By tracking rental information on a weekly and monthly basis, you can develop training programs to improve everyone’s performance. If you achieve a certain level, the next step is to increase the mark for even higher results.
A formal training program can take your storage business to the top of its. Staff development must be a priority and part of your company philosophy. It will not only improve the performance of your team but enrich their daily routines. If you want to maximize potential, think training!
Brad North is founder of Advantage Business Consulting, which specializes in facility management, feasibility, onsite sales, marketing and operational training for the self-storage industry.
He contributes articles to various self-storage publications and is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant within the industry. For information, call 513.229.0400; visit www.advantagebusinessconsulting.com.