The self-storage landscape has become inundated with choices. It’s no longer enough to rely on unique selling points or brand strength. facility operators must now sell an experience—and it begins with the business relationship with the customer. Markets with competition are under pressure to provide the best customer experience (CX) possible, whereas markets with less pressure are often guilty of some of the worse service experiences.
If you aren’t sure what CX is, think about the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your company across every stage of his journey. Multiple touchpoints certainly factor in, and these occur on a cross-functional basis. To encourage standardization and meet consumer demand, CX has become increasingly automated.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is the technology lever in business performance that can extend operations by automating many tasks, thus improving the CX. Let’s see how it works.
Paths and Triggers
Mapping your business logic to the natural customer journey will allow you to deliver a CX that’s always reliable and on-brand. After your customer paths have been identified, you can create marketing campaigns that’ll be automatically triggered based on pre-determined rules.
Following our buyer journey to purchase, we discover that speed to follow up is a crucial component to securing the rental, and so we standardize that process. By designing a contact strategy and mapping out all the communication and copy ahead of time, we systemize our best assets. A follow-up campaign can then be triggered based on actions such as a form being submitted by the prospect or a lead created by a manager. The marketing source and medium that drove the lead will determine the templated actions triggered within the process.
For instance, let’s say a customer submits an inquiry form through our website. This will trigger an automated cascade of communication that might include an immediate e-mail containing facility information, then a text message asking if the customer is still interested in renting a unit, followed by a scheduled task for a manual follow-up call from a facility manager. As this process is pre-determined and automated, you’re guaranteed to provide the right CX for that specific buyer journey.
Integration is the key to creating an experience that leaves your customers feeling like your service was created just for them. An approach based on an application program interface can synchronize information seamlessly between systems, like your CRM technology and facility-management software. When your CRM platform knows the entire customer journey—the ads he’s clicked, the conversations he’s had, the products he’s purchased, his billing situation, etc.—it makes a huge difference to the CX.
CRM platforms are the technology powerhouse you may have never even known you needed. They ensure every interaction exceeds expectations without extra manual effort. Using a bi-directional integration with your property-management software, tenant and lead details are available. In an age where it’s crucial to create personalized experiences for each person’s unique needs, intelligent routing streamlines your support process to delight customers.
The Critical Importance of Follow-Up
Automated communication tools are key to extending and systematizing your self-storage operation. Text messaging for various activities, including sales follow-up and collections, have been pivotal in renting units faster and collecting payment sooner. By focusing on our CX, we’ve identified areas where technology can augment our efforts.
Following up with prospects is of the utmost importance. Recently, self-storage technology provider CallPotential called 700 of the industry’s top facility operators as part of a wide-scale mystery shop. The shoppers were instructed to call the store and leave a voicemail saying they were coming to town next weekend and interested in receiving information on a 10-by-10 unit. Of those “top operators,” only 7 percent actually followed up with the lead. Only 2 percent called back more than once.
How frustrating would that be to a potential tenant, to make the effort to seek out services and have the business not even return the call? The bottom line is people want to spend money and are often unable to do so due to a poor CX. Most of these self-storage operators referenced above had follow-up protocols that weren’t executed. It isn’t enough to assume follow-up is being done. There should be checks and balances in place to ensure interested leads aren’t being turned away.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to rent and ensure no one is forgotten or left behind. Increasing the lead-to-rental conversion rate means we need fewer leads, which equals a lower marketing spend. By employing tracking phone numbers and an automated follow-up system, we ensure every lead is captured and worked to peak efficiency. A higher rental-conversion rate means we need fewer leads, saving our marketing budget for truly profitable campaigns.
Since you know who your typical self-storage callers are, a CRM platform with an integrated VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) system allows for tremendous personalization capabilities. Logic-based call routing features allow an existing customer to have a different experience than a prospect. Your system can be standardized to automatically route any new customers to a team member who specializes in closing the sale. An inbound call from a current tenant with past-due status can be sent to a secure pay-by-phone system, completely bypassing the site manager. Each experience is customized and standardized based on the individual.
Here’s another example. If a tenant misses a payment, it’s generally due to one of two circumstances: He’s short on funds or just plain forgot. Either way, a well-designed reminder campaign using a variety of texts, e-mails, and live and recorded calls will prompt him and keep you top-of-mind come payday. Using the customer’s preferred communication channel with easy access to payment options is the ultimate in tenant convenience with the double benefit of reducing bad debt.
Customization allows you to communicate whatever message you want. On the day rent is due, a payment reminder can be automatically sent out in whatever channels you build into your strategy. Whether it’s a text, e-mail or phone call, you can deliver a personalized, relevant message. If a payment still isn’t made, a message in a different communication channel goes out at whatever time you desire. Incorporating autopay sign-ups into this process helps make strides into automating billing. Autopay equals consistent and predictable cash flow and provides another tenant convenience.
The use of CRM technology allows you to deliver a truly thoughtful and impactful CX that’ll result in raving fans, positive reviews and an avalanche of new business for your self-storage operation. It’s worthwhile to explore how to leverage this valuable tool.
Holly Fiorello is director of marketing for CallPotential, provider of a CRM and communication platform that integrates with self-storage property-management software to produce insight, transparency and control into operations. She specializes in marketing, technology and social media. She’s also a senator of the Self-storage Association’s Young Leader’s Group. For more information, call 877.552.2557; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.callpotential.com.