Today’s self-storage market requires a well-run sales-focused business that concentrates on turning every contact into a rental. The economy also demands a cost-effective approach that manages labor costs. So how does a call center fit into the mix?
Call centers have been widely available to self-storage operators as a rollover sales backup for more than eight years. Many operators use them to extend the facility’s hours of operation and capture sales inquiries that come in after regular office hours. Operators have also discovered they can use a call center to trim labor hours in the store to a more manageable level.
Call centers will typically create one rental from every 10 calls. It is typical to convert 50 percent of leads and reservations into rentals. If a call center took 10 phone calls and only four were rental inquiries, three of the four should turn into a lead or reservation. One could quickly calculate that even a store producing a low call volume for the phone center can gain one or more rentals a month that may have been missed otherwise.
Using a call center can also improve your sales image because call center representatives are judged by their ability to turn calls into leads, reservations and rentals. Most call centers can give you copies of recorded calls. This is a good way to double check their quality and gives you an example of a good call so you can share it with your managers during training.
A call center can also share valuable information with you on how people found your phone number, how proficient your staff is at closing the leads and the call activity coming to your store. This is just some of the information you can use to get a better idea as to how your store is doing and where improvements are needed.
You can integrate your self-storage marketing with a call center by adding unique tracking numbers on your ad campaigns to keep track of online, print and direct mail marketing. This will enable you to determine which marketing campaigns are the most effective and help you attach a return on investment calculation to ads you use.
If you have multiple facilities, a call center can help you direct traffic to the stores that need a boost in occupancy.
Choosing a Call Center
Before you talk to a call center, determine your needs. Will you send all your calls to the call center and use it as the first point of contact? Or will you only send your rollover calls when your store staff is busy?
Find out how the call center sets up its billing plans. Your preference for billing arrangements may not be what everyone else is willing to do. What terms does the call center require? The best deals are usually long-term contracts, but you can often find a trial period or short-term contract to make sure using a call center is the right for your business.
How will the call center send you communications? Will they post leads and reservations to a website? Can they push leads by e-mail or fax? How do they handle current customers? There are a lot of considerations that go into creating a successful partnership with a call center.
Most call centers are also capable of tying into your management software if you are using one of the more common storage software systems. It is not necessary to do this, but it can be a timesaver. By tying into your management software, call centers can pull your availability, pricing and specials through a Web-service interface with your software provider. Call centers can also give you the option of doing your own updates using a website interface where your staff can complete updates with just a few clicks.
Working With a Call Center
The facility’s staff should be first to answer the phone if they are able to concentrate on the call. There is nothing worse than calling a business and feeling like the call-taker is rushed, uninterested or annoyed that you interrupted something else.
You should set up your partnership so the store staff sees the call center as a leads-generator and their role as the sales closer. This sets up a healthy relationship that produces more leads and rentals.
Also, consider the call center reps staff, too. Take time to get to know their names, send posters or fliers from your store, logo caps or T-shirts. The more your staff feels like the call center reps are a part of your team, the better use you will be able to make of their work.
Be on the lookout for a call center you can develop a long-term partnership with. Unless you are looking to sell your property soon, the call center could become your most profitable partner.
Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, an offsite sales force that helps storage owners rent to more people through its call center, secret-shopping service, sales-training and Internet lead-generation services. Mr. Jordheim is also a member of the National Speakers Association. For more information, e-mail [email protected].