By Tron Jordheim
When people drive by your facility, what do they think? If they notice you at all, they probably think, “Oh, there is a place to leave my stuff if I ever need to do that.” But do they think, “That is where I go if need a helpful person to help me figure out how to pack my stuff, move correctly and preserve my memories. That is the place with the rental truck, the mattress pads and the helpful staff?” Probably not. People tend to form an opinion based on appearances.
The challenge for all of us is to get past the obvious and the superficial so people can see some of the added services and added value you offer them. You may not be too impressed with the storage business. After all you see storage units every day. You are too close to the situation.
I was at a conference of authors recently and found it interesting that several of the people there had used self-storage. One lady was a widow and had written a book that would help people deal with the grief of losing a loved one. She told me how a storage company had been very helpful to her. She lived in the house she had shared with her husband for about three years after he passed.
Then she met someone new and wanted to try to live a new life. She moved in with her new beau and things went well for a while. Then things changed, as they sometimes do, and she had to move out in a hurry. She was fortunate to pick a self-storage place that offered her a truck and some helpers. They helped her move and get her things in storage quickly, efficiently and without any problems. The people who ran the storage place were very helpful and understanding of her situation. They advised her to use a climate controlled unit to protect her furniture from the elements, and she was very satisfied with her experience.
Had she not found a helpful, full-service provider, she might have had a very stressful and traumatic time of it. After a few years, she had settled into a new condo that she was able to purchase for herself. Some of her furniture she put in her new place. Some of it she gave to her kids so they could have some pieces that were in the family. Then she sold and gave away the rest. We, represented by the company she dealt with, enabled her to take her time to make good decisions about where she was going to live, how she was going to live, who she was going to live with, and what she was going to do with her things.
Another author I talked to, who wrote about education topics, told me about how when he last moved, he found himself at the end of the day with too many things left in the rental truck and too little energy to deal with it. The storage place he chose had helpers they could refer to him, so he could get everything unloaded and organized into his storage unit without stressing out any more about it. At the time he had two small children and he, the kids and his wife were at the end of their energy and their patience. Had he not had a friendly and resourceful storage manager help him get some moving helpers, he would have ended up having a really bad day. Instead, we, as an industry, helped save the family from too much stress.
You all have customers who find themselves in one situation or another. For them, it is your helpful and understanding attitude and the additional services you provide that make for a good experience. You may think all you are doing is renting empty space to people. That is only just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. The unseen impact is the total comfort of all the help, understanding and information you share.
So how do you know what your customers are responding to and what they find valuable? You have to talk to them. Talk to them when they are calling you on the phone. Talk to them when they are moving in. Talk to them when you see them on the property. Don’t assume you have heard all the stories before. Even if you have, why not hear more stories of how your helpfulness made a difference to someone.
Send e-mails to your customers and ask them to tell you how you helped them and what they thought about your services. They will tell you a lot. Take a customer or two to lunch or out for coffee and hear what they are saying. Then take some action. Stop talking about the space you rent to people and start talking about the things that you do that actually make a difference to people. Stop looking at your business as a space rental business and look at it as a business that helps people in transition or a business that helps organize people’s moves.
Talk to people who are not your customers and ask them about their impressions of self- storage. Then try to find a way to help people change their perception to understand the help you really bring to people.
In closing, we like to talk to customers and potential customers at my company as well. Therefore, we invite you to join us in Hawaii for a fantastic program about the most important issues of the day. We will talk about issues that impact our industry. We will learn from each other, and we will learn from our presenters. For more information, visit www.phonesmart-hawaii-unconference.com.
Tron Jordheim is the COO of PhoneSmart, a sales solutions provider for self-storage owners, offering call center, secret shopping, sales training, lead follow-up, lead generation, ad tracking, and on-site recording services. He is a frequent writer and presenter for the self-storage industry.