Are you worried that your self-storage customers will leave you for a competitor that’s smarter and more beautiful? Maybe you should be—if you’re not staying on top of what people demand in return for their business.
Consumers now expect a rewards program for choosing to spend their money at a retailer or other business, according to marketing company Bond Brand Loyalty’s 2015 Loyalty Report. According to the report, 76 percent of Americans consider loyalty programs part of their relationship with a business, and 34 percent say they wouldn’t be faithful to a particular brand if it weren’t for that company’s loyalty program.
The same report mentions successful brands such as Apple’s iTunes and Nike, which don’t have explicit loyalty programs but rely on a “value exchange” that makes customers feel recognized and engages them through relevant experiences.
For self-storage operators, this means there’s more to keeping tenants than just providing a place to store their stuff.
Read on for seven tips to boost loyalty among self-storage customers.
1. Offer a loyalty program.
Rewards programs like those used by hotels, restaurants, airlines and retail also work for self-storage businesses, said Marc Goodin, co-founder of Storage Authority, a self-storage franchisor.
Members of Storage Authority’s loyalty program receive a card that gives them 10 percent off supplies. The program offers points based on dollars spent; reward points go toward free rent or merchandise deals.
2. Make customers feel at home.
Cindy June, manager of Universal Storage Solutions in Winston-Salem, NC, always provides popcorn, warm cookies, coffee, cold bottled water and immaculate restrooms.
“They’ll be going down the road and stop here to use our bathrooms,” June said.
3. Be friendly and available.
“When a customer walks in, I always have a smile on my face,” June said. “I tell people, ‘We feel like we are an extension of your home, so sit down and tell us what you’re storing so we can make sure we get the right size unit for your needs.’”
If a customer needs to come in an hour before her facility opens, June goes in early.
“We always try to go beyond,” June said. “People are so tech-oriented that they don’t take time anymore. We have people who come in here and spend hours talking with us.”
4. Reward customer referrals.
In self-storage, one of the top three customer segments is repeat business from current customers.
“Existing customers are a humongous part of our business,” Goodin said. “Repeat customers and referrals are the number one way to get business.”
Storage Authority customers receive referral cards that they can pass out to friends. For each referral, a customer gets $50. Meanwhile, the new tenant gets $50 off the first month’s rent.
5. Stay in touch via social media and email.
June keeps customers informed about news and events with an email newsletter and two Facebook pages, one about the facility and another that features “tenant deals” where customers can post items they’d like to sell.
6. Showcase your value as a resource.
If a tenant needs a mover or an insurance agent, June recommends someone from the neighborhood networking groups that meet in her facility’s conference room. New tenants receive a bag filled with promotional items, coupons and fliers from local dry cleaners, restaurants and other businesses.
June lets customers buying or selling items on Craigslist know that they can use Universal Storage Solutions as a safe place to meet. The facility also offers free Wi-Fi and two laptop stations.
Tenants can book the conference room at no cost for meetings during business hours. Semi-retired professionals who no longer have an office but have retained a few clients keep their files in a storage unit and meet customers in the facility’s conference room.
“We give them coffee and a fountain pen, and everybody’s happy,” June said.
7. Involve the community.
Universal Storage Solutions helps tenants and brings in new business by hosting yard sales twice a year. Tenants roll open the doors and sell directly from their units. Any money made from units rented to store items for the sale goes to a local charity.
“We usually get from 300 to 600 people attending those yard sales,” June said.