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The Rules of Written Communication: Etiquette Tips for Self-Storage Managers

As a self-storage manager, you regularly write messages to tenants, coworkers and supervisors. Writing often feels like a lost art in our digital age of truncated typing, but this mode of communication is still critical in business. Here are some tips to ensure you’re professional and clear in your letters, emails, chats and texts.

Denise Bowley

February 4, 2023

6 Min Read
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As a self-storage manager, you regularly communicate in writing with prospects, tenants, coworkers and supervisors. Sometimes it’s via a formal letter; other times it’s through a more informal method such as email, chat or text. In any case, it’s critical to project professionalism and respect. This includes mechanics such as spelling and grammar, but it’s also important to be polite, clear and concise. The following guidance will help you master this mode of communication to impress your recipients and achieve results.

Be Mindful of the Method

The structure of your written message may change based on the mode of communication. For example, letters and emails are generally more formal, while chats and texts tend to be more relaxed. In the self-storage business environment, it’s important to know when to use each method and how.

If you’re the one initiating the conversation, choose a method that’s most likely to yield the best results. However, when someone reaches out to you, it’s polite to respond using the same communication method they chose, as that’s likely their preference.

In most cases, your goal can be accomplished using any mode of communication available; however, you’ll want to adjust your format and tone to suit. For example, let’s say you have a tenant who’s three days late to pay rent. If you’re contacting them via email, you want to write something akin to a letter, with a formal greeting and sign-off, for example:

Good morning, Mrs. Smith,

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out regarding your monthly rent, which was due three days ago. We need to bring your account current. Please click on the convenient link below to pay online. You can also call me to pay by phone or stop by the leasing office. We are here until 5 p.m. today. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Mary Jones, Manager

ABC Self Storage

If you are instead reaching out to this customer via text, you can be less formal and briefer, for example:

Good morning! This is Mary at ABC Self Storage. We noticed your rent is past due. To make it easier for you to pay, I’ve included a link in this text message. Please let me know if you need additional assistance. Have a great day and thank you for storing here.

Writing Dos and Don’ts

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when sending any form of communication is to do so when you’re emotionally charged. For example, you might be tempted to snap at a tenant who “moved out” but left a bunch of stuff in their unit. Don’t get frustrated and shoot off an angry note. Cool down first. Once you’ve regained your composure, type a pleasant, well-written email or text.

It’s important to remember that moving and storing can be very stressful, so you shouldn’t take anything your self-storage tenants say personally. People might write things in an email or text that they would never say in person. Always be professional, even when customers aren’t!. Remain calm, and work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Another common mistake is to treat your self-storage customers, coworkers and supervisors as friends instead of business acquaintances. Regardless of your relationship, use proper etiquette in your written messages. For instance, if your cousin rents a unit from you, don’t send a text saying, “Dude, you're late. Pay me.” They’ll appreciate it when you handle matters professionally. Further, if something goes sour in that relationship, you don’t want them sharing your inappropriate communication online for other customers to read.

Similarly, never complain about customers, coworkers or supervisors in a written communication, as it could come back to haunt you. If you have an issue with a person, discuss it with them one-on-one, on the phone or in person.

It's also important to pay attention to your spelling and grammar, especially when writing messages to your supervisor. This person may decide where your career goes within the company, and you wouldn’t want them to think you’re unqualified for a promotion. Once you hit send, the words are out there forever, so always proofread your message at least once.

In addition, don’t make your messages longer or more complicated than necessary. Keep things simple. Your supervisor doesn’t need or want a novel from you, so be clear and concise.

For example, let’s say a tenant’s ex-boyfriend broke into her unit and took the washer, dryer, TV and bedroom furniture, left a big mess, and broke the latch. You don’t need to put all those details in your message if they aren’t pertinent to the problem and its solution. Simply say, “Good morning, Tom. We had a break-in last night. May I call the door-repair company to replace a broken latch? Have a great week, Mary.” You’ll receive a quicker response if your communication is short and to the point.

The same is true when you communicate with your self-storage coworkers. Keep things brief, and don’t mix the personal with the professional. For example, if you and your fellow manager have plans to go out after work on Friday, don’t ask about that when emailing to inquire about a tenant account. Keep personal messages separate. Also, those should be written off the clock!

Finally, always be respectful in your messages with coworkers, even if you’re frustrated about something. Again, take a moment to let your initial emotion pass before composing an email or text, then clearly describe the issue and offers a solution. An angry or threatening missive could be taken to your supervisor and result in negative consequences for you.

A Positive Light

Anything you write as a self-storage manager should command respect and reflect positively on you and the business you represent. First, ask yourself: Is a written message the best way to have this conversation? Some things are better addressed on the phone or in person. When composing a letter, email, chat or text, be friendly and polite, but keep things professional. Ensure your message is relevant, simple and straightforward. Check it for proper spelling and grammar.

The written word is extremely powerful. Think about that the next time you write a message to a customer, coworker or supervisor. Make sure you wield this communication professionally. This’ll allow you and the business to shine in a positive light.

Allicyn Bowley is director of policy and procedures for Self Storage Science LLC, a provider of audits, consulting and property-management services. With 10 years of industry experience, she’s responsible for minimizing liability, ensuring policies are up to date and overseeing the company’s Colorado locations. To reach her, call 720.707.9277; email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Denise Bowley

Owner, Self Storage Science LLC

Denise Bowley is owner of Self Storage Science LLC, a property-management company specializing in self-storage. A licensed Texas real estate agent, Denise has served the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. She’s opened dozens of new facilities as well as integrated acquired facilities into her platform. She has experience setting company policies, supervises 38 staff members and oversees the accounting department. For more information, e-mail [email protected].

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