It’s a recurring nightmare in the age of COVID-19: A “Karen” (irate customer) standing over a business’ front desk, mask pulled down to expose her nose and mouth, demanding in breathy exhalations to “see the manager.” While social media makes it easy for us to imagine that frightening scenario, thankfully, it’s been the exception rather than the rule at most self-storage storage facilities.
At Store Space Self Storage, we’ve leveraged a three-point strategy during the coronavirus crisis to keep everyone safe and customers happy. For us, it’s working!
Point 1: Create Safety Protocols
“As soon as lockdown happened, we went through an assessment phase to create a protocol following state and CDC guidelines, to make sure that our customers and our employees were kept safe,” says district manager Anthony Young, who oversees our stores in Missouri and Texas.
Mask-wearing and social distancing have been just some of the many procedures we’ve put into place. Cleaning and sanitizing have become time-intensive pursuits, both in storefronts and around all high-touch, high-traffic areas, as well as in the storage units themselves. We’re doing all we can to accommodate safety in this difficult time, and people welcome it. “Customers appreciate that we’re not putting them or employees at risk from interacting with other customers or people in the office,” Young says.
Robin Miller, who’s managed several of our Texas locations and currently works in our San Antonio store, says he’s seen general acceptance by customers of our pandemic precautions, including mandatory in-store mask use and social distancing. “We’ve been praised by our customers. They are thankful for the precautions we are taking for COVID-19,” he says.
Point 2: Offer Touchless Rentals
While some self-storage operators offered a version of online rentals prior to the pandemic, most still required that customers visit the office to finalize paperwork. When COVID-19 hit, it was an abrupt wake-up call for an industry in which the use of technology has sometimes been an afterthought rather than a strategy. Companies that weren’t agile enough to leverage technology for rentals and marketing were almost immediately behind the eight-ball.
At Store Space, we were ready. The company took a consultative approach to solving issues around renting to new customers and providing unit access. “We were fortunate to have already implemented online rentals and self-service kiosks at our locations,” says Michael Baillargeon, senior vice president of operations. “While the outcome remains to be seen, we have had to plan for a future that’s likely been forever altered.”
We implemented our new Touchless Rentals program in March, which put power in our customers’ hands. The offering allows a user to complete the rental process online or via phone, then receive a follow-up introduction call. He’s then given an access code to enter the facility, and a lock is left where he can easily get to it. “There are really no negatives or drawbacks to it because it allows us to operate without any loss in business,” Young says.
Point 3: Provide Curbside Service
While Touchless Rentals have been well-received, we wanted another alternative when virus cases spiked during the summer months and we closed our storefronts again. The solution? Curbside service. Using tablets, store employees can meet customers at a safe distance outside to help them rent or make payments from their car.
“Customers have been understanding as to why we are offering curbside service with our tablets. It’s easier for them to stay in their car where it’s cool, and that also means less contact with us,” Miller says.
Young agrees, adding that this type of technology, as well as self-service kiosks, are likely to become a mainstay of the self-storage industry going forward. “It’s been well-received,” he says. “I think we’re in a new era with this new wave of technology.”
Eric Mees is a content writer for Store Space Self Storage, which owns or manages more than 30 facilities in 15 states. Store Space fuels growth and value through operational experience, its state-of-the-art Storage360 proprietary platform, and strategic digital marketing programs. For more information, visit www.storespace.com.