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Westport Properties Gets New Self-Storage Contracts

Westport Properties of Newport Beach, Calif., has been awarded third-party management contracts for three self-storage facilities. Garfield Avenue Self Storage is a new, 600-unit, 78,000-square-foot facility in Bell Gardens, Calif. West Florida Self Storage in Hemet, Calif., has 93,000 square feet in 600 units. Southside Storage Mall of Leesburg, Fla., has 500 units comprising 47,000 square feet. Westport manages more than 3 million square feet of self storage in five states.

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New Website Launched for Self-Storage Bands, Musicians

The trend of musicians and bands renting self-storage units as rehearsal and storage space is growing, and in response, StorageMart Self Storage has created a new website. Selfstoragebands.com provides musicians and music fans with an online venue for meeting and connecting. Users can create profiles, share music and video, and link to their favorite social networks and websites.
 
“The sound of bands rehearsing has become a part of the self-storage environment in many facilities across North America,” said Tron Jordheim, StorageMart spokesperson. “StorageMart wanted to do something to show its appreciation to its many long-term musician customers. We also wanted to help get the word out about the great music being made in self-storage facilities to music fans everywhere.”
 
StorageMart has more than 60 self-storage facilities across North America. It also supports a network of industry websites including selfstorageblog.com, selfstorageowner.com and selfstoragesocialnetwork.com.

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ISS Blog

Communications Lost

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager for Cochrane Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She is one of four recipients of the Inside Self-Storage 2009 Humanitarian Service Award.

Remember Sept. 11th and how the world came together, while some things ground to a halt? Remember the eerie quietness of the skies with no airplanes overhead, or the road noise almost non-existent because no one was going to work?

We experienced a little taste of this again in our little corner of the world last Thursday. Someone sabotaged the fiber optics lines that feed the South County area of Santa Clara County, Calif. By day’s end, the same sabotage had occurred about 50 miles north of us in the San Carlos area, and late in the afternoon yet another section of the network was cut in South County in the same general area as the first attack.

We had no 911 services; landline calls within three miles worked somewhat, but we could not reach the “outside” world. When the landlines worked, we were relegated to a 12-square-mile area. No one could tap into the Internet, get cell phone service or even send text messages.

Despite making conscious choices to select different providers for just such an instance we were downed in every way fathomable. We know the copper lines/fiber optics are shared conduits. We are located in Verizon territory, so purchasing Verizon landline service makes no difference as AT&T owns the copper.

Our AT&T cell phones did not function, so our nephew tried his Verizon cell phone, but, again, nothing as we learned they share cell towers. We moved on to the Sprint PCS wireless Internet card, again no service. One by one people came in and we learned that all the providers were sharing all the equipment. Sprint/Nextel, Metro PCS, and even the On Star system were down.

Redundancy and various carriers should have offered us some options, at least in that proverbial perfect world. Fire and alarm systems were down, credit card machines ceased to ring up sales, businesses and banks closed, gas pumps stopped pumping and ATM machines didn’t work. The business losses total incurred that day for the four affected communities will most likely be a staggering number. In our little area alone, more than 50,000 customers were affected.

Needless to say, there were no phone calls to inquire about our services. Although, we did get one walk-in rental, so that was good. Not rain, sleet, hail, snow or downed communications kept our mail lady away so a few payments came in as well. Unable to communicate, people drove to other areas to pick up cell service, check on the elderly, and make arrangements to cover what were thought to be well-planned emergency contacts.

It was like 9/11 all over again, which brought forth the opportunity to go over our emergency responses at our facility. We pulled keys and did a refresher course on how to access and turn off power, water and gas lines. We went over how to secure the property, check the onsite customer’s welfare, and how to respond to various situations.

For their part, our local, state and federal government officials stepped up to the challenge, using a short-wave radio frequency to render shared aid. Ambulances were brought in and stationed at the fire stations. Local television and radio stations got the word out that anyone needing emergency services should go to the nearest fire or police station or look for an officer stationed around the city who would obtain the needed help. It was a strange day in the neighborhood.

We don’t have all the answers, but it did make us realize we need to prepare ourselves for even the unknown forces of man as well as nature. I know I will go back and take a look at the ham radio setups belonging to my late Dad and brother. It may be time for a license for me. I’ve become to dependant on reaching loved ones and knowing they are safe. And I would truly be interested in hearing other options. What would you do if all communication was lost? Do you have a backup plan? Post a comment below to share your thoughts.

