I recently spent quite a bit of time on the phone with various storage companies trying to help an elderly woman relocate her belongings over about 400 miles. While some of the self-storage managers I spoke with really lacked sales and customer-service skills, they didn’t compare to some of the doozies I ran into trying to book a mobile-storage cube/pod/container/box thing for door-to-door delivery.
My friend needed just a small amount of space. During one conversation with a self-storage company, I asked about price and availability on a 5-by-10 unit, or 50 square feet. The manager said he didn’t have anything like that but could offer me a 10-by-5. Oh, my! During another call with a different company, the person on the phone said, “Are you just shopping around? Because I don’t have the time to do shopper calls.” Uh, I guess I’ll be calling another site and not doing business with you!
Another self-storage manager went off on how his facility is the most expensive around, extolling all the “features” to justify the price. I was looking at the facility on Google Earth as he spewed this bunch of garbage. His claims were easily debunked. Thanks, Mr. Google!
My experience trying to book a portable storage container was even worse. I called all the big-name companies in the area. Many are just local dealerships, so if you happen to need a container in the same geographical area, they can help; but moving six hours away is an entirely different story.
One operator said he couldn’t offer me one of the containers advertised on his website but could drop a trailer in front of the house. For every five feet we used, the company would charge $1,800. We’d have to load it, put up a dividing wall and lock it ourselves. Oh, and one minor detail: The items would go to the company’s hub—four hours past where we needed to go—and we’d have to pick them up! If you’re following this, that’s $1,800 to drive the stuff 400 miles. Then we’d have to rent a truck and drive another 250 to 300 miles each way to retrieve the items.
What am I missing here? Is this truly a service? Why on earth would I jump through all these hoops instead of just packing up a truck and driving it myself?
Another container company was more helpful as far as being able to get the items door to door, within five to seven days. But they wanted $2,855 to do it. Hey, at least that included delivery to the final destination!
If you’re a self-storage operator, take a step back. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and phone around to some facilities in your area. Truly listen to what you hear and pay attention to how you feel while trying to conduct business with the person on the other end of the line. Then, take a hard look at your own inhouse practices, sales pitches and level of customer service. Could your skills use a little freshening up?
Gina Six Kudo is a storage-business consultant in San Jose, Calif. She has more than two decades of self-storage experience as well as a strong customer-service, sales and operations background. She's also a moderator on Self-Storage Talk, the industry's largest online community. To reach her, e-mail email@example.com.