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6 Ways for Smaller Self-Storage Operators to Personalize Their Customer Experience and Compete With the ‘Big Guys’

6 Ways for Smaller Self-Storage Operators to Personalize Their Customer Experience and Compete With the ‘Big Guys’
There’s a lot of competition in self-storage today, and many of the larger companies are swelling. How can smaller operators hold their own? Here are six ways to personalize your customer experience so you can effectively compete with—and even beat—the Big Guys.

The key to running any successful business is to positively differentiate yourself from competitors. Personalizing the self-storage customer experience (CX) is an effective way for small and mid-size operators to win over customers in ways the Big Guys can’t match. The national chains may have more resources at their disposal, but they’re also further removed from daily interactions with prospects and tenants. These larger companies are also challenged by the need to recruit, hire and train staff at scale. As a result, they must sometimes sacrifice quality for quantity.

As a smaller self-storage operator, you’ve got a competitive advantage: You’re better positioned to provide a more tailored, memorable CX. To maximize it, you must be motivated to go the extra mile for customers. They should leave every interaction feeling that your business is friendlier and more helpful than others. Following are six things you can do to differentiate your CX and lead your market, regardless of company size.

1. Define CX Aspirations

First, engage customers along clearly communicated pathways that meet the company’s vision and expectations. Define in advance how you should interact with prospects and tenants in various scenarios, with a deliberate focus on the information that should be shared and how it should be conveyed. An approach that makes the storage experience as easy and hassle-free as possible should boost your confidence as a manager and improve facility performance.

2. Be a Storage-Solutions Specialist

It’s important to develop your interpersonal skills, as it’ll help guide your conversations with customers to a successful close. Be aware of others, listen to their needs and clearly communicate why your storage facility is a superior option. Validate the purchasing decision by thanking people for their business while reminding them of the value they’re receiving by storing with you. Successfully conveying your value proposition will help you increase occupancy, raise average rental rates and capture more non-rent revenue.

3. Create Customer Connections

Customers won’t share information with you until they feel you care. Find creative ways to make emotional connections with them. Prospects need to be convinced that you’re genuinely interested in helping them choose the best solution. Establish a rapport with a few comments about the weather, a local sports team or something else you may have in common. Once they believe you’re on their side. they’ll be more willing to talk about their storage needs and disclose any lingering concerns they have.

It’s also important not to rush the sales pitch or fall into a canned script in which you do all the talking. Treat each customer as an individual and tailor your comments to his specific situation. The idea is to create a dialogue rather than a monologue. Strive for a balanced conversation in which you and the customer share information.

Ask a few detailed questions to uncover what’s driving the purchasing decision. Good questions let him know you truly want to understand his needs. Once you determine what’ll be stored and the amount of space required, shift the conversation to the available options and clearly communicate the benefits of your facility. Emphasize property features based on the customer’s needs and urgency.

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4. Step Into the Purchasing Path

Most people seeking a storage unit will make a purchasing decision within a few hours or weeks of first contacting you. Anticipate their questions. In fact, provide answers to the questions each customer should ask, even if he doesn’t.

Some customers want to gather a lot of information before deciding, which makes follow-up critical. If possible, offer to place a unit on a 24-hour, no-obligation hold to give them time to contemplate their decision or check with a spouse. To guarantee price and unit availability, however, a prospect must provide his name, email and phone number. Capturing this contact info enables you to reach out to warm leads at a future date.

Establish a strategy for how you’ll contact prospective renters, including mode and frequency. This could consist of a series of calls, emails and texts designed to keep your facility top-of-mind. Just remember: Nobody likes an over-aggressive salesperson. Think about structuring your follow-up interactions with information about how you can save the customer money, or make the storage experience easy and hassle-free.

At some point, it’s time to ask for the sale. A soft close may be as easy as asking, “Should we sign you up?” Add some urgency by using a call to action, a time-sensitive reason for the customer to decide now rather than waiting.

5. Identify and Track Meaningful Metrics

What gets measured gets done. Identify and rank all the key performance indicators of a successful self-storage operation, such as curb appeal, timely follow-up, closing ratios, average revenue per unit and non-rent revenue. Regularly discuss these with your owner or supervisor. Establishing metrics helps you identify what’s being well-managed and which areas need improvement.

Try not to mind being evaluated. It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate your prowess. Without measuring results, it’s more challenging to prove proficiency and receive constructive feedback.

6. Manage Customer Complaints

Grievances are part of any business. Not only should you expect them, prepare yourself to handle them. Think of these interactions as opportunities to cement and enhance the business/customer relationship. Buyers don’t usually expect perfection, but they do require you to stand behind your product and provide direct, responsive feedback.

Resolving an issue well can diffuse the emotions involved. It can also help you avoid negative comments on social media and even lawsuits. If handled correctly, complaint resolution can lead to better rapport and increased trust. As a result, tenants may stay longer, come back for future storage needs and even refer your company to friends.

Small Size, Big Impact

As a smaller self-storage operator, you can personalize your CX to differentiate your business from larger competitors. Well-trained managers can confidently engage with customers and improve facility performance. Intentionally creating connections and tailoring your engagement to each renter’s specific needs will separate you from the Big Guys and make your service memorable.

Alex Simic is owner and founder of Storage Master LLC, which operates nine facilities in the Milwaukee area. Over the last 20 years, he’s grown his company from a concept into the second largest self-storage operator in Wisconsin, with more than 1.1 million rentable square feet. His company strives to set a high bar for customer experience and engagement. Alex also founded Self Storage on Wheels, a portable-storage company, and MKE Movers LLC, a value-based moving company.

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