Dutch Surprise

April 1, 2006

4 Min Read
Dutch Surprise

The Netherlands self-storage market is about eight years old and steadily growing. About 80 facilities are active in the country, and most are successful. When the business first began, self-storage was a tough sell to the local public. People werent sure exactly what it was. Fortunately, early customers were quick to catch on because there was a real need for the service.

These days, the average Dutch resident knows the product exists, and the buzz about self-storage is spreading. Still, many prospective customers who visit a facility for the first time are pleasantly surprised by what they see. They dont expect to find a hotel for goods but a warehouse environment. They are happy to discover independent, clean and secure units.

European operators should realize self-storage in the early stages gives them a unique opportunity to capitalize on customers positive reactions. For example, a good first impression is a great benefit to the storage operator because it starts the tour on an encouraging note. Employees who get strong, positive feedback become more enthusiastic about making the sale.

An Upward Spiral

Good feelings tend to breed more of the same. Customers positive reactions create constructive interactions with facility staff, which generate good sales! However, you need to have employees with an optimistic outlook and a personal commitment to good service. Regardless of company training, you cant teach enthusiasm. People must have a talent for sales. If you hire salespeople with the basic qualifications, the rest becomes an upward spiral.

Of course, other elements are involved, such as giving each customer a warm welcome and maintaining a clean site. Some facilities win a bushel of new business from referrals, but to spark interest, you must impress tenants with attention to detail, great customer service and efficient administration. Building referrals take time, but if customers are satisfied with the quality of the product and service, they will slowly spread the word about their experiences.

Selling self-storage in the Netherlands isnt much different than in the United States: Its like like selling pizzayour target market is incredibly local. Its necessary to build on customers positive responses and provide superlative service. Stand behind your product and always go the extra mile. Most tenants will be pleasantly astonished, especially where the industry is new. Do this, and recommendations within your community are guaranteed. Youll be able to look forward to steady growth and high, lasting occupancy rates.

Media Attention

Sometimes a positive team of self-storage employees who are passionate about the product and company can attract media attention. In 2004, one Netherlands operator managed to get major news coverage for the opening of its second facility, all because staff was enthusiastic on the phone. A journalist looking for a story about the rising market was impressed by the operators attitude, and saw the company as a bright spot on the horizon of the Dutch economic climate. His article attracted local and national attention; afterward, more articles appeared in leading Dutch newspapers. One of the countrys leading radio stations and a popular TV news program ran a story about the business.

All of a sudden, everyone wanted to know about this new and growing self-storage phenomenonwho were these tenants and what manner of things were they storing? Of course, journalists wanted to know what kinds of hush-hush or illegal items might be lurking within rented units. It seemed that was the first thing on peoples minds when they thought about self-storage.

From the operators perspective, the important thing was to stay focused on positives such as site security and professional staff. Then it wasnt too difficult to get good interviews with no surprises. The aforementioned operator got lucky with all his positive media attention. He wouldnt have garnered the same coverage with a boring I just want to go home at 5 oclock salesperson.

Customers often mistrust salespeople because theyve had bad experiences. European self-storage is all about sales and marketing, but it can so easily exceed peoples expectations. Its wonderful to be part of a growing market with a product that delivers a positive customer experience. As long as operators recognize this and accentuate the positive with good energy and enthusiasm, their business will grow and theyll enjoy long-term success. In fact, thats true no matter where your facility is located. 

Erwin Fleer is a co-founder and board member of Netherlands-based Extrabox Self-Storage, which offers a complete franchise opportunity within Europe. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.extrabox.nl

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like