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Tailoring Your Self-Storage Customer Service to Close Generational Gaps

The U.S. consumer base is more diversified ever, making it difficult for self-storage operators to tailor their customer service to the right audience. Here’s advice for molding your approach to Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials.

Cheli Rosa

July 23, 2017

5 Min Read
Tailoring Your Self-Storage Customer Service to Close Generational Gaps

What’s the No. 1 priority at your self-storage facility? Many operators would say “to make money” or “to rent units.” While both are true, we need to drill a little deeper to find the real answer.

You can’t make money or rent units without good customer service. Everything begins and ends there. Excellent service gets you rentals, makes you money, helps you recover debt and protects you from business liability. It should be taught and practiced.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to say you’re going to provide good service. It isn’t even sufficient to be friendly and helpful to customers. You need to know who they are and tailor your customer-service practices to the right audience. That said, identifying that audience can be tough.

The U.S. consumer base is more diversified than ever. You must cater to multiple generations of customers: Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials. As a self-storage operator, you need to learn the difference between these segments to understand what each is looking for when it comes to customer service.

Baby Boomers

The first and most important thing to remember about providing service to different generations is many people don’t like to be labeled this way. Therefore, it’s not good practice to call a person a “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial” to his face.

Baby Boomers are defined as people born between 1946 and 1964. While making the sale with this group may take slightly longer, their business is winnable. Baby Boomers value sales representatives who can explain and describe their product in an intelligent manner. Take the time to define what temperature control means. Spend time reviewing the rental agreement. Know your product and be willing to talk about it.

Contrary to what many people might think, Baby Boomers do know how to use a computer and the Internet. In fact, there’s an excellent chance they looked at your website before visiting your facility. This means it’s acceptable to reference something from your website or ask them for an e-mail address.

Baby Boomers also value a strong work ethic. When they enter the office, get up from behind the counter and open the door. Show them you’re willing to work for their business. Exhibit integrity and treat them with courtesy. The greatest thing about Baby Boomers is once you win their business, they’ll likely be a customer for life. They tend to be very loyal to their favorite brands, and that makes the extra time spent on them worthwhile. If you’re prepared to devote the effort, they have money to spend and are willing to pay for services.

Generation X

Often called “the forgotten generation,” Gen Xers are sometimes overlooked in the juxtaposition between Baby Boomers and Millennials, but they’re a real sector of your consumer base. These prospects want to feel like you value them and consider them a crucial part of your audience.

Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1982. They’re incredibly busy advancing their careers and raising children, so they value efficiency and capability. They shop to accomplish a goal. While Baby Boomers want you to spend a little extra time with them, Gen Xers want to get in and get out. They’ll be impressed with a well-trained, knowledgeable sales representative. Ensure you can answer their questions efficiently and accurately, and can complete the rental process promptly and precisely.

Gen Xers are consumed with providing for their families. They’re typically financially responsible, often children of divorce who grew up needing to be independent. They’re also cost-value conscious, so they’re going to do a lot of research before making a purchase. They have most likely looked at reviews of your business. These are the customers you want to present with your best deal. They want to know about specials and promotions, but the price won’t be the bottom line. Rather, you must provide them with the best value for the best price.


It’s challenging for many business owners to relate to Millennials, who were born between 1983 and 2001. These customers don’t care if you listen to them. They don’t even care if you talk to them, so how do you convince them to choose your product and service? Millennials have always had the Internet. They don’t remember life without the Web. If you want to impress and earn their business, you must have an online presence.

They also like to make decisions as a group, so they’ll look to see what others have posted about their experiences online. In addition to looking at reviews, they want to learn all they can about you from social media and blogs. They’re looking for an experience they can share with others. They’re not a transaction. They visit your facility to write their “story” about renting self-storage.

Millennials value customer-focused technology. They think good service comes in the form of a well-developed app. They’ll value paperless leases and online rentals. They’ll have combed the Internet to learn everything they can about you, so there isn’t a need for face-to-face communication.

Millennials live online and appreciate service they can get on demand. They’ll welcome text-message communications. They also want to be part of the process. They need this level of involvement to make their “story” compelling. A good way to do this might be a campaign on social media titled “The Customer Who Taught Me the Most” or something that focuses on their contribution.

While they’re different, these three generations share similarities. All of your customers want you to make them feel important. As you research, learn and practice good service, it will be easier for you to develop a basic approach that can easily be tweaked and adjusted to fit any generation’s needs. The most important thing to know is you must get to know your customers and the differences among them to make the biggest impact.

Cheli Rosa is director of marketing for StorageStuff.Bid, which provides online storage-auction services. She’s a former high school teacher turned storage professional turned auctioneer. She’s worked in all areas of self-storage. Her constant desire for additional knowledge led her to immerse herself in the lien-foreclosure process. For more information, call 877.758.4243; visit www.storagestuff.bid.

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