Some customers can be absolutely clueless when it comes to self-storage.
This uncomfortable truth acts as both job security and sanity stressor for storage managers and maintenance crews, most of whom have a pretty good handle on their daily routine until the gate swings open and the humans arrive.
How can a kind-hearted, sleep-deprived storage pro best manage the human factor?
Perhaps these 9 New Years’ resolutions will help you snatch order from the jaws of chaos and handle the most difficult of customers with ease.
Don’t be half-accessed
Admittedly, a facility’s hours of operation and tenants-only access policies should be obvious to anyone willing to spring for a rental unit. Inevitably however, some tenants insist on access at their convenience, or for a buddy they sent over to pick up some camping gear at the last minute.
Let’s face it: there’s no way you’ll open a unit to persons unknown without written permission from the renter. End of discussion.
But you can minimize the after-hours inconvenience (though not the sleepus interruptus) with a surcharge, or add a software solution like ClickandStor to allow after-hours access unit by unit, or both.
“That way, you don’t have to worry about people moving into unlocked units,” explained Holly Ritchie, marketing director at The Storage Group, a Florida-based web-marketing firm.
Solve the gate code shuffle
Consider each plea of “My gate code doesn’t work!” to be a cry for help.
View this as an opportunity to pleasantly and professionally explain to your tenant why the robot overlords are banning them from their unit: their rent is late, they misplaced their card, they’re inputting an incorrect code, etc.
Do it face-to-face if possible; it instills trust and good karma with your customer.
Learn to spot a squatter
Face it: squatting happens. One way to spot a potential squatter? Watch for attempts to jury-rig electrical power into an unpowered unit.
Scott Meyers, the owner of Alcatraz Self Storage in Indianapolis, IN, says prevention far beats the alternative.
“If things go south, not only do you have an uncomfortable situation in having to let them go; you’ve also got an eviction on your hands that could cause issues as well,” he warned.
Stay cool about climate control
When most consumers rent a climate-controlled unit, they naturally think of creature comfort. It’s easy to correct this misperception and avoid the forthcoming “It’s not hot/cold enough” complaints by explaining that the goal of climate control is to temper extremes and keep humidity within optimal storage range for inanimate objects.
Crack the code on dumpster abuse
Does any single part of a storage facility deliver more hassle and headaches than the dumpster? When someone’s not overfilling it, someone else is scavenging through it, looking for treasures, Ebola or both.
Pam Domingue, the owner-operator of Storage Solution in Huntington Beach, CA, chose the path of least resistance to solve her dumpster nightmare, placing pad locks on all of them.
“We were concerned about liability,” she noted. “Some sensitive customer information could wind up in there.”
Don’t sweat the nitpickers
You never forget your most persnickety customers: their vigilance will reveal that their 10×20 unit is actually 10.26×19.975, a couple screws seem loose in the rollup door and there are six types of insect and rodent feces under foot.
Best course? Be helpful and instructive, never judgmental. On the other hand, should they ask for a discount or threaten to vacate, helpfully point them to a well-lit exit.
Take pride in your pricing
Stand by your price increases. Few customers will vamoose to save a few bucks, just as few storage pros will lose a good customer over chump change.
“If they’ve been there a long time and had multiple rent increases, deal with those on a case-by-case basis,” advised Matt Van Horn, vice president of Cutting Edge Self Storage Management in Port St. Lucie, FL.
No more “surprise” auctions!
Understandably, customers seeking storage don’t tend to quibble over the fine points of the contract, what with a rental truck and famished family out front. But if you stress nothing else in that lease review, be sure to gently but firmly explain that should they fail to pay their rent, the delinquency process could result in the sale of their stored contents at auction.
Have compassion for the odd ones
You know you’re had them, the eccentric, the irrational, the unhinged and paranoid and downright perplexing pains in the booty.
“They cause damage to other people’s stuff, too, because they don’t take care with what they put in there and then blame somebody else,” said Beth Schroeder, the owner of A Place for Space in Rockford, IL. “They’ll put in bars of soap that mice are going to eat, or put their couch in without vacuuming out the half a bag of Cheetos that their kids ate the night before.”
Best practice? Be kind, treat them with dignity and never take it personally. They may be wrestling with junk for which there is no known storage solution.