Self-storage operation has changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Some offices are closed to the public or have limited business hours. Those that are open have devised ways for people to keep their distance from each other. While these changes are in place to protect employees and customers, they also create feelings of alienation for both parties. The challenge is to offer outstanding service, even when we have to be contact-free.
Let’s discuss some things you can do, as a self-storage manager, to create an elevated level of attention at your facility and greater connection with prospects and tenants. Communication is the key. Whether written, verbal or visual, you can use it to show customers you’re still there, and that you care.
Connect Through Writing
You’re no doubt receiving and responding to emails more than ever during the health crisis. While email can be an effective communication tool, you must be careful in crafting your messages. Read each post at least twice before clicking that send button.
Identify any thoughts or language that might require clarification. The person with whom you’re writing can’t see your face or hear your voice, so you have to make sure your comments leave no room for misunderstanding. You never know how your verbiage might be interpreted. Pay careful attention to tone, and be professional!
For example, in response to customer inquiries, never reply casually with a one-word answer like “Sure” or “Yeah.” Instead, take the time to write, “Of course, that’s no problem,” or “Yes, thank you.” It’s imperative that your words strike the correct tenor.
The best way to improve in this regard is to practice out-of-context reading. Read your response aloud and see how it makes you feel. If you’re confused or overwhelmed by the information, try breaking the text into smaller paragraphs or bullet points.
We need to be mindful of the impact our words have on others. Being professional, polite, informative and pleasant should be your goal. You want to come across as a compassionate human, not a machine. Try not to be too firm, long-winded or standoffish. Keep your words simple, straightforward and friendly. Always practice kindness in your writing, especially if what’s being conveyed might be difficult or unpleasant for the recipient to “hear.”
I know writing isn’t easy for everyone, but don’t worry. There’s software out there that can help. Some of it is robust and can do much more than just check your spelling; it can also test for tone, grammar and punctuation. These digital tools can save you time and trouble. Don’t be afraid to get assistance, even if it’s from a robot!
Connect Through Voice
Speaking of robots, how does your self-storage operation’s voicemail message sound? Make sure it’s current. Include your location, hours of operation and any other critical information callers might need. Keep it short, clear, professional and friendly.
Likewise, when talking on the phone, be sure to smile. You might feel silly at first, but the person on the other end can hear it in your voice. If you’re more of a face-to-face person, imagine there’s someone in front of you. One tip is to place a doll or other toy on your desk and talk to it as though it’s the person on the other end of the line. Visualization can also help ensure your tone of voice is correct.
Just because we can’t always meet our customers in person doesn’t mean we have to be monotone drones. Treat your prospects and tenants with the same appreciation and warmth over the phone as you would if they were standing in your office.
Connect Through Visuals
While you might not see or even speak to your tenants all that often these days, your facility communicates nonverbal messages to them all the time. Show them respect and gratitude by ensuring your facility is clean, organized and welcoming. Halls and drives should be well-maintained and weather-ready. Abolish any weeds, debris, leaves and trash. An attractive site makes a pleasant greeting when you can’t. Let your site speak for you.
Here are some other ways to visually communicate with customers:
- Decorate your facility for the holidays or upcoming sporting events.
- Celebrate healthcare workers with signage, or post encouraging quotes on your marquee.
- Update your banners and flags to keep the property bright and fresh.
Any improvement can make your exterior more approachable, eye-catching and appealing. A welcoming facility can complement the tone and tenor of your written and verbal communication. You can actually exceed customer expectations with aesthetics, as they contribute to and reinforce your commitment to service.
Make the Connection
In a time when you may not be having many face-to-face interactions with customers, written, verbal and visual communication are critical. They’re always important, but never more so than in a digital, contactless environment. Pay attention to how your business is being perceived across all platforms, from emails and chats, to phone conversations, to signage and facility appearance.
During these trying times, we need to remember that we’re all human, and we all have human needs. Connection is essential. The way to maintain it in a contactless self-storage environment is to focus on communication of all kinds. It takes a bit more effort, but you can still focus on putting the customer first, even in our technological, germ-filled world.
Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development Ltd., a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 self-storage facilities in the Southeast. With more than 10 years of management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and she’s excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her @MohalaJohnson on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson.