As self-storage providers, we’re always looking for ways to connect with our customers where they are. Today’s consumer wants an easy, mobile-friendly way to inquire about available storage units and current rates. And he would prefer to do it without having to talk to anyone.
A research report from technology firm Aberdeen Group discovered that live chat was by far the preferred method of communication for online shoppers. This is especially true for young people who’ve grown up texting as their main form of communiqué rather than voice-to-voice conversations.
There are several other reasons why live chat might be a good idea for your storage business. Let’s explore them.
Chat is quickly becoming the preferred method of first communication among customers. This is because they can get immediate feedback to their questions without feeling like they’re going to get pressured to buy like they might over the phone.
“I think people are intimidated to get on the phone with a sales rep and ask about pricing or process questions too early because they don’t want to get hard-sold when they’re just fact-finding,” says Katie Meurin, marketing director for ZCO Corp., a mobile-app development company. “Live chat allows them to get answers with no delay, but also gives them the ‘out’ of being able to sign on and off chat as they please.”
Customers get the best of both worlds: the opportunity to communicate with a live person while still being able to control the situation. They’re also able to do other things while on chat. According to digital-marketing firm Econsultancy, 51 percent of customers prefer live chat because it allows them to multi-task during the conversation.
Potential Expense Reduction
One of the best benefits of live chat is it can reduce a self-storage facility’s expenses. Store managers can juggle other tasks while chatting with a customer. They can also manage multiple chat sessions if needed. A study by market-research company Forrester Research shows that live-chat service is 17 percent to 30 percent cheaper than using the phone.
Increased Sales Conversions
Across most industries, the effectiveness of live chat in the conversion process has been proven time and time again. A case study featuring Jerome’s Furniture in Southern California showed its conversion rate was 10 times higher for customers who used chat.
West Coast Self-Storage recently initiated live chat to engage with potential customers. The company found that of those who inquired about rate and availability, the conversion is close to 90 percent. It also found that customers are using chat to inquire about a range of other things such as insurance, location and cancellation policies.
“Our chat program has been successful because our customers are able to use it to ask quick questions rather than picking up the phone,” says Grant Runyon, Internet sales associate for West Coast. In January 2018 alone, the company logged more than 300 chat sessions.
One last thing to consider is how many of your local competitors are using chat. The answer is probably very few. Chat is seen as a “big-player” tool, but the fact is it isn’t expensive. According to Business.com, the average cost of a single license on a basic plan ranges from $20 to $40 per month. Many software vendors also have free trial periods that can be as long as 30 days.
The key is to look for a provider that offers additional features such as proactive chat, predefined (canned) responses, and visitor information such as geolocation, IP address, referrer links, time on the website and number of visits. It should also offer chat statistics like quantity, performance, handle times and chat-to-sale conversion (e-commerce goals). You’ll also want a program that easily integrates into your Web platform and works on mobile.
Adding live chat to your methods of customer communication should be a no-brainer. For a relatively low monthly fee and no need for additional staffing, you can quickly answer your customers questions and, hopefully, convert them into storage customers.
Derek Hines is a writer for West Coast Self-Storage, a self-storage management, acquisitions and development company with facilities in California, Oregon and Washington. He writes extensively on all subjects related to self-storage. For more information, visit www.westcoastselfstorage.com.