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Using Virtual Help Tools to Improve Your Self-Storage Customer Service and Experience

The new consumer expectation for speedy service and user autonomy is changing the way businesses approach customer service. Many are turning to virtual help tools like chatbots and live chat. Can this technology work for your self-storage operation? Read on to find out.

Kimberly Robinson

March 4, 2023

6 Min Read
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Strong customer service is a cornerstone of the self-storage business, so if you’re still forcing your prospects and tenants to call or visit you when they have a question or need, it’s time to update your strategy. Today’s consumers want real-time, immediate assistance that’s readily accessible and easy to use.

Enter virtual help tools such as chatbots and live online chat. Once a novelty, this customer-service technology is available in almost every industry, including self-storage. Let’s explore why you need it, how it works and how to integrate it into your operation.

Why You Need Virtual Help

In the past, customer service was mostly reactive. Customers who had a question or problem would reach out after the fact to seek resolution, not knowing when they’d hear back. The experience was often fragmented. Service representatives were busy supporting everyone, so their attention was scattered, response times were unpredictable, and the whole process was mind-numbingly slow.

Now, the customer is in the driver’s seat, reaching out to companies on their own time and leveraging all of the digital channels at their fingertips. They’re taking a proactive approach, learning about their options and answering their own questions before pain points snowball into bigger problems.

This is why virtual help tools are necessary to operate a successful business today. While no consumer has ever particularly enjoyed listening to on-hold music, in this quick-paced world, it’s downright frustrating. Your customers want a response, and they want it now.

According to “Fit Small Business,” a media outlet that focuses on small-business issues, 42% of consumers prefer to use live chat because they want to avoid being put on hold. They’ve also come to expect speedy service. With chat, issues are resolved 13 times faster than with other support options, including email and online forums. Here are a few more reasons to consider virtual help:

  • 72% of customers want to communicate with businesses on the platform of their choice.

  • 81% of customers want to start their help journey with digital tech, including bots.

  • 52% of customers prefer live chat to any other form of digital service.

As a self-storage operator, you know how important quality customer service is to your business reputation and bottom line. The time has come to take your help functions virtual, embrace tools like live chat, and solve the pain points associated with traditional support services.

For companies that embrace virtual help options, the benefits are tremendous. Digital platforms provide a 360-degree view of each customer to enable effortless, immediate service on a personalized level. These tools also alleviate staff workload and reduce reliance on in-person labor. How? By reducing the number of inbound calls your team has to field, freeing them up to focus on more value-added activities.

When deciding which companies to use, today’s consumers look for two main factors: online self-service and easy access to their preferred digital channels. Virtual help tools rank high in both areas, helping you improve your overall customer experience.

How Virtual Help Systems Work

Even with the anticipated benefits, many self-storage operators are hesitant to embrace live chat and other communication technology because the setup phase can seem daunting. Unless you work directly in the tech space, it’s natural to wonder how to implement these tools, what the options include, and how much it all costs.

Let’s start with your options. The most common help technologies include:

  • Chatbots

  • Live chat

  • Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs)

  • Knowledge-management databases

Each of these is unique and has its own advantages, drawbacks and costs. Basic chatbots can be quick and relatively easy to deploy, but most are built to provide only automated answers to routine questions. In contrast, IVAs are more intelligent and capable, using tools like natural-language processing to deliver a human-like experience and improve the accuracy of answers. That said, they can be more expensive to design and develop.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so begin thinking about how you can expand your current customer-support services into the digital space. The web is becoming the default entry point for your self-storage customers, so meeting them there is key to optimizing their overall experience with your business. By blending human support with self-service and AI technologies, you can minimize costs and expand your service offerings without sacrificing performance.

DIY vs. Third-Party Integration

When you start looking at all these virtual help tools, you’ll naturally be concerned about budget. You might wonder if it’s better or cheaper to build your own chat engine rather than rely on a third-party solution. If you go the DIY route, you’ll need to consider issues including:

  • Scalability

  • Security

  • Compliance

  • Cross-platform compatibility

  • User adoption and engagement

By partnering with an established provider of digital tools, you can greatly reduce back-end development time, save on engineering costs and gain access to key features and functions that you might not be able to produce on your own. With that in mind, consider the following when vetting providers:

  • Customer support: What features are available? Do they align with your business goals and values?

  • User-interface design: Is it sleek, intuitive and easy to use?

  • Reporting and analytics: Are there tools to help you measure key metrics such as customer wait time?

  • Product pricing: Is it a per-seat license or a concurrent user license?

These are just a few of the questions to ask. You’ll also want to make sure the solutions you use meet the immediate and long-term needs and preferences of your self-storage customers. For example, some people might prefer chat support while others are more comfortable helping themselves via a knowledge base on your website. Your provider should be able to help you deliver the full breadth of services.

In addition, ask your current providers if they offer any of these tools. Technology can often be more cost-effective, quicker to deploy and easier to manage if you’re able to leverage the resources and experience of your existing vendor partners.

Unlock the Power

The self-storage industry was built on the idea of autonomy. It should be your goal as an operator to equip customers with the tools and knowledge they need to use your services and facility successfully. Traditional forms of support are giving way to digital platforms that allow users to find help and answers quickly.

Virtual help tools like chatbots, live chat and IVAs can improve and expand your customer-service approach. Will 2023 be the year your self-storage business adds them to its operating model?

Kimberly Robinson is creative content manager for OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based provider of technology products and services including kiosks, a call center and access-control solutions. With more than 12 years of experience in marketing and communications and two in the self-storage industry, Kimberly offers design, copywriting and content-marketing expertise. To reach her, call 602.749.9370.

About the Author(s)

Kimberly Robinson

Communications Manager, OpenTech Alliance Inc.

Kimberly Robinson is the communications manager for OpenTech Alliance Inc. She has more than 12 years of experience in communications and has worked in the self-storage industry for nearly two years. For more information, visit www.opentechalliance.com

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