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I Got a Job as a Self Storage Manager, Now What? Understanding Tenants and What to Expect From Your Position

You've landed a job as a self-storage facility manager, but do you know what to expect from the position? This article discusses the skills, traits and expectations that will help you understand customers, meet their needs, be effective in your role as manager, and more.

Mel Holsinger

October 12, 2010

5 Min Read
I Got a Job as a Self Storage Manager, Now What? Understanding Tenants and What to Expect From Your Position

Youve successfully navigated the interview and application process and its official: Youre about to become one of the nations thousands of skilled self-storage managers. Although you may be new to the industry, you most likely have some of the abilities and attributes necessary to function well in this business. But when it really gets down to it, what should you expect?

Self-storage managers must work with customers in a retail environment. Youll need to think on your feet, adapt quickly and be able to multi-task. This business is driven by need rather than want. In this setting, youll encounter people who expect to have their requirements fulfilled quickly and efficiently. Often in the throes of some life change, they may not always be in a good mood.

Youre dealing with people who have to move their possessions to your facility. They want their stuff protected and stored in a clean, safe, convenient location. In most cases, theyre using part of their disposable income to accommodate the transfer of goods. They may be going through a move, divorce, death in the family, job or career change, downsizing, or some other stressful event. They may be unhappy about their circumstances and, hence, their need for storage. Its your mission to give them a positive experience, make them feel good about their decision, and realize theyre receiving a benefit for what theyre spending with you.

Know Your Customers

Once on the job, the more you know about your customers, the more successful youll be. For example, if you know theyre going through a tough economic time in their life, you may want to pay particular attention to how they pay their rent. Are they going to be easy to get in touch with via a home phone number, cell number, e-mail or social-media account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Or are they hesitant to give out too much information?

Generally speaking, customers who want to share as much personal information as you ask for are those who understand and respect the need for communication. Theyre more likely to stay in touch, even if they have problems meeting their financial commitments. On the other hand, evasive people are more inclined to be late and less inclined to meet their obligations. Understanding what may be going on in the customers life, without being nosey, will pay dividends in the long run.

Meet Their Needs

Whats important to each customer will vary. Those most concerned about security (or the perception of security) generally have a real bond to the possessions theyre storing. Those who care more about price may have a lesser bond with their goods. Those most concerned about access (convenience) may be challenging the decisions theyve made about using storage. They could be thinking about getting rid of non-essential stuff and minimizing the clutter theyve created. Be aware of whats most important to each customer, and try to ensure they feel youre providing for their needs as best as possible.

Set Limits

Know your limits and how to make customers understand them. Once facility rules are established, with few exceptions, all tenants need to conform to them.

For example, you likely have set office and gate-access hours. If you allow people to abuse them, youll find yourself working more hours than planned. Youll be stressed out in short order, and become disgruntled with the situation. The same goes for customers who are delinquent. If you allow them to abuse your late-rent policy, youll quickly find yourself behind the eight ball with respect to collections, and its very hard to recover.

On the other hand, you want to accommodate customers within the guidelines so you can provide them with good customer service. Establish your rules and be reasonable, but be strong enough to enforce rules equally. This will ensure youre be respected by tenants, and your job will go much easier.

Learn to Adapt

Lastly, know you have a job in which every day will be different. Youll have to adapt quickly to diverse situations. While there will be slow times during the day, youll also be faced with numerous customers, challenges and circumstances, sometimes simultaneously. The ability to stay calm when youre overrun with people and problems, focus on the most important task at hand, and turn a bad situation into a positive is a virtue.

The most successful self-storage managers are those who genuinely smile often, get satisfaction from helping people, and understand that the main objective of the business is to make a profit. Managers who are not willing to adapt, compromise, adjust, negotiate or care about customers are usually not in the business long. If they do manage to stay, they dont generally outperform the other managers in their markets.

A managers best asset is usually his personality. A manager who shows respect to others, follows the rules, and is willing to go the extra mile for employers and customers generally does very well in this industry. If youre willing to approach the position with an open mind, can-do attitude, positive outlook, willingness to work toward, and ability to channel customers negative situations into positive facility experiences, youll be a manager success story.

Mel Holsinger is president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, which manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.proselfstorage.com.

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