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Community Stewardship: Taking Care of Self-Storage Customers During COVID-19

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We’re living in scary times, and everyone has been affected in one way or another by the coronavirus pandemic. As you interact with your self-storage customers, it’s imperative to be compassionate and seek solutions that’ll help them individually as well as your community at large.

I often find myself thinking of time I spent with my grandmother. She would tell me stories of her youth and what things were like “back then.” I would sit in awe as she explained how excited she would be as a kid when she was allowed to go into town just to buy a piece of candy. Today we have more candy than anyone could possibly need. What a different world!

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we’re entering a very new world indeed. Everything is scary and unknown. Things like school graduations, sporting events, concerts, travel and dining out have all been turned upside down. Even how we conduct daily business is different, in self-storage as in all other industries. Will it ever return to the way it was? Nobody really knows.

Remember, this is not the new normal. This is the new now—a temporary period that will end—but it will scar us. Over time, we’ll accept, appreciate and even celebrate something that came out of this incredibly sad and devastating experience.

As customers visit your self-storage facility, have empathy for what they’re enduring. As always, storage is a business of life transitions. Often, the change our tenants are going through isn’t wanted. Now, through no fault of their own, people are finding themselves unemployed and in need of help. Security has been lost and replaced with the uncertainty. Do what you can to help them, even if it’s just lending a kind ear to listen to their problems.

“Where much is given, much is required.” That’s a lesson my grandmother taught me at an early age. For years, the self-storage industry has prospered and grown. It’s been able to do so because of the communities in which we’re all a part. If yours is a store that’s revenue positive, I challenge you to give back to those who helped get you where you are. Take a portion or all your administration fees for the next six months and donate it to a local charity. Make a sacrifice to the greater good where you live.

Offer a free unit to the people on the front lines. Yes, healthcare workers and law enforcement, but how about those who work at grocery stores? And, please, give more than just a free month because, let’s be honest, they’ll need more time.

Come up with ways to help people who can’t pay the rent due on their accounts. Don’t just sell their units. Now isn’t a time to rubber-stamp! Waive late fees and be flexible with tenants in delinquency. Find out what’s going in their lives and see how you can help. Perhaps a move to a smaller unit or one-time discount would make a difference.

Wherever you are, remember this: We owe stewardship to the communities we serve. This pandemic requires us to pull together. The silver lining is societies that struggle and endure difficult times develop stronger internal ties. When we as an industry engage in this collective action, we can achieve great things.

Rick Beal is co-founder of The Atomic Storage Group, a third-party management and consulting firm for the self-storage industry. To contact him, e-mail rick@atomicstoragegroup.com or visit www.atomicstoragegroup.com. To stay up-to-date with his publications and speaking engagements, go to www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.

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