Customer experience (CX). You hear and read about it at tradeshows, online, in magazines and among colleagues. But what does it actually mean? More important, what does it mean for self-storage operators?
Decades ago, the self-storage CX was pretty simple. Customers would search for a facility in the Yellow Pages. They probably wouldn’t have a lot of options, but they’d pick one, go into the office to rent a unit, pay for it, and eventually move out. That isn’t a very memorable series of events.
Today, CX requires more wow factor. Thanks to an evolving market filled with things like websites, social media, online reviews, mobile apps and other technology, CX is more important than ever. In fact, it’s become the center of what drives modern enterprise.
An emphasis on CX has affected every industry you can think of, from grocery stores that now offer order pickup and delivery to e-commerce clothing shops that offer free at-home fittings. Even at massive corporations like Amazon, executives are obsessed with prioritizing the CX over every other facet of the business.
Creating the ultimate CX that attracts customers and meets their expectations means developing and offering six things: an engaging brand, an approachable Web presence, digital content that’s relevant and helpful, streamlined communication, friendly service, and user-friendly technology. Here’s what it all means and how you can focus on CX to grow your business.
Service vs. Experience
You might be thinking, “I already know how to deliver a great customer service.” It’s an easy mistake to make, but service and experience aren’t the same. They’re related in the sense that service is part of CX, but it’s just one piece of that pie.
Customer service is about the interactions your team has with potential and current tenants in person, over the phone and via e-mail. It always involves human interaction. CX includes every way and place a person interacts with your business, even when there’s no person involved. Think about your website, social media pages and physical facility features. The self-storage CX consists of everything from finding and renting a unit online to entering the gate to opening the unit door. There are many opportunities for it to go right, and as many opportunities for it to go wrong.
Here’s a scenario: Alex is a new customer who finds your facility via a mobile search. He reads some reviews about your business on Yelp, looks at your Facebook page, then jumps over to your website and reserves a unit. He next comes to your management office, where you greet him and answer his questions about a moving truck and tenant insurance. While you’re assisting another customer, he uses one of your convenient tablet rental stations to complete his rental. You shake his hand, give him a coupon for a discount on moving boxes, and thank him for his business. He goes to his unit, which has one of those cool new smartlocks and opens via his phone. Later in the day, he receives an automated text welcoming him on board and inviting him to write an online review.
Sounds like a great CX, right? Yes, there was some human, friendly customer service involved, but again, that was just one piece of the pie. All the touchpoints—the places where Alex learned about and interacted with your company—worked together to create a positive experience.
Now that you have a better understanding of what CX is, it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Let’s break it down.
Branding. Your company needs a logo and color scheme that’s universal from store to website to social media platforms to print materials. Your business name should be consistent everywhere it appears. If you rebranded an existing facility, look for any places where the old name and logo still exist, as this will confuse customers. Keep your logo and colors uniform so people always know they’re in the right place.
Web presence. This is key when focusing on CX. Your website should be easy to find (hello, search engine optimization!) and easy to use. If images take several seconds to load or your platform isn’t mobile-friendly, it’ll have a negative effect. Create a website that’s easy to use for tech-savvy and technophobic customers alike.
Content. This includes your blog posts, social media, landing pages, FAQ pages, video and everything else that relates to your business and lives online. Yes, content is crucial for SEO, but don’t just think about the robots when you make it. Rather, create content that’s helpful to your customers, such as a video showing different sizes of storage or how to properly pack the space.
Communication. This is all about continuing the customer’s journey with your company, even after he’s signed the lease. Give tenants the option to opt-in for text messages. Send e-mails containing news, announcements and other important information. Don’t hassle or upsell; just tell them about the necessary stuff like holiday office hours, discount coupons for loyal tenants, and digital copies of lease and insurance documents.
Service. You’re likely already a pro at customer service, so keep at it. Answer the phone quickly and use a call center to avoid missing calls. Greet customers with a friendly smile. Be professional and polite over e-mail. You know what to do!
Technology. This will be the most important aspect of CX moving forward. We’ve already talked about one key component: your website. Others include any automation you use, security and access tools, digital signage, and property-management software that facilitates online rentals and autopay. Customers expect technology that’s easy to use, available around the clock, nice to look at and engaging.
If you’re up on industry trends, you already know automation is critical to CX. It might mean adding a self-service kiosk to your lobby, installing app-based access control, or some new innovation that doesn’t exist yet. Customers want tools that allow them to rent units, purchase products, make payments, access of update account information, and get help when they need it.
Evolving to Meet Expectations
Take a cue from Amazon and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. In fact, do an exercise with your team in which you pretend to be potential renters. Is your company easy to find online, and what information is available? Is your website easy to read and use? Is all content up to date? Walk through the experience of renting a unit, visiting the site and accessing the unit. Was anything surprising? Confusing? Alarming? Go about this drill as if you’re someone who knows nothing about the industry and see how easy it is to navigate the process of looking for, renting and using self-storage.
This might feel a little silly, but it’ll be illuminating. Make notes and see what you can do better. Promise to repeat this exercise until you’ve created a CX in which you can be proud. Your business will thrive, and your customers will thank you.
Krista Diamond is the content team leader for Tenant Inc. Headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., Tenant Inc. develops real estate property technologies, creating a seamless user experience. Its open platform is designed to create customizable prop tech solutions. For more information, visit www.tenantinc.com.