By Katie Self
Boats and RVs are considered prized possessions by the consumers who parlay their hard-earned income into these high-dollar investments. A key element of ownership is a safe, reliable storage property to house one’s valuables. What can storage-facility operators do to appeal to such customers? Here’s a look at the amenities and customer-service perks you can employ to entice and satisfy this demanding clientele.
Convenience is an important component to customer satisfaction, and it can take many forms. It might be an easy-to-navigate property layout, an onsite service that allows tenants to take care of several tasks in one place, an online offering that streamlines the rental experience, or a product that just makes the customer’s life easier.
John Livingston, business development manager for Anchor Storage in Florence, Ky., understands the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction includes a facility that’s attractive and clean and offers just the right amenities. “RV and boat owners definitely expect more out of their storage experience,” he says.
And Anchor Storage is delivering. In addition to offering superior service, the family-owned and -operated facility boasts several add-on services to amplify the rental experience. These include a lavatory dump station, oversized wash bay, propane-service station, vehicle maintenance and security technology that includes video cameras.
Likewise, RV SuperStorage in Chandler, Ariz., recognizes the need to go above and beyond. The property features many of the amenities typically found at other storage facilities, plus a wash rack, vehicle-staging area and even a concierge service for boat/RV tenants. The offering assists users with shuttle service from home or the airport, or customers can take advantage of onsite vehicle cleaning and propane-tank refills.
RV SuperStorage also offers an individual charging station within each enclosed storage space. “For covered and enclosed, each space has its own electrical source. That’s mainly designed to keep your battery charged up while it’s in storage,” says Bob Naugle, general manager.
If high-end add-on services aren’t part of your offering, don’t underestimate the important of essentials, such as wide drive aisles that allow renters to easily maneuver their vehicles. RVs and boat trailers can be tricky to drive. Broader aisles will not only please customers but minimize the possibility of damage to your buildings. RV SuperStorage boasts 35- and 65-foot-wide drive aisles as well as angled parking. “You can’t park in 10-foot-wide spaces straight. It just doesn’t work,” Naugle says.
Finally, think about other aspects of the rental process that can be finessed to provide greater convenience, like reservations and payments. Oakley Executive RV & Boat Storage in Oakley, Calif., provides an easy way for customers to pay their rent—right at the property’s entry gate. “You can swipe your card and make a payment right there,” says Matthew Harrison, director of business development for Baja Construction Co., which built and manages the property. Tenants also have the option to set up recurring payments, which removes the hassle of bill-paying.
Extended hours or 24-hour access is one of the best perks a property can offer. Customers returning from an outing won’t be rushed to meet a 5 p.m. gate closing, and they’ll have time to properly park and store their vehicles once they’re back on site. Flexible hours can also cut back on the number of tenants accessing the property at the same time and head off damage to the units by hurried tenants.
RV SuperStorage even allows 24-hour access to its dump area. “Most rest areas and gas stations close their dumps,” notes Naugle.
Offering extended hours has made a huge impact on occupancy for Tanasbourne RV & Mini Storage in Hillsboro, Ore. “We offer longer gate access than most of our competitors,” says Greg Conklin, resident manager. The property has 283 parking spaces on 10 acres and features full-service dump, wash and air/vacuum stations.
Despite offering extensive amenities, a storage property is only as strong as its security. Gated entries and exits that use key cards or personal codes help operators provide a secure environment for their boat/RV-storage tenants. Other technology, like video cameras and unit alarms, bolsters the effect. “Alarmed fences and access points are always a good idea,” Conklin says.
Upon entering the RV SuperStorage office, customers are greeted with a live security feed of the grounds via a flat-screen TV directly behind the front counter. “We have 24-hour patrolled security, and the property is checked every 15 minutes,” Naugle says.
Oakley Executive RV & Boat Storage uses key-coded entry and exit to protect its customers. “It’s completely gated, completely secured,” Harrison says. In addition to electronic security, Oakley depends on a 13-foot-high perimeter wall to discourage unauthorized entry. Security may not be considered a given rather than an amenity by some customers, but maintaining a strong security system will help operators appeal to potential and existing tenants.
While location is always a factor when it comes to filling units, boat/RV-storage properties don’t necessarily need to be near bodies of water or the wide-open road to be successful. As more cities and homeowners’ associations enact ordinances that prevent residents from storing oversized vehicles in plain view, the need for vehicle storage will increase. As such, a facility’s proximity to residential areas can have a big impact on occupancy.
“We often stay between 99 and 100 percent occupied all the time,” Conklin says, noting the lack of parking available at nearby apartments and condominiums.
Boat/RV-storage can also be successful in unexpected places. Despite a desert location, RV SuperStorage has a small number of boat-storage tenants. “We do attract more RV customers, yet 10 to 15 percent of the rentals here are for boats,” says Naugle, adding that there’s a wait list for some spaces. “Since we are so highly occupied, many renters are opting to keep their units here, as to not lose their space.”
In the end, being proactive and predicting customer wishes will allow you to entice renters and keep them storing longer. “Operators must learn how to really listen to their customers, addressing their specific needs,” Livingston says. “They must exhibit a willingness to be adaptable and go the extra mile, focusing on the developing relationships with your customers and giving them confidence in your operation year after year.”
Katie Self is studying journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a focus on print. To reach her, e-mail [email protected]