Republished with permission from EZstorit.
Operating a self-storage business during COVID-19 can be stressful. You may feel uncertain as you navigate through it because it means doing things differently for the foreseeable future. Rest assured, there are some great ways to pivot so you can keep your business afloat and customers interested in renting from you.
The key is to think about your business within the parameters of the health crisis and common public fears. Focus on helping your customers in ways that position your business positively now and after the pandemic is over. Here are eight ways to adapt and weather the crisis with confidence.
1. Keep Interacting With Customers
It’s a good idea to maintain contact with tenants and prospective customers. Interact and communicate with them, so they stay engaged with your business and brand. Your goal should be to stay in the forefront of their minds for any storage needs.
You may need to change how you connect with customers. Social media is one of the best ways to engage your audience. Post signs on your property as well as your website to show you care about your clientele and are looking forward to the day when you can resume in-person business relationships again.
2. Brainstorm for the Future
Don’t let the pandemic and the changes it’s caused stop you from looking at ways to grow and develop your business. Current adaptations, along with forward thinking, can keep you well-positioned for long-term success.
This is also something you can do to engage your customers. Use social media and/or your website to ask customers about their concerns or for ideas on ways to improve service, and then work toward implementing the best suggestions. COVID-19 restrictions and public-health concerns can actually be a motivator for triggering innovation.
3. Offer Contact-Free Services
A lot of businesses, including self-storage operators, are implementing services and purchase options that minimize or eliminate in-person contact and face-to-face interaction. Offering online payments and unit reservations as well as contact-free move-ins and move-outs lowers the risk of COVID-19 transmission and will help customers and staff feel comfortable doing business together.
Though self-storage has some natural synergies with aspects to social distancing, renting a unit or terminating a lease are still frequently done in person to make sure there's no damage, all fees are paid, and the unit is ready for the next person to rent. With some innovation, though, all of this can be done without in-person contact.
4. Be Clear About Offerings
To adapt your business more fully during the pandemic, it’s important to clearly communicate what you can and can’t offer during the crisis. If local or regional restrictions are preventing certain aspects of your operation, let customers know what is and isn’t available. For example, if you used to rent to customers at a physical location but have closed the management office in favor of online transactions, be sure tenants and prospects understand how they can still conduct business and get questions answered.
5. Leverage Cloud Technology
There are a lot of ways to improve company efficiencies and assist customers by leveraging the power of cloud technology. If you aren’t sure about it or don’t use it yet, now’s a good time to start exploring everything it can provide your business.
Cloud technology provides a means of centralizing business, allowing you to “take it with you” wherever you go and access it from multiple devices. The cloud enables facility managers and other staff to work from home or another location outside your office. It allows you to keep lines of communication open with customers and more easily manage processes.
6. Find Ways to Collaborate at a Distance
Overcoming physical isolation can be one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic. Collaborating and interacting with business partners, vendors, employees or customers during times of difficulty can provide some comfort. Though you may not be able to collaborate in person, there are several ways technology can help maintain some social interaction. Zoom, FaceTime and live-streaming opportunities on sites like Facebook can give companies a platform to connect with others in new, meaningful ways.
7. Be Open to Change
Businesses that want to remain active and relevant need to be open to new ways of working with others. If your operation isn’t using the latest technology to improve the customer experience, now might be a good time to adapt and evolve. Though many of the challenges stemming from COVID-19 will eventually go away and we’ll return to something resembling “normal,” it’s possible some new procedures or services you implement now will continue in the future because they wind up being a better overall fit for the business.
8. Look for the Universal Aspects of the Experience
One truth about the coronavirus pandemic is it’s a shared experience. Society really is in this together. Even if some of our individual circumstances and experiences are different, everyone is affected, including some who may be impacted in unexpected ways that can be difficult to understand or accept. Self-storage operators can find some commonality with retailers, office workers and other businesses. Strength and vision can come from common hardship and purpose.
Staying relevant now and into the future should be a major focus. Explore contact-free options and other innovative solutions that can strengthen your relationships with customers. Act not only to help your business thrive today but when the pandemic is just a distant memory.
Lee Preston is the director of marketing and promotion for EZstorit.com, an online directory that helps consumers find and choose self-storage facilities in North America. It offers flat-rate pricing for owners who wish to have their facilities listed. When Lee isn’t working with partner operators, she’s writing about topics that affect our daily lives.