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Analyst Downgrades Public Storage, Stocks Drop

This week a Wells Fargo analyst downgraded real estate investment trust Public Storage Inc., saying income growth for the self-storage sector will trail a jobs recovery by six to nine months. In a note to investors, Jeffrey Donnelly said net operating income could stay weak into 2010, cutting his rating on Public Storage to "Market Perform" from "Outperform," and cutting his estimates for funds from operations from $1.28 to $1.24 per share for the third quarter and from $1.27 to $1.22 per share for the fourth quarter.
 
Shares of the Glendale, Calif.-based self-storage operator dropped $3.14 to $68.35 in Monday afternoon trading.
 
Source: Forbes, Public Storage shares drop after downgrade

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Morningstar Mini-Storage Hosts Backpack Brigade

Morningstar Mini-Storage of Fayetteville, N.C., hosted Operation Homefront's Backpack Brigade, a school-supply giveaway for military families, on Aug. 14.
 
Operation Homefront is a national non-profit organization providing support to families of active-duty servicemembers. The annual Backpack Brigade, hosted by the organization’s 30 chapters, collects and distributes backpacks, notebooks, pens, markers, calculators and other supplies to families in need. This year, more than 15,000 stuffed backpacks will be distributed.  
 
Morningstar facility manager Chris Wyatt donated a self-storage unit to the group and hosted the local event, providing refreshments, face painting, Morningstar pencils and balloons, and free roller-skating passes for the rink next door. By 10 a.m., more than 100 people stood in line to receive their supplies. A news report about the event was aired on local TV station News 14, and a write-up was published in a local newspaper. Wyatt said he has already rented six units as a direct result of the event exposure.

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U-Store-It Chooses Centershift Software for its National Network

National self-storage operator U-Store-It Trust has chosen Store Enterprise software by Centershift Inc. to manage rentals made through its new nationwide network of facilities. The Store software will allow U-Store-It to share reservation and lead data with its network partners in a secure environment. Facilities that currently use Store version 3.1 will be able to seamlessly integrate with U-Store-It online reservations.
 
Store software delivers real-time data to tenants, call centers, kiosks, reservation and payment systems, operational reports, and integrated accounting systems.
 
The nationwide U-Store-It Network was developed to support customers the company reaches through its marketing but cannot directly serve with one of its own locations. Network facilities, which are independently owned and operated, do not compete with U-Store-It sites.
 
U-Store-It, a real estate investment trust, owns 383 self-storage facilities nationwide and supports 306 third-party locations as part of its network.
 
Based in Salt Lake City, Centershift is a provider of Web-based self-storage management software.

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Self Storage Association Moves to New Headquarters

Next month the Self Storage Association will move into a new headquarters in Alexandria, Va., right across the street from its old one. The non-profit organization has signed a five-year contract for 3,500 square feet of office space at a 30 percent rent reduction, as the new location has less usable space. A moving allowance was also included in the new lease package.
 
Indianapolis-based Duke Realty owns both buildings and represented itself in the transaction. Nate Crowe and Mike Norris of Scheer Partners Inc. represented the SSA.
 
Source: Washington Business Journal, Self Storage Association packs into new HQ

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Deadline Approaches for Refund on SD Self-Storage Sales Tax

This week the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation reminded self-storage customers and business owners that the deadline to file for self-storage sales-tax refunds is approaching. The deadline for customers is Sept. 15. The deadline for facility owners is Oct. 1.  
 
In December, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that gross receipts from self-storage rentals are no longer subject to sales tax, though taxes had been collected for several years. Under Senate Bill 42, passed earlier this year, those who paid sales tax on self-storage rentals are entitled to a refund. However, claims received after the appropriate deadline will not be considered.
 
Customers should request a refund directly from the self-storage facility at which they rented while tax was collected. Facility owners should request a refund from the Department of Revenue and Regulation. Refund forms were sent to self-storage businesses believed to be eligible in April.
 
For information on who is eligible and how to apply for the tax refund, contact the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation at [email protected] 800.829.9188.
 
Source: Brandon Valley Challenger, Deadline to apply for mini-storage refunds approaching

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OpenTech Assembles Self-Storage Call-Center Staff

OpenTech Alliance Inc. of Phoenix recently hired Cynthia Abraham to manage its new INSOMNIAC Live! self-storage call center, which opened on Aug. 1. Abraham previously worked as an executive manager for Online Self Storage (CallMaximizer), where she was responsible for contact-center operation.
 
Abraham has recruited an experienced team of call-center agents to assist her, including Nathan Fleischer, who will oversee agent recruiting, training and management. Fleischer has more than 12 years of experience in adult education, training, quality and management. He is a specialist in call-center employee recruitment, development, retention and management. He previously worked as a leader in employee training for AOL and as director of training and quality for CallMaximizer.
 
Also hired were call-center supervisors Sue Hurt and Carrie Valadez.

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ISS Blog

Are You Following Good Practices Regarding Your Tenants' Privacy?

A lively health care debate was happening on Self-Storage Talk, even before all of the disrupted town hall meetings began across the country last week. A hot topic for all of us, and undoubtedly the final resolution will leave some unhappy; but there is something you can do on a one-on-one basis: speak up!

