Picture this: It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon in early fall, and your potential tenant – who has never needed storage before – decides to redo the floors in their home.
How many storage facilities do they think of when they meet with the installer and realize that everything must be out of their house for two solid weeks?
The answer is likely to be one, and they may not even know the name of the facility. In their mind, it’s very likely to be “the one by my house”. This is what storage looks like for someone who isn’t looking!
The question then becomes; How do you acquire that potential tenant instead of any of the other facilities in your area?
In a word, it’s touch! Touch drives the entire customer experience from the moment they decide they need storage all the way through every interaction, up to and including move-out, and beyond.
Some touches will be technical. Your website is going to be a big part of the first interaction that you have with this tenant. Be sure you’re utilizing search engine optimization tools and, depending on the market, potentially even paid advertising to be sure your facility shows up in every search. It also means making sure that your social media ties to your website and that you’re encouraging as many reviews of your company as you can! The goal of the website is more than just pretty pictures and some vague information. If you’re using this to touch your potential tenant, you’ll want specific details about your facility, answers to the most frequently asked questions, and perhaps even a functional rental feature as well as features intended to allow your existing tenants to help themselves. All of these things work together to help the potential tenant find you, choose you, and rent with you.
Then again, some of your touches will be live. Even if you have the best website in the world, if a caller can’t visualize how big a 10 x 10 storage unit is, they’re going to pick up the phone and call the facility. If your facility is staffed and available to help that caller, great! But if your manager is unavailable at that moment, the call is outside of your business hours, or your facility is one of the growing number of locations that are running with fewer staff members, you may not have anyone available to handle that call. But even if that is the case, you absolutely don’t want to miss that opportunity to rent.
So how do you get that tenant? You use all of the tools available to you in order to make sure that prospective tenants’ questions are answered by using all the technical resources at your disposal, and by utilizing your staff and supplementing when they aren’t available for live touches when needed to make sure that nothing gets past you!
Some of the technical features you want to consider are size estimating tools with pictures and descriptions on your website. Many of the website developers in the self-storage industry routinely include that information. It’s also available as a standalone product from developers who specialize in that exact feature and can create interactive tools that allow your prospective tenant to select their exact items to be stored, from dining/bedroom/living room furniture to boxes, and even include presets for a certain size of house. Remember that potential tenant who is redoing their floors? They can select “3 bedroom home” from the available options and determine the best size.
Also consider allowing full rentals over the phone or on your website rather than just “reservations”. The self-storage industry is beginning to move past the “I need to see it up close in order to know if I want to rent there” mindset, and into the “I have a smart-phone in my hand, and I can do this right now” mindset. Of course, there is still every phase in between, so the goal is to help as many as you can using whatever method makes sense for your potential tenant. You want to rent now, online? Great. Have a question and want to speak with someone to check on a detail? Fantastic. While it isn’t possible to be all things to all people, you can certainly make yourself available in as many ways as possible!
Reading reviews from self-storage facilities is one way to get a glimpse into how your customers think, and the things that are important to them. Check out the online reviews written not only about your facility, but others as well! You’ll quickly see that words like “customer service”, “communication”, “safe”, “clean”, and “easy to reach” factor heavily into those – and that’s true whether the review is 5-stars or 1-star! If that’s the case, then it stands to reason that when you’re planning for your business, these are the keywords that you will want build into how you operate, what services you offer, and the companies that you partner with to make it happen effectively.
The very best storage operators know that their experience begins from drive by, so they make sure the facility looks great. They partner with vendors who enhance the appearance of their facility with vendors for door maintenance, and other vendors who maintain the landscaping, and still others who maintain the asphalt in the parking lot or clean the roof.
Those operators also pay attention to their web presence. They partner with a vendor who integrates with their software management system and knows their facility well. They welcome as many reviews as possible on their website, and they reply to all of them (no matter how many stars were included). They also know that “DIY” features such as new unit rentals or payments on current tenant accounts are a must for their website.
Finally, they consider the human aspect of their business. Regardless of whether it’s full-time or part-time staff onsite, remote from a single facility or remote with multiple locations, they realize the importance of the live, personal interaction. They partner with telco vendors who can manage their call paths, or with call center vendors who stand ready to catch the calls that they can’t. The best of those will also integrate with the site software management to best support the caller’s needs.
When building your dream team of vendor partners, ask each of them questions about other vendors they partner with in the industry. They’re very likely to share with you the names of some companies that they recommend or have worked with successfully in the past, and others who they have heard excellent feedback about from shared clients. You can benefit from their experience, and don’t forget to share your favorites with them as well! If you’ve had a great experience with a vendor, the others that you work with love to hear that.
The bottom line is that the most profitable operators are using both high-tech and high-touch methods to provide the best possible customer experience through the entire rental life-cycle, and they choose vendors to partner with for each step in that process that can help them provide that experience.