By Charlotte Plant
What do our self-storage customers really want from us as service providers? Here at Red Cube Storage, we set out to learn the answers to that question by heading down to the busy city center in Birmingham, England, collecting and analyzing the wish lists of 1,000 self-storage users. We asked individuals if they used self-storage, and when we received confirmation, we followed up with a quick and simple question: “If there is one thing you would like storage companies to do that will help you, what would it be?”
While we managed to record and analyze varied responses, it was interesting to note that most participants were quick to answer. If there was more than one participant, such as a couple, they tended to look at each other before replying. Many of you will be pleased to hear that a few respondents even just shrugged their shoulders and admitted they were happy with their present service and couldn’t think of anything else they’d wish for—not even a cheeky “maybe reduce the prices.”
Following are some of the replies we captured. Depending on your market, the responses may spark ideas about services you could add to attract potential customers. They may also provide insight to why you aren’t closing enough business or are failing to keep customers happy and renting for longer periods.
“Help us move in to the storage facility.”
This response actually surprised us! In all, 37 percent of those we surveyed said they would like assistance at move-in. We believe providing moving trucks as a service is an integral part of self-storage, particularly when taking into consideration the number of local residents in urban areas who may not have a suitable vehicle to transport larger items.
While purchasing a large vehicle for moving purposes could be a big expense for small to medium-sized operators, a clever solution could be to hire or lease a vehicle depending on your monthly outgoing expenses. If you don’t want to pay to have a vehicle on site, you may want to consider an affiliation with local moving companies or vehicle-hire firms, agreeing to a low, contracted rate and offering this option to potential or existing customers.
The idea is to reduce the hassle and stress of moving. We’ve found that what customers really want at the move-in stage is help organizing the move. Show them you care and help them through what could be a difficult process for some. Without providing some assistance, customers can be put off when they realize they need to organize a vehicle, shop around for rates and find availability. Some may simply find an alternative storage provider who will help them through the process.
“Provide us shelves and cabinets to help us organize our contents.”
This one was mentioned by 24 percent of our participants. It’s an interesting thought and may not be that difficult to implement as a service.
While many operators offer boxes to their customers for packing belongings, many tenants simply wind up storing numerous small items into big boxes. Large items are easier to organize, and when tenants arrive to retrieve them, they are easy to locate because they’re visible inside the unit. Locating small items can be more problematic and frustrating.
Providing shelving could be a little tricky since it requires drilling holes. Let’s face it, we are cautious about doing this inside our own homes for permanent décor. Putting up shelves for a temporary occupier may not be justified, especially if you have to take them down and fill the holes upon move-out.
One consideration could be cabinets. We believe this may not be too much of an investment or hassle to provide. If we can set aside a few inexpensive, open-framed cabinets for higher-paying tenants renting larger units, I believe customers would find it helpful and appreciate the generosity. As it is, tenants looking to rent larger spaces may well be looking for long-term storage, so keep them happy, and you’ll be rewarded with better occupancy.
“Access to an electric supply.”
Sixteen percent of respondents requested access to electricity. With the right safety guidelines, you may be able to implement such a service, but it raises the question: Why would tenants need an electric supply?
Well, if you are offering storage to businesses that have elements of their operation on the premises, then you may be able to think of a few reasons. Computers and mobile-work environments are now becoming common in some self-storage markets, particularly in the United Kingdom, but without a way to plug in, tenants are challenged by limited battery reserves on their devices. This raises the need for temporary supply of electricity to enable commercial customers to manage their business operations. With a separate charging tariff, you can extend electricity to your storage units and provide tenants temporary access.
“Nothing. We are happy with the service we are getting.”
While it was nice to receive positive reinforcement from self-storage customers, it’s concerning that only 23 percent were totally happy with facility amenities and services. Let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement.
If you are among the operators keeping your customers 100 percent happy and facilities at near or full occupancy, then congratulations and keep up the good work. But if you wish to approach your business from a different angle and want to expand your scope of services, then you may want to consider some of these wish-list items. Go that extra step and present prospective customers with your unique points of differentiation.
Charlotte Plant is a facility manager at Red Cube Storage, which offers customized self-storage solutions in Birmingham, England, and the surrounding West Midlands area. For more information, call 0121.328.4299; visit www.redcubestorage.co.uk/blog.