Over the last 30 years technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. This major change started for consumers in the mid-1980s with the adoption of the personal computer. Fast forward 30 years and now technology is the epicenter of our daily lives. No longer are people forced to carry a cell phone that is the size of a brick or use a computer the size of a file cabinet. Consumers can now buy a refrigerator with internet access and HI FI speakers or control their home’s thermostat with a smart phone. In addition, communication is now almost instantaneous and that new smart phone in the store has more processing power then a personal computer had just 10 years ago. This new technology will open more doors for the self-storage industry than ever before. The ability to be in constant contact with customers, existing or potential, is an almost overwhelming wave of potential. The changes in customer service will revolve around three items, product quality, communication, and information storage.
As an owner/operator in the current market, you are facing an industry that is continuously changing. There was a time in the Self Storage industry where an owner/operator could construct three buildings with gravel driveways, institute little marketing, and increase occupancy quickly. That may still work in some areas but in the majority of markets increased competition, municipal regulations, and consumer expectations have forced the industry to change strategy. The most important aspect of managing your facility is customer service. Regardless of location, curb appeal, demographics, and the other indicators we all hold dear; a facility without great customer service will struggle. Optimizing your organization in three general areas will help your facility increase customer service. These areas are hiring, training, and services offered.
The person you choose to manage your investment will handle almost all facets of the facility’s operations and is one of the most important decisions you will make. This person will take care of your customers, handle the maintenance issues, and control deposits that can range from $20,000 per month to over $100,000 per month depending on the size of the facility and the market in which it operates. How do you hire a great manager? In every convention hall, luncheon, and gathering place for storage professionals, this question is one most often asked. First, hiring is not a science it is an art. Second, personality goes a long way. Finally, a candidate’s experience does not guarantee results.
When you start the search for someone to handle your investment, start by doing some investigative work. Visit the competition in your market and make notes of the things you liked and disliked about the managers operating these stores. Once you have some candidates review their resumes and invite them for an interview. Does the candidate give off a good feeling? Are they pleasant? Do they have a sense of humor? Do they know the market area? All of these are intangibles that raise a consumer’s comfort level, and if the consumer is comfortable, they will be more likely to rent from your facility. Along with intangibles, does the candidate have any skills? As the storage industry evolves, technology becomes a greater part of day-to-day operations. Does the candidate understand how to use a computer? Do they have any problems answering the phone or making delinquency calls? Are they able to handle minor accounting? All of these items are part of the makings of a successful manager and can affect the potential of your investment. You can train someone how to run a computer or clean a vacant unit, what you cannot train is intangibles such as personality, sense of humor, and attitude.
Once you have made the decision on who will comprise your management team, training this team becomes extremely important. Your training program should cover all of the day-to-day operations including, but not limited to, renting and vacating units, facility forms, delinquencies, maintenance schedules, accounting, and marketing. The facility should also have onsite a “Book of Forms”, a “Policy and Procedures Manual”, and a “Site Information Book”. The Book of Forms should include all the printed forms you facility needs on a day-to-day basis. Most current management software have forms built into the software, but copies should be in the facility office incase of emergencies. A Policy and Procedures manual should address items such as dress code, vacation time, and emergency procedures. An acknowledgement form should be signed by all of the managers employed by the site stating that the managers have read and understand all of the policies of the facility. Finally, the facility should have a Site Information book onsite. This book should include information about the site such as, a map of the facility with utility controls clearly marked, emergency contact numbers, vendor contact numbers, and directions to the bank and post office. This information will be vital if the owner/operator needs to run the site in case of an emergency.
Before your facility is under development, you should consider what type of services your facility will offer. In addition to Self Storage and RV storage, newer facilities are expanding the services they offer to consumers. Pack and mail type businesses, P.O. boxes, moving supplies, and business centers with conference rooms, computers with high speed internet access, fax machines, and projection machines are just a few of the new services that facilities are offering consumers. Along with some of these amenities, your office should consider offering a referral program. Referral programs tend to work well because some of your facility’s greatest fans already store with you. Work out some type of reward system for people who refer business to you. Some simple things you can do on site are to offer free bottles of water during the summer and hot chocolate and coffee during the winter.
Customer service is one item that can help make or break any facility. Before you acquire or develop your next facility plan ahead on factors such as hiring, training, and the services you plan to offer. People remember the small things, such as expediting issues with their account or offering a bottle of water when it is hot outside. Regardless of location, curb appeal, demographics, and the other indicators we all hold dear; a facility without great customer service will struggle.
Cutting Edge Self Storage Management & Consulting is a full service management company specializing in Management, Feasibility Studies, Consulting, and Joint Ventures within the self storage industry. For more information, contact Matthew Van Horn at
(772)-370-1273 or visit our website at www.cuttingedgeselfstorage.com.