With 2019 underway, many self-storage operators are wondering, “What’s next?” We’re already meeting our customers’ needs, even in this Age of the Consumer. We’re talking their language and meeting them on all their preferred channels: e-mail, phone, live chat, social media and others. We’ve learned to adapt to how, when and where they want our products and services. So … What’s next?
Today’s consumers can hail a ride or operate their home appliances from their smartphone, order a pizza by pushing a button on their shoe, and rent a storage unit online without ever speaking a word to anyone. The future isn’t coming, folks. It. Is. Here.
The Many to the One
Multi-channel communication allows you to converse with customers through as many channels as your company supports. For most self-storage operators, this means in person at the store, via e-mail and on the phone. Some operators also use live website chat and one-way text messaging. Bonus points if you run your social media in-house and have a “responsive” badge on your profiles!
Text messaging has proven to be one of the most effective channels, with a 98 percent read rate within two minutes. Some operators think this mode of communication is too informal for business correspondence, but consumers disagree. When Twilio, a cloud-communications platform, surveyed 6,000 consumers worldwide, 89 percent said they’d like to use text messaging to communicate with companies. So, why are some storage operators still struggling with whether use text messaging?
Unfortunately, many feel a bit frazzled and disconnected in a multi-channel world, which can hinder their adoption of a new channel regardless of how effective it may be. Companies around the world have felt the same growing pains. However, operating in siloed programs is dysfunctional to a customer-service organization. When notes from calls, e-mails, in-person visits, etc., are kept separately, it creates confusion and frustration for employees and, worse, clients. One of the top complaints of customers is they must repeat themselves over and over as they’re handed from one service representative to the next.
The brightest organizations have solved issue by switching to an omnichannel platform. Omnichannel communication integrates all channels into a single program and interface. A customer can send a message through Facebook Messenger, another through text message and even an e-mail through his mail client of choice, and the facility manager can respond through the client’s preferred channel, never interrupting the conversation. All correspondence is logged, recorded and tied to that customer within the property-management software.
Headaches be gone; all channels are united! Omnichannel communication unifies every channel so as not to disrupt the customer’s journey. We have the tools. Now, let’s use them.
Texting Your Customers
Now that we’ve addressed the concern of juggling multiple channels by unifying them in an omnichannel platform, let’s identify some ways you can implement text messaging.
During the quote/interview process. During a live call or even a live chat, if the prospect isn’t yet ready to rent, ask if you can send him a text message with the information you just discussed. Now he has the unit rate, suggested size, and potentially even the directions to your facility immediately available on his phone. If he needs to consult another decision-maker, the details are on hand.
During follow-up. The prospect said she was going to move in on Thursday but was a no-show. Sending a quick text, either manually or as part of a pre-designed follow-up workflow, is an easy way to check in. Try something as simple as, “Hey, Judy, I was just checking in to see if you still need that 10-by-10? I can hold it for you if you think you can make it in today.” This is a lot better than making a phone call and stumbling through small talk.
After move-in. Think you rocked the move-in process? Pre-templated text messages can be automatically scheduled to thank your new tenant and request a review on the channel of your choice. Include a direct URL to the review portal and watch the positive feedback fly in!
When rent is past-due. One of the most effective uses of texting is sending automated rent reminders. A message that automatically goes when an account is delinquent, including a pay-bill link, will dramatically reduce your past-due rent and number of units that go into lien status. If a tenant hasn’t paid, it’s usually because he forgot or doesn’t have the money. If he forgot, a quick text is a gentle reminder. If he’s short on funds, staying top-of-mind will ensure you receive payment as soon as possible.
During move-out. When the rental has come to an end, schedule a pre-formatted text message thanking your customer for his business and providing pertinent move-out info. Does he need to sweep his unit? Turn in his lock? A reminder about these things is always welcome.
Using text messages as part of an omnichannel communication strategy allows you to efficiently and effectively communicate with your tenants all through the customer journey. Scheduling messages ahead of time relieves stress for managers and tenants while also elevating your operation.
Holly Fiorello is director of marketing for self-storage operator Next Door Self Storage and CallPotential, a provider of an omnichannel cloud-communication platform and customer-relationship management platform that integrates with facility-management software to automate and enhance the sales process. Its software handles lead management, automated follow-up, and call recording and monitoring. For more information, call 877.552.2557; visit www.callpotential.com.