ISS Blog

Twitter Away

I did something a little out of character last week. I joined Twitter, a free social networking service. I’m really not much of a social networking type of gal. I did create a MySpace page on a lark a few years ago, but after a few hours of tinkering, never went back. I’m not on Facebook, nor have I had any real interest to invest the time and effort.

So what is it about Twitter that attracted me? Twitter enables you to connect with the world, but in short bursts. “Tweeters,” those who use Twitter, answer the question, “What are you doing?” “A tweet,” which is the answer to that question, is a text-based post up to 140 characters. To see what a Tweeter is posting, you must “follow” him or her.

For self-storage owners and operators, Twitter and other social networking services can be a boon. Think of the marketing possibilities. You can post your specials and unit sizes as they change daily, or let current tenants know what’s up. There are already 7 million people on Twitter. And while it’s nowhere near the size of other viral media outlets, it is growing, and more companies are creating Twitter accounts.

But like any word-of-mouth marketing, there is the potential for bad press. Twitter could easily become a thorn in your side if a single customer decided to “tweet” negatively about you. For more on the potential fallout from social networks, read Teri Lanza’s blog.

If you’re looking to connect with other self-storage professionals, but have no desire to “tweet,” check out the Self-Storage Talk forum. Currently, we have 2,000 members trading stories, seeking and giving advice, and just, well, socializing. Trust me, you’ll be entertained—and educated—by our regular forum posters.

If you’re experimenting with social networking sites, tell us about it by posting a comment below. And if you're on Twitter, follow me. I'm Amyc17.
 

Service Matters! Eight Steps to Superior Customer Relations

As the wind of economic cycles blows hard, some businesses try to contain costs by cutting corners on customer service. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, because service matters now more than ever. Here's why:

Wiser spending. When people buy during an economic downturn, they are extremely conscious of the hard-earned money they spend. Customers want more attention, more appreciation and more recognition when making their purchases with you, not less.

More bang for the buck. Customers want to be sure they get maximum value for the money they spend. The basic product may remain the same, but they want more service.

A guarantee. Customers want firmer guarantees that their purchase was the right thing to do. In good times, a single bad purchase can be quickly overlooked or forgotten; but in tough times, every expenditure is scrutinized. Provide the assurance your customers seek with generous service guarantees, regular follow-up, and speedy follow-through on all queries and complaints.

Positive word-of-mouth. During a down economy, people talk more with each other about saving money and getting a good value. Positive word-of-mouth is a powerful force at any time. In difficult times, even more ears will be listening. Be sure the words spoken about your business are good ones! 

The Secrets of Superior Service

Giving good service in tough times makes good business sense. But how do you actually achieve it? Here are eight proven principles you can use.

1. Understand how your customers' expectations are rising and changing over time. What was good enough last year may not be good enough now. Use customer surveys, interviews and focus groups to understand what your customers really want, what they value, and what they believe they are getting (or not getting) from your business.

2. Use quality service to differentiate your business from competition. Your products may be reliable and up-to-date, but your competitors' are, too. Your delivery systems may be fast and user-friendly, but so are your competitors'! Make a lasting difference by providing personalized, responsive and extra-mile service that stands out in a unique way your customers will appreciate—and remember.

3. Set and achieve high service standards. You can go beyond basic and expected levels of service to provide your customers with desired and even surprising interactions. Determine the standard for service in your industry, and then find a way to go beyond it. Give more choice than “the usual,” be more flexible than “normal,” be faster than “the average,” and extend a better warranty than all the others.

Your customers will notice your higher standards. But eventually those standards will be copied by your competitors, too. So don't slow down. Keep stepping up!

4. Learn to manage your customers' expectations. You can't always give customers everything their hearts desire. Sometimes you need to bring their expectations into line with what you know you can deliver.

The best way to do this is by first building a reputation for making and keeping clear promises. Once you have established a base of trust and good reputation, you only need to ask your customers for their patience in the rare instances when you cannot meet their first requests. Nine times out of 10, they will extend the understanding and leeway you need.

The second way to manage customers' expectations is to under promise, then over deliver. Here's an example: You know your customer wants something done fast. You know it will take an hour to complete. Tell him you will rush on his behalf, but promise a 90-minute timeframe. When you finish in just one hour (as you knew you would all along), your customer will be delighted to find you finished the job so quickly.

