Independent operators are keenly concerned about ways to improve their competitiveness and remain independent. They want to be able to compete effectively in their markets in terms of products and efficiencies, but they don't always have the resources to do so. Most of all, they want to maintain their independence.
ISS: What specifically are independent operators seeking?
Ways to enhance revenue and operate more efficiently. For example, independents want additional channels of distribution and customer contact. They also want better technology and management systems so they can make better-informed decisions.
ISS: Can the needs of these operators be met so they can remain independent?
Yes, there are a number of ways those needs can be met. Independents can seek providers of individual services, such as stand-alone call centers and software packages; but the quality of services varies greatly. A second way is through Shurgard's Preferred Partner program, which packages proven tools to enhance revenue, streamline operations, improve competitiveness and maintain independence--all at a price independents could never negotiate on their own.
ISS: What are the primary elements and benefits of being a Preferred Partner?
Preferred Partners are served by Shurgard's 24-hour, seven-day-a-week sales and service call center. When calls are made to an independent operator's locations after hours, or in a roll-over situation, our call center will answer with the name of the operator and provide current information on rates, available inventory, hours and even driving directions. Calls can be answered in the priority set by the independent, so sales calls can be answered before service calls. And customer-service issues can frequently be resolved over the phone, enabling on-site managers to assist walk-in prospects or on-site customers. Incidentally, we prefer to call it the sales center because our staff is specially trained to close sales. It is a strong revenue enhancer for us.
ISS: What about the Internet?
When a customer brings up the Shurgard website and searches by city, state or ZIP code, the name of the independent operator will appear with all of the information a customer might want. Units can even be reserved right online. Our website also contains a number of affiliated marketing programs that provide strong leads to Preferred Partners.
ISS: Can you give us an example?
One of our strongest affiliations is with AAA, and we market promotional discounts throughout the year to the 43 million members of that association. Preferred Partners can benefit from our national commercial-accounts sales team, which works with large corporations that require storage at multiple locations across the nation. These corporations tend to be long-term customers with excellent payment histories. Preferred Partners also benefit from the strong relationships Shurgard has formed with national cellular-phone and wireless companies that could be interested in leasing space on the properties of independent operators. The same applies to the nation's billboard-advertising companies.
ISS: How can your program help with operating efficiencies?
First, we offer management-reporting software that enables managers to analyze all aspects of their facilities' performance--from rates to inventory and costs--so they can make financially informed decisions. Second, Shurgard includes Preferred Partners in its group buying program. We have negotiated prices on a whole range of products and services, such as packing supplies, locks, credit-card processing and waste management, and Preferred Partners can enjoy those savings. Finally, Shurgard includes Preferred Partners in its mystery-shopper program. Once a month, each location will be shopped. Four times a year, they will shopped in person, and the other eight months, they will be shopped over the phone. The results of these shops will improve staff performance through better training.
ISS: Is this program a way for Shurgard to scout potential acquisitions?
No. This program is actually a poor way to scout around. Instead, we're looking to serve current customers who want storage where we do not have facilities. This program is the best way to meet that demand. It is a win-win situation for independent operators and Shurgard.
ISS: What is the price of the program?
The fee structure is a flat monthly fee, tiered according to the size of the independent operator's square footage, and a one-time set-up fee. I'm happy to discuss the details of the program with any interested parties.
For more information, contact Sunil Dewan at 800.873.8594.