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03 May 2019

Why Customer Service May Be The Greatest Differentiator For Your Self Storage Business


Cris Burnam, president of StorageMart, the largest privately-owned, family operated storage company in the world, recently wrote an article for Forbes about the value of customer service. Burnam, a Forbes Real Estate Council Member, shares that if you do customer service right, it can have a huge impact on your business.

A summary of Burnam's article is below.

As an old retail adage goes, "Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price." Yes, that’s a catchy quote. But it also plays out when you look at the numbers. One study found that U.S. companies actually lose $75 billion a year because of poor customer service. On the flip side, consumers are willing to spend 17 percent more with companies that have impeccable customer service compared to competitors.

The key takeaway here — even in the self storage space — is that customers are often more service-sensitive than price-sensitive. And if you do customer service right, it can have a huge impact on your business.

The Evolution Of Customer Service

To put it mildly, customer service has gone through significant changes in recent history. In my last article, I explained how consumer access to information has created a multichannel, nonlinear path to purchase. What this means is that consumers can engage with your business today on more devices and in more media than ever before. It also means you not only have to market your business to appear in as many of these channels as possible, you have to be consistent in your approach to customer service every step of the way.

According to research by Salesforce, 75 percent of consumers say they expect brands to provide consistent customer service wherever they are, whether it be in person, on a website, in an email or on social media.

So, what steps can self storage operators take to capitalize on this consumer behavior trend and provide the best customer experience possible? The answer lies with your VP.

Defining Your VP

To be clear, in this instance, I’m not talking about vice presidents when I say VP. I’m talking about your value proposition.

A value proposition is a statement that communicates the reason why a product or service is best-suited for customers.

Say you’re in the market for a self storage unit. You start by doing a Google search and visiting the homepage of a self storage center's website. Once there, you decide you need to do more research, so you watch some of its YouTube videos. Next, you take a look at its Facebook and Twitter pages. Finally, you decide to phone the call center and rent a unit.

In this example, before you even make your decision to contact the company, you should have seen at least 20 references to the company's value proposition between the channels listed. But that’s just the beginning.

When you make that call, you will expect to experience firsthand in both words and action the consistency of this VP approach. You will want a conversation focused around finding the unit that meets your needs. And, once you’ve rented a storage unit, you’ll want an email confirmation that clearly details your next steps. Lastly, when it’s time to move in, you’ll hope to be greeted by helpful staff to make your experience as quick and easy as possible.

In other words, everything a company does, across every channel it engages in, ladders up to that value proposition. And that consistent focus helps drive occupancy and revenue.

The Ultimate Reward: Bottom Line Growth

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty."

In other words, as simple as the VP concept is, I want to set the expectation that choosing a unique one that works for your self storage business is definitely not. In fact, we spent countless hours researching our current and previous customers to come up with ours: "easy, clean, service."

That being said, remember that your customers have access to more information across more media channels than ever before. Also, remember that they expect your business to be present and consistent no matter where they do their research.

Having a strong value proposition — as difficult as it may be to come up with one — can keep your business on top of this trend. And that ultimately means that your prospects, customers and, most importantly, your bottom line, will thank you.

Read more articles from Burnam in Forbes.

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