5. Bounce back with effective service recovery. Sometimes things do go wrong. When it happens to your customers, do everything you can to set things right. Fix the problem and show sincere concern for any discomfort, frustration or inconvenience. Then do a little bit more by giving your customer something positive to remember—a token of goodwill, a gift of appreciation, a discount on a future sale, an upgrade to a higher class of product, etc.

6. Appreciate your complaining customers. Customers with complaints can be your best allies in building and improving your business. They point out where your system is faulty or your procedures are weak and problematic. They show where your products or services are below expectations. They point out areas where your competitors are getting ahead or where your staff is falling behind. These are the same insights and conclusions companies pay consultants to provide, but a complainer gives them to you free.

7. Take personal responsibility. In many organizations, people are quick to blame others for problems or difficulties at work: managers blame staff, staff blame managers, engineering blames sales, sales blames marketing, and everyone blames finance. This does not help. In fact, all the finger-pointing make things much worse.

The most reliable way to bring about constructive change in your company is to take personal responsibility and help make good things happen. When you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you see something that needs to be done in another department, recommend it. Be the person who makes suggestions, proposes new ideas and volunteers to help on problem-solving teams, projects and solutions.

8. See the world from each customer's point of view. We often get so caught up in our own world that we lose sight of what our customers actually experience. Make time to stand on the other side of the counter or listen on the other end of the phone. Be a “mystery shopper” at your own place of business. Or become a customer of your best competition. What you notice when you look from the other side is what your customers experience every day.

Finally, always remember that service is the currency that keeps our economy moving: “I serve you in one business, you serve me in another.” When either of us improves, the economy gets a little better. When both of us improve, people are sure to take notice. When everyone improves, the whole world grows stronger and closer together.

Use the eight principles above to build a superior service culture for your organization. The time to make it happen is now. 

Ron Kaufman is an international educator and motivator for uplifting customer service, partnerships and superior service culture. He is the author of the best-selling book series "UP Your Service!" and the 11-title inspirational book series "Lift Me Up!" As the founder of UP Your Service! College, his clients include government agencies and multi-nationals in every major industry. For more information, visit www.upyourservice.com.

Arkansas Governor Repeals Self-Storage Sales Tax

Last week, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed into law a bill that repeals the sales tax imposed on mini-warehouses and self-storage services, setting an important precedent for the self-storage industry. SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Glover, officially repeals the tax as of July 1, 2011.
 
The tax was enacted in 2004 to help pay for an overhaul of the state's public school system. Though the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said losing the tax would cost the state about $4.2 million a year, it was passed in the legislature with a 115-15 vote.

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Units Robbed at Southside Self Storage in Augusta

More than $7,000 in goods was stolen on Saturday from Southside Self Storage in Augusta, Ga. Among the tenants affected was Staff Sergeant Fontavian Weaver, whose unit was almost completely emptied. Even his Army uniform and equipment were taken. Locks were also removed from several other units. The facility managers told Weaver they are reviewing the security footage in hopes of spotting the suspects.
 
Source: WJBF-TV Augusta, Storage Unit Thefts Reported In Richmond County

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Budget Development Expands Self-Storage in North Carolina

Budget Development Partners opened a Budget Self Storage facility in Matthews, N.C. last month and has two more storage facilities under construction in Cornelius and Mooresville. In addition, the company plans to break ground on a mixed-use development in University City and is expanding its Fort Mill facility by 24,000 square feet. By the end of the year, Budget Development will have 15 facilities in the Charlotte region, up from 11 at the end of 2008.
 
Source: Charlotte Business Journal, Budget Development expanding self-storage footprint

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New CA Bill Addresses Disposal of Abandoned Records

To assist in identifying the appropriate course of action for the disposal of personal information, California lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill No. 1094. The issue of abandoned records has become one of growing concern for self-storage operators, who are experiencing a sharp increase in the number of units in default from businesses that store records containing consumer information.
 
Introduced by Assembly Member Connie Conway on Feb. 27, AB 1094 is an act to amend particular sections of the Civil Code that relate to personal information. The existing law requires that a business take all reasonable steps to destroy, or arrange for the destruction of, any customer’s records within its custody or control that it no longer intends to retain. Destruction can be achieved by shredding or erasing the information, or otherwise making it unreadable or undecipherable. AB 1094 requires that a business dispose of, or arrange for the disposal of, any individual’s records via these same methods.
 
In addition, the bill changes the punishment for violation of the provision. In the original code, a violation calls for “specified civil remedies.” The new bill calls for a violation to be punishable as a misdemeanor, imposing a state-mandated program.

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