The basics of running a storage facility might sound easy. Dig a little deeper, however, and there are many bumps that can come up. If these issues aren’t fixed, they can hurt your business.
As a starting point, “most people think self-storage is all about the price,” said self-storage consultant Marc Goodin, president of Storage Authority Franchising, a self-storage franchise system. But that’s not the case, he said. “It’s about giving customers the ‘just right’ feeling,” Goodin said.
Here, experts share six common mistakes to avoid in the self-storage industry. Understand these, and your place will be one that gives customers the perfect feeling—and an inclination to stay.
1. Not renting units over the phone.
It can be easy to view incoming calls as merely a way to answer questions.
Instead, ask for the sale, Goodin said. “You can rent just as many units over the phone as you can to walk-in customers,” he said.
Include a spoken tour of the facility during your conversation. Highlight the place’s best features, such as its convenient location or safety measures.
When you rent over the phone, get all of the client’s information and take a full credit card payment. Then set up a time when the person can come to your office to complete the paperwork.
2. Overlooking appearance.
“Visibility and curb appeal go a long way,” said Jim Chiswell, managing partner at Chiswell & Associates, a self-storage consulting firm.
Take a walk around your property and evaluate the landscaping. Make sure the office is clean, bright and welcoming.
In addition, check the location of your office. You’ll want it to be in a spot where customers can simply walk in, rather than have to pass through a security gate first.
Be sure that your facility’s sign is visible at night so that motorists can catch a glimpse of your place in the evening.
For tips on boosting your facility’s curb appeal, visit blog.selfstorage.com/self-storage-operations/improving-self-storage-curb-appeal-4882.
3. Not updating insurance coverage.
When it comes to the value of the building, “the coverage on the policy is often not enough to replace the building after a fire or other loss,” said Diane Vizzo, owner of Hillcrest Agency, an independent insurance agency in Connecticut.
One way to avoid this is to review your policy before renewing it. “Make sure you understand the coverage,” Vizzo said. If you don’t understand it, ask your insurance agent to break it down.
Also, revisit your insurance policy after any major improvements to your property. Some of the changes might require that you boost the amount of coverage.
4. Ignoring security issues.
It’s important that customers feel safe at your facility, Chiswell said. If you have two floors, for instance, you might allow only those tenants who have units on the second level to use the elevator.
In addition, maintaining a solid presence can make it easier to spot and resolve security matters. For instance, if a manager remains at the facility after dark, that manager might notice a particular customer who shows up every evening and stays in a unit for hours before leaving.
For information about high-tech security for self-storage facilities, visit blog.selfstorage.com/self-storage-technology/high-tech-self-storage-security-3671.
5. Avoiding sales in person.
“You have to be a salesperson to be in self-storage,” Goodin said.
Although you don’t need to become a sales guru, you’ll want to nail down the basics down to run a successful facility.
Starting can be simple: Greet current and potential customers when they come in, Goodin said. “Shake hands,” he said. “It makes a difference.”
Learn a person’s name if you don’t already know it and use it in conversation. Then look for something about the person that you genuinely enjoy or have in common, such as a local sports team.
Finally, ask for the sale in person. When you’re finished giving a tour of the facility or answering questions posed by a visitor, find out whether that person is interested in renting a unit.
For advice on sharpening your sales skills, visit blog.selfstorage.com/self-storage-marketing/sharpening-sales-skills-4774.
6. Failing to make it personal.
The most important asset of any facility are the people on the other side of the counter who work with customers, Chiswell said. Potential clients often are going through a difficult time, such as a move or a divorce.
“If your management style is set up to solve their problems, the units will take care of themselves,” Chiswell said.