As someone who grew up before smart phones, apps or even Garmin, I relied on old-fashioned maps when venturing out. The most sophisticated I ever got was using MapQuest. Now we’re all spoiled and no longer need to rely on a sense of direction or an understanding of how to navigate the stars. If we make a wrong turn or miss an exit, the navigation system/app simply reroutes or “recalculates”.
Perhaps our industry could benefit from recalculating and charting a new path towards a final destination, whatever and wherever that may be.
For instance, how much longer will we allow advances in technology to surpass us? More pointedly, why are we (as an industry) so slow to adapt those technological advances? When will our industry as a whole give more weight to an online rental than an online reservation? It’s your way of taking the customer off the market immediately. Don’t allow them the opportunity to change their mind, negotiate price or worse, go to your competition.
What will it take to recruit, gain and sustain more owner and manager participation in local state associations, which aim to benefit all levels of personnel through educational seminars, webinars and conferences? Moreover, when can we expect more owners and managers to step forward and volunteer within their state associations? I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless owners and managers who have an immense amount of insight and knowledge to lend to our industry, but it benefits very few, to include placing limitations on their own success, if those individuals do not step forward to voice and share their insights.
Why isn’t there a widespread effort to introduce and sustain the best practices possible within every organization, whether a one-store operation or a multi-store portfolio? Too often I see examples of operations and ownership that behave as if nothing exists or matters outside the confines of their facility. I would offer that this perspective needs replacing with a new ideology where we all belong to a bigger picture and through recognizing that, we improve our collective success. What’s wrong with wanting the entire industry to be flawless? Impeccable? We should want to avoid having any operational deficiency and erase labels such as “mom & pop” and “mini warehouse”.
When are we going to get away from the blue-collar approach with facility management customer service and provide a more upscale, sophisticated and professional style of facility management customer service? For the most part when a customer enters our facility office, they aren’t expecting much, but it’s when we exceed their expectations that we stand out and they take notice.
When will there be more emphasis and scrutiny placed on recruiting and training the best store-level talent to produce the best financial performance, in that order, rather than micro-managing the wage, benefit and bonus package, if any at all, an employee receives? As we acquire, expand and/or develop new projects, we will not achieve or exceed our financial objectives if we cut corners in the hiring and training process. Furthermore, it’s imperative that we seek out the top talent and pay those individuals accordingly because it is counter-productive to expect lofty goals with base talent and base pay. By no means am I suggesting over-paying an under-qualified candidate, but you must remember you get what you pay for.
I love the self-storage industry and I love what I do. I recognize areas of weakness and areas of improvement within myself and I also recognize it in our industry. I want the best for our industry, which is why I feel compelled to raise these points. I want success. I want longevity. I want reputational quality and a high level of operating efficiency for the industry as a whole.
Whether it’s conducting a market study for the benefit of our clients or for our internal company use regarding a new development, acquisition or expansion, I systematically phone shop every facility within the primary marketing area of a subject site. From start to finish, this exercise may involve several phone calls to the same facility over the course of days or even weeks to ensure I get every rental rate per size and class possible. Additionally, as part of our company policy, I require every store to provide me an updated competition survey quarterly. Routinely, I dedicate time to call their competition and verify the information they’ve submitted to me, as well as place calls to their competitors in between each revised survey. Regardless of the state, city or marketplace, there is one constant subject matter that stands out among all others: phone etiquette.
As an optimist, I’m always expecting, despite the number of previous disappointing calls, to hear a clear, well spoken, professional and courteous manager on the other end of the phone. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the time I am shocked at the flippant and often lethargic attitude displayed by some facility managers. It always astonishes me that no one is interested in knowing or even asking for my name. I know there are managers out there who are well versed, knowledgeable and professional in their discourse with potential customers. However, in my opinion, our industry has not concentrated enough on this topic to where those individuals are the majority of our store level management. Instead, we’ve bypassed or perhaps even worse, forgotten, that fundamental practice and replaced it with remote call centers, for instance, thereby reducing the accountability of our most important element in our industry: the store level manager.
So the next time your office phone rings with a potential customer, understand and try the following:
1. The most important aspect of a phone call is to get them to the store.
2. Ask for their name and use it throughout the phone call.
3. Convey an enthusiastic and authentic tone with the customer because without them you don’t have a job, unless of course you are fortunate enough to work at a facility that doesn’t care about conversion ratios and overall occupancy and revenue performance.
4. You already know there is a strong likelihood that your competition, even perhaps yourself, fall into the “poor phone etiquette” category. Therefore, differentiate yourself and your facility and provide superior phone etiquette.
5. A customer will often forget their due date, their unit number and their gate code, but they never forget how they were treated or their initial experience. So make it an experience to remember.
As the management company representing Wilson Road Self Storage, I had the distinct honor of attending the Official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony yesterday at the facility with the Owners, Ray, Ryan and Matthew Rhodes, as well as our professional and invaluable management team consisting of Ken Creeley and Carrie Francis.