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Be a Better Communicator! Ways for Self-Storage Managers to Sharpen Their Verbal and Written Skills

Communication is the cornerstone of successful business transactions, but it can be tricky to navigate around differing personalities and circumstances. As a self-storage manager, you need to communicate effectively with customers, coworkers, supervisors and facility owners. Need a little help? Here are some ways to sharpen your verbal and written skills.

Cassie Dodgen

April 5, 2022

6 Min Read
Ways for Self-Storage Managers to Sharpen Their Communication Skills

Communication isn’t always easy, but if you’re a self-storage facility manager, it’s essential for successful business transactions. In addition to interacting with customers, you likely have daily exchanges with your supervisor and other team members, possibly even the property owner. It can be difficult to deal with everyone’s unique personalities and communication styles. Still, if you want to excel in your position, being an effective communicator is necessary. Following are some ways to improve your verbal and written skills.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is vital in the self-storage industry. You use it when you speak to prospects, tenants, coworkers and superiors. A great example is explaining a lease to a new customer. To ensure the exchange is successful, you must pay attention to conversational cues. Generally understood by both parties, these physical responses—sometimes silent, sometimes audible—provide clues to how a person is responding to information.

For example, they might nod or shake their head, or make a noise that indicates agreement or disagreement. If you break bad news to a person, they may take a deep breath, which lets you know they’re processing and possibly feeling upset about what they just heard. These are normal forms of body language we all naturally produce while feeling certain emotions. Of course, these things may be more obvious in person than on the phone; but even on the phone, you can take cues from the other person. Sometimes tone or even silence can tell you a lot about how the conversation is going.

When speaking to your self-storage customers, the goal is to listen, learn and respond. Typically, we listen to someone with an idea of our response before they’ve even finished their sentence or story. Instead, focus on what’s being said and provide signals of affirmation. The occasional nod or short “OK” during the conversation tells the speaker they still have your attention, and you understand what they’re saying.

When it’s time for you to answer, confidence and tone make all the difference in how your message is received. You’re the self-storage professional and have the power to provide information or resolve the customer’s issue, even if you need to get someone else involved. Attention to their needs will make customers feel important and well cared-for.

Of course, when speaking to your supervisor, your verbal communication style should be a bit different. In some cases, rather than providing information or help, you’re the one seeking guidance. It can also be intimidating to speak to your boss. You know their time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste it or feel like your questions aren’t important. Keep in mind they may have no clue about the situation you’re facing and are just hearing about it for the first time. Maintaining a professional posture and stating the facts clearly will typically get you an answer the quickest.

Just don’t forget to ask the specific question you need answered! It’s easy to get caught up in explaining the details of a situation and never get to the specific issue you need addressed, for example: “Do I waive the late fee or not?” “What do I need to do next?” “What do you think I should work on in my position?” Remember, too, that your tone and posture contribute to the effectiveness of the conversation, so relay your message in the manner you truly intend to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

Written Communication

Written communication can be more difficult than verbal, as there are no physical cues to identify how the message is received. The way in which it’s interpreted is truly up to the eyes and mind of the reader. For example, a simple “OK” can be interpreted in many ways. Even if we write the exact same words in an email or letter as we would say in person, the message is rarely perceived the same way.

When communicating with your self-storage customers or coworkers in writing, make sure the message you want to convey—including the emotion behind it—is clear, simple and understandable. You want to come across as open and helpful, without frustrating the reader with complicated information.

If a customer is upset, responding with pure facts and no empathy isn’t the best way to calm them down or open them up to truly hear your response in the tone you intend. Simple statements like, “I understand where you’re coming from,” or “This is what I’m going to do for you” show you’re listening and that you’re going to try to help. You want to convey that your willingness to assist is because you can and because care, not just because it’s your job.

It’s also important to avoid using words and phrases that are vague or could be interpreted in more than one way. For example, if a customer asks you to help them change the mailing address associated with their account, don’t just respond with “OK.”  What does that mean exactly? OK, I’ve received your message? OK, I’ll help you? What happens next? Instead, write something like, “I’ll be happy to help you update your mailing address. Please fill out the attached form, and I’ll take care of that for you right away.”

Also, remember that whatever emotional state your reader is in when they get your message is the tone they’ll hear in their mind when reading it. You can’t control that, but it helps if you use friendly, unambiguous verbiage.

Pleasantness and Positivity

Sometimes, effective communication in self-storage boils down to attitude. Whether you’re speaking to someone verbally or in writing, use phrases and gestures that convey positive intentions. For example, you might say something like:

  • “How can I help you?”

  • “You are absolutely right.”

  • “I will be happy to take care of this for you.”

Use a pleasant, expressive tone. Smile and make eye contact. A smile comes across even on the phone! Assume a relaxed posture—no crossed arms, which can tell the other person you’re upset or unwilling to listen.

Chances are you’re already a mindful interpreter of communication. Think about the last time you bought something in a store. The main job of the checkout associate is to give you your purchase total and process your payment. It’s a simple task, but you can likely tell if that person is happy or unhappy, friendly or rude, new or experienced. This isn’t because of anything they told you. It’s because you picked up on the cues they used when interacting with you in the short time it took to check out.

Think about your interactions with self-storage customers, coworkers and superiors and how these groups perceive you. What are you doing to ensure a positive experience, and how do you get that same feeling across in verbal or written communication?

The good news is we can always change our communication style. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had an unsuccessful conversation with someone. The next time you see or email them, you can try to behave differently and do better. Each interaction is separate and unique to the moment, so try and try again. Communication is something we all have to do well if we want to succeed, so work on your verbal and written skills to be the best communicator you can.

Cassie Dodgen is president of operations for Pinnacle Storage Managers, the third-party management platform of Pinnacle Storage Properties. Her 10 years of industry experience includes acquisitions, development, operations, multi-store leadership and maintaining excellent company culture. Her career has included manning a single site to running several multi-million-dollar businesses. For more information, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Cassie Dodgen

Owner and Operator, Monarch Republic LLC

Cassie Dodgen is owner and operator of Monarch Republic LLC, where her responsibilities include strategic leadership, facility operation, accounting, human resources and marketing. She also implements new projects and ideas to stay competitive with self-storage industry standards. For more information, email [email protected].

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