During busy season in self-storage, should storage operators extend their summertime hours to handle the influx of customers? If you’re looking for a simple answer, you won’t get it here.
Tron Jordheim, director of operations at call center services company PhoneSmart in Columbia, MO, said the decision about extending summertime hours depends on traffic patterns at your facility.
“Every little self-storage property is its own unique market,” Jordheim said. “You may be in a market where no one does anything after 6 p.m., no matter what. Or you may be in a market that’s 24/7, and you need to stay open until 10 or 11 p.m. on busy days in the summer. It just depends.”
‘The whole world is open’
As for summer holidays—Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day—Jordheim strongly recommends staying open at least on Saturday during a holiday weekend.
“Being closed a day or two like Monday of Memorial Day weekend is OK,” he said. “As long as you let people know, they’ll understand. But they assume you’re always open. They just assume the whole world is open.”
Jordheim said you should post hours on your Facebook page, on your website and at your property.
“The last thing you want is one of your best customers showing up because they need something out of their storage unit and they can’t get in. That’s bad,” he said. “It’s also bad when someone shows up with a moving truck full of stuff and you’re closed. In our call center, we get calls all the time from people showing up after closing.”
If that happens, PhoneSmart contacts the facility’s manager—if he or she can be reached.
“It depends how operators run the business,” Jordheim said. “If managers are on salary, then it’s part of their agreement that they come running back. But if they’re hourly and come back, you have a wage issue if you put them in overtime.”
Extended gate hours
Marinda Carr, corporate administrator at Edina, MN-based storage operator Mayflower Properties, said the company has found that it doesn’t make business sense to extend office hours during the summer. However, its facilities offer extended gate hours during the summer—6 a.m. to 9 p.m.—to accommodate move-ins.
“The actual process to rent a storage unit takes less than 20 minutes,” Carr said. “And many people now just choose to reserve a unit online, which makes it much quicker when they come in to sign their lease, as all the information they provide online is filtered into our web-based software.”
While Mayflower Properties closes its offices on all major holidays, gate access still is available.
“We actually have tried being open on major holidays and found that virtually nobody came in to rent,” Carr said. “If we did have a stray customer, it wasn’t worth being open based on paying a manager to be there. The majority of people are busy for the various holidays and don’t expect the office to be open.”
Flexibility is key
Cindy Bellomy, co-owner of Able Self Storage in Pearland, TX, and Crowley Mini Storage in Crowley, TX, doesn’t expand summer hours, but her managers—who live near the facilities—are available by appointment.
“We have a 24-hour phone number on our website,” she said, “and somebody can be here within five minutes to rent a unit.”
Bellomy’s facility offices shut down on major holidays. “We’re small—with each facility having one manager—and it’s only fair to give them holidays off,” she said. However, they’re open on Saturday and Sunday over long holiday weekends.
Pumping up the call volume
For Santa Monica, CA-based StorQuest Self Storage, summer doesn’t necessarily generate demand for extended hours at its facilities, but it does for the company’s in-house call center.
“You find that because it’s busier, you will get more calls earlier in the morning and later in the evening and on weekends,” said Gerald Valle, vice president of operations for The William Warren Group, which manages StorQuest.
StorQuest recently starting opening its call center at 7:30 a.m. Sundays (from the previous 9 a.m.) after missing about 30 early-morning calls in May.
StorQuest’s facilities and call center traditionally stay open most holidays.
“We look at historical data to see how many move-ins we typically experience on those days,” Valle said. “Based on historical volume, we stayed open this Memorial Day, for example.”
Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year, and StorQuest facilities will remain open.
“It’s very difficult to close a facility on a Saturday, regardless if it’s a holiday or not,” Valle said. “I guarantee you there will be move-ins, given that it’s the first week of July.”