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The Importance of Collecting Customer Data to Self-Storage Facility Success

A self-storage operator's ability to collect customer data can greatly affect the success of the business in the long term. This article discusses how and why facility owners and managers should be collecting information from tenants.

April 3, 2010

4 Min Read
The Importance of Collecting Customer Data to Self-Storage Facility Success

As I write this article, the 2010 Winter Olympics are taking place in Vancouver―the biggest sporting event in Canadian history. The Vancouver Olympic Committee must have submitted an impressive presentation to the review board to illustrate that the city would be the ideal location. I wonder about the type of information they collected and how they got it.

Vancouver began its bid to host the games nearly 15 years ago. Country officials collected data for a long time to become the successful bidder. Would they have won if they hadn’t gathered sufficient information? Did other cities lose their bids because they were not as diligent? What does this have to do with storage?

A self-storage facility doesn’t really compare to the Olympics, but the process of winning the bid demonstrates how you too can effectively manage your time and gather data for greater industry success. This article discusses how and why you should be collecting information from tenants. To complete your due diligence, you’ll need to ask a lot of questions―and record all of the answers.

Record All Activity

I often hear managers talking about their net occupancy and how much revenue they’re bringing in, but this information has nothing to do with the future success of the company. The tenant you rented to today will eventually move out. You need to be concerned about how you’ll rent that unit again. What type of marketing will attract your next customer? What size unit will that customer need? Do you have all the features he wants?

Tracking this information can be difficult, and you’ll need to ask a lot of questions. This can be a challenging task but, if done accurately, it can bring many future rewards. For example, if there are plans for facility expansion, you’ll have a more accurate measure of what your unit mix should be. You’ll know what features are in demand, and how to improve your operation to be more appealing in your market. You’ll learn what marketing resources are effective, and see how efficient you and your sales staff are in closing prospects.

So many owners want to know when a manager rents a unit so they can compare it to how much they’ve spent on advertising. This allows them to estimate how much it costs to get that customer to call, and how many prospects are needed to justify advertising dollars. The problem is too many managers will not record all the activity. Some will only document the rentals or prospects who seem like they’re going to rent. The prospects who call and hang up after quickly getting a quote are rarely recorded. This negatively impacts facility data and may keep you from getting the “Olympic Games.”

As a manager, you need to record all inquiries. This will help you determine what needs to be improved to turn quick inquiries into greater prospects. Don’t be afraid to make notes for each caller. If one rushes you and quickly hangs up, make that note. At the end of each day or week, you can look at your notes and see how many customers let you sell your facility and how many got what they asked for and walked away. 

Collecting Data

What data do you need? You should get the prospect’s name and contact info (including an e-mail address, if available), what unit size he needs, what he plans to store, when he needs storage and for how long, and if he will need a truck or moving services. Most important, ask how the prospect heard about the facility. It’s not always easy to ask all of these questions, but the information is invaluable if you can collect it.

Don’t be afraid to show that you’re only closing 10 percent to 20 percent of prospects. What you should fear is a failure to collect accurate data. If you’re not successful with a good portion of phone calls, it could mean you need more training.

If your activity log shows you’re closing most prospects, the owner may not feel additional training and the associated cost is necessary. However, training could help you learn how to effectively record activity.

Proper tracking may be the key to smarter growth. Could your operation expand by 50 percent? As a manager of a successful facility, you can be the owner’s most valuable asset. If you can record detailed information and turn it into growth, your value will increase with the company’s. Now it’s starting to sound like something that may be worth your time and effort!

Cory Parrow is a manager with Your Storage Team, a consulting firm based in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. He has more than 13 years experience in developing and managing storage facilities. As a licensed realtor, he assists customers in acquiring new facilities and finding exit strategies when selling facilities. For more information, call 519.868.1982; e-mail [email protected].

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