One of the biggest problems in the self-storage industry is missed phone calls. In fact, multiple studies have found that around 40 percent of phone calls to a facility are missed. These missed phone calls cost storage owners money in lost rentals and payments. Hiring a manager is a solution, but it can be an expensive one, especially for a smaller facility. Sometimes even a manager can’t keep up with phone calls.
Whether the owner is taking all the calls for his facility or has a manager, utilizing a call-answering service can help save time and be a cost-effective way to make sure all calls are answered. The system can be set up so all phone calls are routed directly to the answering service or it can be backup for the calls that aren’t answered by the storage operator.
When choosing an answering service, it’s important to ask the following questions:
- What will they do and won’t do?
- Do they integrate with a management software?
- What are their hours?
- Are their employees based in the United States?
- How does their pricing structure work?
Finding a service that can process rentals and take payments over the phone will offer the most value to a storage business. A lot of services will simply pass along messages; however, following up on messages later isn’t efficient and doesn’t save much time. It’s most important to capitalize on phone calls right when they happen.
If the service integrates with a facility’s management software it can save even more time and be more valuable to the business. This allows representatives to assist the caller with his account and handle the majority of day-to-day items such as billing, gate codes, updating contact info, etc.
Even though the benefits are apparent, the term “call center” can have a negative connotation in business. Some common concerns business owners have with the answering-service concept are:
- Will my small business lose that personal touch and individualized customer service?
- Will my calls be sent to a call center in another country?
- Will the agents follow a specific script on every call?
- Will I lose control of how my business is run?
The answer to these four questions should never be “yes.” An owner should feel comfortable with who he’s trusting a part of the operation of his business to, and customer service should never be compromised. An owner should also recognize that sometimes he needs help and not be scared to find it. It can be hard for people to feel like they’re giving up some control of their business, but it’s worse if their operation suffers because they’re too busy to answer every phone call.
If a facility is large and has a ton of tenants coming and going every day, then hiring an onsite manager may be necessary. But owners of small- to medium-sized facilities can save thousands of dollars a month by finding more efficient ways to streamline the operation of their business.
Even a large operation can benefit by complementing its staff with an answering service as backup rather than hiring more employees. Using a call-answering service is not new to the industry, but it’s becoming more common and will continue to be even more popular with savvy business owners.
Christian Thurgood is head of call-management services for Easy Storage Solutions, a provider of Web-based management software and other technology for small to mid-sized self-storage facilities. His team has helped hundreds of business owners automate their facilities and increase profitability and efficiency. For more information, call 888.958.5967; visit www.storageunitsoftware.com/call-management-services.