Is it chilly in here, or is it just me? When a self-storage facility is rated poorly or makes a bad impression, there’s a problem with the customer experience (CX). Folks will give you a cold reception and express their displeasure in all kinds of ways, from low-star reviews to negative social posts with angry-face emojis. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. After all, we’re expected to accommodate such a wide range of customer types and opinions. But if you do things right, it should be easy to keep your CX “temperature” in just the right range.
You don’t want your operation to run excessively hot or cold. If you pay too little attention to your customers’ needs, you’ll leave them feeling ignored and frustrated; too much may make you seem overly aggressive or presumptuous. Finding that “sweet spot” is often about reading a person’s expressions and body language. This can go a long way in establishing good rapport and ensuring customers have a great experience with your facility and company.
To have a healthy self-storage business, you must maintain the right temp. The goal is to avoid both hypothermia and fever. Here are some ways to do it.
Make a Lasting, Positive Impression
The self-storage CX is much different today than several years ago. With all the ways a modern consumer can communicate with you, voice an opinion about you and make an informed decision, all while remaining anonymous, the challenge isn’t only to make a positive first impression but a lasting one.
Simply being a smiling face behind a desk isn’t enough. Facility managers need to be counselors, gardeners, chamber-of-commerce members, janitors, concierges, tour guides, repair technicians and more. I’m not saying you have to be all those things, but it helps to be able to fill several roles and know where to go for the others. Going above and beyond for customers has become routine for small, independent self-storage storage operators who need to keep up with the “big boys.” It’s hard work, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Be Engaged and Helpful
One way to maintain an ideal CX temp is to be present and obliging with your customers, regardless of how they found you. Our digital footprints are all over the Internet, and it’s never been easier to reach current and future self-storage tenants via an online presence. The key is to be involved. Being able to rent a unit with a click of a button is a great convenience for customers, but what happens after the sale?
Don’t be one of those “We got their money, so there’s nothing left for me to do” kinds of places. A customer may have never used self-storage before and isn’t entirely sure how things work. He may have questions about the property, or how to use the gate, or where his unit is located. Even if he doesn’t need assistance, reaching out and asking if he does can positively impact your CX.
Even a repeat customer or someone adding a second unit can use some help. Can you put his new unit near his existing one? Does he want rent charged to the same credit card every month as the other unit? Can the billing dates be synchronized? Perhaps he needs moving boxes, or help contacting a moving or rental-truck company.
The goal is to create a “You won’t believe what my storage place did for me last week!” moment for your tenant. It can be the result of a grand gesture, but often it’s the effect of lots of little things. Here are a few simple ones you can do to get that CX temp right where you want it:
- Offer new tenants a bottle of water, or a juice box for their kids.
- Keep coloring books and crayons on hand to help keep the little ones engaged while working through the lease with the parent.
- Keep some old-fashioned printed brochures around to help answer common self-storage rental questions.
- Offer a local map that includes area attractions and businesses. You can often get these from your local chamber, or make one of your own.
- Keep business cards around from local movers and charitable organizations just in case a customer needs help moving or wants to get rid of some stuff.
- If you don’t offer use of a moving truck, keep referrals handy.
- Follow up with new tenants to see how their move-in went, or if they have any questions about facility policies or their rental agreement. Ask if they have any feedback about the experience they’d like to share.
Get an Outside Perspective
It may sound a little sneaky, but mystery shopping your own self-storage property isn’t wrong. Gaining a true perspective of what it’s like for customers to interact with your business can be a great learning experience.
If you already have shoppers in place, their reports can be immensely helpful in exposing weaknesses in your CX. If not, have a friend or relative stop in and play a potential renter who poses a few challenges. Maybe he needs a specific move-in date, has a strict budget, or has lots of questions because he’s “new to the area.” If your team can handle someone like that, it’s excellent training. Keep the review notes handy, positive or negative, to discuss and help guide improvements. The ability to adapt, adjust and progress will serve you well moving forward.
Help, Don’t Hinder
You don’t have to rely on technology to perfect your CX temp. The factors that lead customers to use self-storage can be incredibly stressful. Every measure we take to lessen their anxiety and headaches helps put our facilities and industry in a better light.
In addition to the above, stay up to date with service and industry trends, which will help your team appear knowledgeable. Know the modus operandi of your competition to show customers you’re paying attention and that you want their business. Being able to refer tenants to the right local partners for help with their non-storage needs contributes to an atmosphere of calm and confidence. All these steps will demonstrate that you’re working to provide a rewarding CX. Is it me, or did it just get a little warmer in here?
Kevin J. Edwards has been in the self-storage industry since 2015. A licensed property manager in South Carolina, he’s worked as a site manager, traveling trainer, facility auditor and auction coordinator. His previous experience in the restaurant, specialty-retail and petrochemical industries has proven useful in self-storage organization, scheduling, site safety and security, and maintenance. For more information, call 843.422.3461; email [email protected].