The self-storage business is extremely unique in that most of our customers are in a state of flux and may be stressed out. It’s said that the process of moving is one of the top 10 stressful situations people experience in their lifetimes. So, while other businesses might get a customer who’s rational, allowing them to design their service experience around logical behavior, in storage, we need to be prepared for anything.
Regardless of where our customers communicate with us and their mental state when they do so, we must consider how to make all interactions convenient and user-friendly. In fact, there are many potential touchpoints between a customer and a self-storage brand—places where a person might find and connect with us, even before he’s ready to rent space.
Where and How We Connect
The way we market and advertise has changed dramatically over the last 10 years, and we rely much more on technology. Sometimes, technology allows us to operate with less staff and have fewer personal interactions with customers; but it doesn’t always make the rental process easier.
To ensure the quality of our customer experience, we must regularly survey and monitor the interactions customers have with our business online, through the call center, at the kiosk, and with employees in the office. We must also train staff to maintain customer satisfaction through all touchpoints. These might include:
- Web search
- Online business listings
- Facility website
- Social media platforms
- Online review sites
- Facility phone or voicemail
- Call center
- Office visit
- Advertising (digital or print)
- Community event
- Interaction with manager at the bank, store, etc.
Any place a customer might discover and learn about your company is a touchpoint. Once he’s found you, many things might happen. You want to be conscious of and improve his experience during these moments and others:
- First impression
- Property visit/tour
- Rental process
- Retail purchase
- Gate operation
- Truck use/rental
- Payment or account inquiry
- Customer-service issue (i.e., late fee, gate/code problem, door problem, lights not working, conflict with an employee or another tenant, etc.)
Car companies spend an unbelievable amount to produce their products. In fact, BMW spent $800 million to produce its new 7 Series. However, that level of investment doesn’t always translate into the sales experience with the customer. If you’re selling a luxury automobile, shouldn’t the buying experience be every bit as great as the car?
In the case of BMW, there were more than 100 messages to communicate to customers about the new vehicle but only a few ways to deliver them. The company’s major touchpoints are its website, media (print and digital) and its dealerships.
BMW realized that many of the car’s features wouldn’t be revealed to the customer until the sale process. Sales staff were given a checklist and would literally mark each box as they guided the customer through the options, some of which required set-up. The problem was buyers couldn’t wait to get the car on the road and escape the dealership! The feeling of being stuck was stressful and more frustrating than they wanted during an already lengthy and taxing car-buying experience.
The company finally decided to reach out to customers two weeks after each sale and invite them back to the dealership to get answers to any questions they might have about their new car. People were much more responsive to that touchpoint because they weren’t so anxious. Customers later valued and were happier with the technical help than during the buying process.
Plan to Impress
There’s a quote from Maya Angelou that really speaks to the heart of the customer-experience concept: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Self-storage owners spend a lot of time and money in designing their properties, but they often invest very little in finding and training friendly employees and giving the customer a wonderful rental experience. If we know customers are going to be frazzled when they interact with us, our goal should be to make each touchpoint fast, friendly and simple. For example, when they visit our sites, we should offer soothing music, places to sit, free cold water, and a positive, quick rental process. They should be surprised and amazed at how friendly our managers are and how easy move-in is.
To accomplish this high level of customer satisfaction, you must plan to impress. Hire people with good service skills, educate your employees through training, measure your results and gather positive feedback. Consider all your customer touchpoints and make each one count.
Carol Mixon-Krendl is the owner of SkilCheck Services Inc., which provides self-storage auditing, mystery shopping, development and operations consultation, and sales training. She’s managed more than 30 storage locations in the West and is a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows. She’s also written more than 100 articles for various publications and has served on state and national self-storage association boards. For more information, call 800.374.7545; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.skilcheck.com.