by Juan Chabriel
When I started my adventure in the world of self-storage, it wasn’t as a storage specialist but a potential client. I was jobless and was forced to minimize my way of living. I came across a brand new facility by the name of Big Key Self Storage. It was something I had never found myself needing before, but suddenly became a necessity. Did I know what I actually needed in terms of space? No!
It was an enlightening experience, as all of this self-storage terminology was used by the expert behind the counter. It wasn’t until after I was shown a 10 x 10 climate-controlled unit that I realized the reality of my situation. I would have to literally stuff all of my belongings into a unit, and walk away from it all until I got back on my feet.
In light of this situation, my wife and I found ourselves with this storage employee, who was very courteous, extremely knowledgeable (something seldom found nowadays), and helpful. She made the entire process seamless, and all my worries seemed to be sidetracked by the fact that one project on my to-do list was scratched off.
My moving process was another story altogether, but we made it. I later decided to ask the storage expert if Big Key Self Storage was hiring, not knowing she was the Operations Manager for the company. Soon after, I was on the other side of the counter, learning— from software to policies and procedures, and let’s not forget the legal items. I became an assistant manager.
I knew this was an opportunity to show the next person the same treatment I was shown in an unfamiliar world of storage. I felt I could really connect with the clients who came in, because I was myself was a client at this facility. Maybe they are having a similar situation, and I understand their needs better. I was soon given the chance to conduct secret shops in the local area, because getting an understanding of storage as a whole included an integral portion of business: Competition!
It was very sobering to see how I was blessed not only with a very well-kept and professional working environment, but also with a real sense of belonging as both a customer and employee at Big Key Self Storage. I will never talk ill of a competitor, something I was taught to be taboo from the beginning of joining the industry. But I will be honest in saying that the Latin term: “fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris” or “the grass is always greener on the other side,” did not apply in terms of what we offered and what other options were out there.
If someone new to the self-storage industry asked me what is the single most important tidbit of knowledge one could pass along (from a person who has looked for storage, shopped around and actually worked in the industry), it’s: How you treat and communicate with a tenant from the beginning can lead to an never-ending relationship. It is the most determining factor of whether your job was really completed. That, in turn, directly affects a customer’s length of stay, chance of recommendation, and whether they will store with you again.
Let’s be frank here— customer service really is a lost art, and we have to keep it in mind. When you find yourself answering a potential client on the topic of storage, ask yourself how would you like to be treated if you just lost everything you had and found yourself at mercy of one self-storage operator!
Juan Chabriel grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He now resides in Miami, Florida. Juan has had experience in many trades and currently holds a position in Big Key Self Storage as an Assistant Manager since February 2009.