Another hot topic on the forum is customer service and what is thought to be the correct amount and when things go too far. I'd like to share a personal story about my own experience with these two topics.

I recently received medical attention in an emergency room. I was referred to a specialist, so I made the appointment and the day arrived. It was a 25-minute drive to the doctor’s office. When the appointment was made, the doctor’s assistant said she would obtain my ER records for the doctor to review and evaluate before my appointment.

I arrived early and filled out all of the prerequisite paperwork regarding patient confidentiality. What ensued was the absolute worst case of customer service and privacy violation I have ever experienced in my life. 

As I waited—and waited—I listened as two office staff members took calls from patients. Each time they were curt, bordering on rude with the patients on the telephone, but what shocked me the most was the snide, ridiculing comments they made about each person once they hung up the telephone.

As privacy goes, I was able to remember details such as telephone numbers, medical conditions, names and even a medication and dosage discussion regarding one patient. Meanwhile one gal was giving out my own personal information to several people over the telephone trying to locate my ER test results. Huh? Wait a minute, she’s calling for what?! I’ve already been sitting in the office for 45 minutes!

The assistant determined my records were lost but still attempts to call me into the exam room. I stood up for myself and all of the patients whose information I was now privy too and said, “No.”

I explained that I was more than aware of my personal situation but what I had just witnessed and listened to was not the type of health care and customer service I was going to spend my dollars on. How could the doctor make an informed recommendation with nothing to go on? In addition, my private information has been disseminated to a half dozen strangers as well.

I followed up with a two-page letter to the physician detailing many private details about his patients that I should not know. I noted how his staff was representing him, his image, his competency and his practice, and in my humble opinion were I in his shoes I’d be mortified.  

The doctor was given 10 days to write me back via the U.S. Postal Service to confirm my records in his office have been destroyed and that I would not be receiving any charges from his office. As I write this blog entry it is within the 10-day window, so we’ll have to wait and see what transpires.
 
I would encourage everyone to be sure you're following good practices regarding your customer’s privacy. Are yours and your customers’ dollars being well spent? Are you providing a high level of customer service? Just like there's always another physician, there is another storage facility down the road and our customers can and will take their business and hard-earned dollars elsewhere. I know I did.

Share your own customer service horror stories by posting a comment below or join the discussion at Self-Storage Talk.

 

Self-Storage Operating Performance in Springfield, Ill.

The economy in the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of Springfield, Ill., has evolved over the years, shifting to and from various industry sectors. In the recent past, the city’s economic base has again shifted; but instead of transitioning to a new industry, it has diversified into smaller, less concentrated segments.

The makeup of Springfield’s economy, both in size and scope, now contains a broad mix of public and private employers, which has helped to develop more opportunities for business owners and employees. The largest industry outside of the public sector is healthcare, and the two largest private employers are hospitals, with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine among the top players. Springfield is also home to several large back-office operations for national insurance, telecommunications and technology firms.

The accompanying charts demonstrate demographic, supply and operating statistics for the first quarter of 2009.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Self Storage Data Services Inc. publishes the ISS Flash Report, the Self-Storage Performance Index and other statistical data on self-storage operation. The company also reports on supply-and-demand factors affecting the industry. For more information, call 626.304.2920; visit www.ssdata.net.

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INSOMNIAC Live! Self-Storage Call Center

OpenTech Alliance Inc. opened its new INSOMNIAC Live! self-storage call center in Phoenix on Aug. 1. The company expects the center, currently manned by 12 employees, to serve more than 350 self-storage facilities and employ an additional 20 to 30 call-center agents by the end of the year. OpenTech is also backing the service with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
 
The call center offers services including Live! TotalCalls, Live! Rollover and Live! AfterHours. Live! Megan, designed for self-storage operations with kiosks, is included free of charge for call-center subscribers or can be purchased separately. The service allows a call-center agent to remotely control a self-storage kiosk, having a two-way conversation with―and even seeing―the customer. In the future, it will include two-way video conferencing, providing face-to-face customer service.
 
OpenTech has also developed LiveAgent!, a call-center software designed specifically for self-storage. The application will not only operate the INSOMNIAC Live! call center, it will soon be available to storage operators who want to run their own internal call center. The program is integrated with the INSOMNIAC Self Storage Network, providing call-center agents with real-time unit inventory, pricing and facility information and allowing them to process a rental, reservation or payment directly into the property-management system at each network facility.
 
OpenTech also provides six models of self-storage kiosks ranging in price from $9,000 to $18,000.

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Door to Door Storage Buys Former Big Box Franchisee

Door to Door Storage Inc. bought the container assets and customer agreements of WP Inc., the former Big Box Storage franchisee based in Denver. Based in Kent, Wash., Door to Door has had a Denver presence since January 2006. The company, founded in 1996, provides temporary or long-term mobile-storage options as well as moving services for residential and commercial customers. It has operations in more than 20 U.S. markets.
 
Source: Denver Business Journal, Door to Door Storage expands with buy

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