It cannot be understated how valuable a good manager is to the success of a self-storage facility. It can literally be the difference between that business surviving or not. If you’ve been in the storage business for a while, you know that employees can run the gambit between highly effective and not effective. But what are the skills and attributes that separate the two? Let’s discuss these in detail.
Getting Things Done BEFORE the Store Opens
Mornings are very busy in the storage business. So, good managers know that it’s important to get most of their daily tasks done prior to the store opening. Things like checking gate logs and video, inspecting customer areas, checking retail inventory, counting cash, and following up on emails and phone calls can all be done prior to that front door getting unlocked. Manager that don’t do this advance work may find it difficult to complete these duties in between helping customers during the day. And customer service should be your top priority during the day.
Customer Service and Selling
This should probably be at the top of this article, because let’s face it—getting customers in the door and keeping them storing with you is the most important goal of any storage company. But this is easier said than done for many managers. Many are intimidated and uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with customers. But even these people can be trained to become effective in their role as a storage salesperson.
The key is to ask questions and listen intently to the answers. “What are you storing?” “How long do you think you’ll need storage?” “How are you transporting your stuff?” By asking questions, a good manager can create a conversation without much difficulty. This conversation normally reveals a ton of information about the customer and their reasons for needing storage. It simultaneously creates a rapport between the manager and the customer, whereby the customer feels like there is some emotional investment on the part of the manager. This not only pays dividends in the ultimate rental of a storage unit, but also in the weeks and months down the line in the future interactions with that customer. Now the manager knows quite a bit about that customer and can reference those previous conversations. For instance, if you knew that Bill rented a storage unit because he was moving to a new house and needed to store furniture for a few months, a manager might ask “Hey Bill! How is the new house coming along?”
Grant Runyon from West Coast Self-Storage also says it’s important that a manager be assumptive and confident when talking with prospective customers. “Make sure the customer knows you're a storage professional that knows what you are talking about. You should always have the customer thinking YOU know what’s good for them not the other way around.” The above questions will help put you in this position. Conversely, untrained managers will ask the leading question “What size do you need?” This puts the onus of knowing storage on the customer and puts the manager in a reactive instead of proactive situation where they now have to disagree with the customer if they feel like the customer is wrong in their need assessment.
What Good Managers Do When Things are Slow
As we all know, there are times when the phone just isn’t ringing and inquiries online are down. What is done during these down times are what truly separates a good manager from a poor one. While there are plenty of things to do around a storage facility including tasks like clean and operational projects, lock checks, employee training, and other duties, a good manager should be doing things that can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line.
A good example is making follow-up phone calls from previous reservations. While this should be standard practice, too many managers don’t do it. Or if they do follow-ups it will be just one phone call. If that customer isn’t reached it’s considered a dead-end. Instead, it’s imperative to continue reaching out to these customers until you have an answer to what they decided, even if that means they rented somewhere else. Why? Because the value of that initial customer contact is the most important marketing lead a storage manager can get. After all, depending on how that customer found your company, the marketing cost that went into creating that lead might have been substantial. By not valuing it appropriately, you’re just wasting marketing dollars.
Additionally, managers should know daily where they sit price-wise in relation to their local competitors. Changing the pricing by even a dollar or two to be even with or beat a competitor’s price can mean the difference between having a good rental day and a poor one. Unfortunately, many managers aren’t given authority to manipulate pricing in this manner. They have to reach out to the store owner or district manager. While this is good practice for larger changes or promotions, it can really inhibit the ability for the manager to be competitive on a daily basis.
Handling Conflict Well is Key
Conflict is very difficult for many managers. They don’t like it and will do or say almost anything to avoid it. In the storage business this can lead to some very bad outcomes. Good store managers will allow an angry customer to talk. Just by allowing them to vent, a customer can release their frustrations and calm down. Managers should use empathic statements to show they are listening and understand the customer’s issues. It’s important to use a tone that conveys this understanding. In the process of solving their concern, it’s important to keep personal opinions out of the conversation. Don’t become defensive or disagree with the customer. Show that you understand their message and then work to solve the problem effectively. If it’s possible, find something to agree with the customer on. This creates an atmosphere of collaboration. Don’t talk over the customer. Instead let the person complete their statement and wait for silence before interjecting. Then, take the time to summarize the main issue and offer a solution.
Sixth Sense Security
Security is incredibly important at storage facilities. Customers need to know that they and their belongings will be safe at all times. There are basics that all managers need to do—reviewing their camera system video and gate log every morning, doing daily lock checks, and walking the property routinely. But good managers need to have a sixth sense for potential inappropriate or criminal activity. And they need to take swift action when they encounter it. Colin McBride of West Coast gave the example of a tenant that he discovered living in one of the storage units. One day, he found personal toiletry items and food wrappers left outside a storage unit. He checked the gate logs and noticed that the man had punched in then immediately punched out. This, combined with the store’s camera footage showing he never left the facility, confirmed that he had a tenant living in his unit.
Lastly, a good manager is a strong multi-tasker with great time management skills. With all things that a manager must accomplish during each day, it’s important to have someone that can keep track of things and not get caught going down a rabbit hole focusing on one specific task for too long. Much of this comes with experience, but even some experienced managers don’t do a good job of this. Wise managers know to create a daily checklist of the things that need to be accomplished. By doing them and checking them off, they’ll be able to stay on top of tasks and not let things slip through the cracks when it gets busy.