I was cleaning out an archive folder and came across a few articles that I had written for the managers at our self-storage facilities. Below are a few excerpts that may speak to some of your concerns with running a self-storage business:
The operation of your self-storage location is a very involved undertaking. Although your inventory is simple, you have to exercise a lot of organizational skills to keep your store running properly. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. With so much going on, what are you going to focus on?
Here are the essential tasks of a good self-storage operator:
- When the phone rings, answer it
- When you say you’re going to be there, be there.
- Every customer has a complete, signed contract in the file or stored electronically.
- The company’s money goes into the company’s bank account.
When you carry out these tasks effectively and consistently, the performance of your facility will improve, and that’s what we are all about.
Nationwide studies show that 1-in-3 phone calls to self-storage facilities is converted into a visit. This means that an average potential customer is going to call at least three facilities before choosing one. It also means that you have an opportunity to convert more of these callers into visitors. This is your primary job: get this person off of the phone and into your store! When answering the call, don’t even think about getting them to sign a contract. Your goal is to create a strong enough impression, a real connection, that this person will come see you. You will not be successful by giving the same information that they hear from the other two facilities that they are calling. You have 45 seconds to make a connection with the person on the other end of the line, and the clock is ticking…
When managed correctly, self-storage is a very simple business. If, however, you don’t stay in front of the daily tasks and occassional challenges, this business will wear you out. I think that there are a couple key ideas that will help you keep it simple. First: know what you do. You rent self-storage units and create satisified customers. This bit of self-knowledge must guide you in everything that you do at your store. Second: ask yourself good questions. What do I need to do now in order to rent my next unit? What else can I do to enhance my store? What skill do I need to improve today so that I am a better manager tomorrow? Third: ask me any question. Managing a self-storage facility is a growth process. What worked today will not necessarily be adequate tomorrow. I am continually learning from you, from other owners, from literature and web sites, and from other businesses. I am a resource that’s always available to help you elevate your skill set, increase your competence, enjoy job satisfaction, and ultimately, rent more self-storage units.
It’s my experience that life is fundamentally challenging. Learning how to walk. Going through adolescence. Getting the dog to mind. Using a new software program. Working with a new boss. Opening a cereal package without scattering it across the kitchen. We all have plenty to deal with.
Knowing this, we have a goal of being part of the solution, not the problem, for each of our customers. Here are some ways (in no particular order of importance) that we can be a solution-oriented company:
- Answer the phone when someone calls…every time.
- Carry the customer’s box purchase to their car
- Remove overlock immediately when rent is paid current
- Enter gate codes correctly and show tenant how to use keypad entry
- Get fast at completing leases so that you don’t obligate the customers time
- Send out correct invoices promptly
- Call your customers to give them fair warning of upcoming fees
- Do what you tell them that you are going to do
- If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, find out
Creating a base of new customers is the key to managing an exceptional self-storage facility. Our business is unlike any other real estate business in that we are completely comfortable with move-outs. We expect good tenants to move-out like clockwork, and we are always preparing to replace the outgoing with the incoming. Although we can slow the departure of customers (mainly by never giving them a reason to leave until they are absolutely ready to leave), the only way to maintain the vitality of our stores is keep refreshing our base of customers. Think of your self-storage facility like a pool of water with new customers flowing in and old customers flowing out. You can’t build a dam; so the only way to keep the pool full is to bring in fresh water.
You have to be generating new customers everyday if you are going to operate a top-flight facility. We have discussed many ways that you do this, including maintaining a clean office, having units ready to rent, fully satisfying current customers, building relationship with other businesses, training your support staff, knowing your facility. The single most important tool that you have for bringing in new customers is the telephone. Use it well! We have customers that have rented multiple units for many years. What if you had missed that phone call? What if you were filling out a really important form when the phone rang? What if you were helping a current customer on the other line and you let that call go? What if I was talking with you about a problem customer when that call came? You cannot afford to miss that call.
Here’s a rule of thumb: 1/3 of the new calls are going to come to us no matter what. They know us or our location is next door. They heard we’re the best or something like that. 1/3 aren’t going to rent no matter what. They really aren’t ready for storage yet or they plan on renting from the competitor after price-checking. 1/3 are truly still up in the air. This is where we make our money. You must capture the undecided prospect in order to create the flow of new customers. When the phone rings, you never know which third is calling. Get to that phone call every time and connect to that prospective client.