Creating a Hotel-Like Customer Experience for Your Self-Storage Business … Think the Ritz, Not Motel 6!

Hotels can offer a luxury customer experience (CX), so why not self-storage facilities? Get ideas for improving your ambiance and service level to delight your prospective and current renters.

Marc Goodin

January 28, 2022

6 Min Read
Creating a Hotel-Like Customer Experience for Your Self-Storage Business

Most people don’t think of self-storage as a “sexy” real estate asset. I mean, it’s just a bunch of metal boxes, right? Not necessarily.

Think about the hotel industry. There are hotels of all types. Some are very basic (and even a bit scary), while others are extremely luxurious. On the more economic end of the spectrum, you’ve got Motel 6. There are more than 1,400 of those in the United States. On the other end, you’ve got the Ritz-Carlton. There are only around 40 of those, but I can tell you they are very well-appointed in many ways, from their location to the way they look to the level of customer service to the products they use.

If hotels can achieve such a pinnacle of style and experience, why not self-storage? What we know from the numbers above is this: The more upscale you are, the less competition you’ll have. What business owner doesn’t want that? After all, profit is always sexy.

If you want to be a luxury brand within the self-storage industry, you have to upgrade your customer experience (CX). The goal is to be more like the Ritz and less like Motel 6. Here are some ideas to help you give prospects and tenants that “mint on the pillow” feeling.

Start With Your Design

Creating an upscale CX for your self-storage operation begins with site and building design. Make sure you have a good team of engineers and architects, and encourage them to think beyond the typical storage project. What’s going to make your facility look and feel different from others in the market? Think about using vibrant colors, noteworthy architecture and a variety of materials.

Even just one truly unique feature can make your site stand out. One of my company’s facilities incorporates several head-turning elements that no other self-storage property in the area has, including a 50-foot flagpole with an American flag, which has become a local landmark. There are also palm trees along the street frontage showcased with spotlights for an incredible night view, and a built-in coffee bar with free beverages in the office. Sometimes it’s the little things that create a big impression of class!

Treat Customers Like Gold

There are three Ritz hotels in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Every day my wife and I stroll by the entrance of one of them during our morning walk. The tanned gentleman at the door always waves, calls us by name and wishes us a wonderful day. Now, that’s class. Do you greet all your self-storage tenants by opening the door for them and calling them by name? The Ritz even has regular staff training to reinforce this type of service. Do you?

The Ritz truly caters to its clientele. Its beach chairs and tables are lined up in perfect rows, with umbrellas and towels always in place. Drinks are hand-delivered to guests on the beach. That feels decadent! On hot summer days, do you deliver water and soda to tenants at their units? When it’s cold out, do you offer coffee or hot cocoa? Ritz guests are treated like gold. In self-storage, our average customer is worth more than $2,000 in income. Why not treat them like gold, too?

Focus on Property Appeal

The beach bar at the Ritz is very swank, and they treat my wife and I like gold every time we visit! We keep going back for their premium priced drinks and enjoy every minute. They also have the most gorgeous pool that brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

Does driving into your self-storage facility and stepping into the office make your customers smile and feel good? Why not? If you want to really upgrade your CX and make more money, this really matters! You need first-class design and décor.

One of my company’s facilities has two huge leather chairs in the lobby. Another has the coolest looking epoxy floor. A project that’s underway will include a 10-by-20-foot model unit right inside the office. These sorts of things make a difference. Why not post a sign in your lobby that reads, “May all those who enter as guests leave as friends.” Classy all the way.

You know you’re on the way toward luxury-hotel status if your customers are constantly telling you, “Your facility is so clean! Your place is so beautiful! Your property is so well-maintained! Your service is incredible!” What they’re really saying is, “Your rent may be higher than the competition, but it’s well worth it.” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the basics are pretty universal.

Be Polite

One self-storage operator I know recently mystery-shopped several facilities near a parcel of land he’s looking to acquire. He told me the people he dealt with at four of them were downright rude. Only one was a professional and friendly. The facilities were all full, but that’s no reason to be impolite when someone asks about a unit. Bad manners are the opposite of an upscale CX. Those four operators who are giving a poor experience are no doubt leaving money on the table every month.

To create a hotel-like CX for your self-storage business, you must give first-class service and respect to everyone, even when you don’t have any units available. But believe it or not, courtesy and manners must often be taught to staff! A good start is to use sales scripts among your team. At my company, we have 14 scripts every manager must know, including at least one for the phone.

While most self-storage operators would say they offer great customer service, many would be shocked if they secretly listened to their own sales interactions. Even if your facility is at 100% occupancy, you should treat every prospect as if they could one day become a tenant. And by the way, great service is always expected by your current tenants, too. Now’s the time to make it over the top and remarkable!

Give Them What They Crave

Most self-storage facilities will never have a CX like that of a luxury, upscale hotel—not because they don’t have the potential, but because it takes a lot of teamwork, experience, research and effort. It won’t happen without owner and manager input, well-thought design and construction, a quality operations manual, sales and marketing know-how, ongoing training, and more.

That said, most self-storage markets are extremely competitive these days, and CX matters more than ever. Now’s the time to become a premium brand and give your prospects and tenants the pampered experience they crave.

Marc Goodin is president of Storage Authority LLC, a self-storage franchise, and the owner of three self-storage facilities that he designed, built and manages. He’s been helping others in the industry for more than 30 years. To reach him, call 860.830.6764, email [email protected]. You can also purchase his books on facility development and marketing in the Inside Self-Storage Store.

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