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Whether you’re running a fully-attended self storage facility with a resident manager or you have an unattended facility with full automation, communication with your self storage customers is critical.
So, how do you do it? What are the best methods, and are there ways to improve what you’re currently doing?
Here are the details on what you should be considering when it comes to your self storage business’s communication needs.
Before we dive into the ideas, let’s get on the same page about what "communications" means and when we do it in the self storage industry.
According to Merriam-Webster, communications—well, at least the form we’re talking about here—means techniques or technology for expressing ideas or transferring information.
What does that mean in a practical sense, though?
Well, for your self storage business, it means both the way you talk to your customers and team members and the method you use to do so.
Whether it’s a messaging app, text messages, email, or something else entirely, these are part of communications technology. These platforms are what connect you to your customers and your team.
When it comes to self storage communications software specifically, most operators use the tools that are common in every industry. Your self storage software—such as your PMS—might also incorporate some communications tools to help you.
Let’s break self storage communications and communications management software down into two categories and take a closer look:
Unless the only person working at your self storage business is you, you’re going to need a way to communicate with each other.
There are a number of communications management tools you should be aware of. Which ones you utilize are up to what works best for your business.
The effectiveness and efficiency of these communications methods will vary based on your needs and your business’s size, and you should always choose what works rather than what is popular!
In today’s business world, messaging apps are incredibly prevalent.
One study even found that over 90% of businesses actually use two messaging apps.
Don’t worry—not suggesting you go that far with your self storage communications software.
Unless you’re running multiple self storage facilities with managers and other staff at each location, then the chances are you won’t get as much value out of these services as a larger business.
Messaging apps become more useful when you’re in need of regular communication between more than just a couple of individuals.
That said, you should still consider whether or not these tools have a place in your business! There are many free and premium messaging services available.
Your email service lives in an in-between space, used for both internal and external communications.
However, in many businesses, email is a primary method of internal communication, and every member of your team will use the same service for business-related emails theoretically.
This is also the service you’ll likely use to communicate with vendors and other businesses, so it’s important to make sure you have a reliable service.
Some things to consider when choosing your self storage business’s email service:
There’s nothing more frustrating than a hard-to-use or unreliable email service in the modern business era.
Pug Pro Tip: Generic (shared) email addresses, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org" or "email@example.com" can be useful in large companies or to filter incoming email. Depending on your size and volume of email, though, you may find this more cumbersome than helpful.
This is basically the physical form of emailing someone, but sometimes it’s effective.
When we say analog messages, what we mean is leaving notes—maybe a sticky note or a message written on a piece of printer paper—for other members of your team.
This probably won’t be an effective means of communication if you have multiple facilities or need swift exchanges of information, but hey, sometimes a small team can get by just leaving physical notes for the next shift.
In self storage, your most significant communications management concern will probably be how you communicate with tenants.
There are many topics to cover with external, customer-facing communications in self storage.
Whether it’s texting or emailing, call tracking and outbound calls, or even automated messaging services, the way you communicate with your customers is incredibly important.
Thankfully, there are also a lot of ways to make it easy with self storage software or communications software.
Texting and emailing are probably the two ways businesses communicate with their customers the most in today’s business world.
Between welcome information, confirmation emails, payment notices, advertisements, and the many other types of messages businesses send, customers are constantly receiving communications from businesses they interact with.
This means two things:
According to Campaign Monitor, people receive around 121 emails per day on average. That probably helps make sense of the fact that the average open rate is only 20% to 40%.
When you compare that to text messages with a whopping 98% open rate, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that texting is the best way to get a message across.
It makes sense: when we receive a text message on our phone, it’s very easy to open and read it.
Even better, you usually see a sample of the text on your lock screen which means even unopened texts tend to get some attention.
Have you ever seen those ads about customer service where the rep is on a headset with a microphone?
You might already know this, but the days of plugging a headset directly into an actual landline phone are virtually (ha) gone.
These days, much of this is done via virtual phone apps on computers. The headset plugs into the computer, you have a phone plugged into the computer, but communications management software handles the actual call.
It can display a lot of call information on the screen. If it integrates with your other software, it may even be able to automatically display customer information when receiving a call.
You can even use a VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol in some cases. This means that there’s not even a physical phone involved: Your voice is transmitted as data over the internet.
Depending on the volume of calls you make and receive, a call tracking service or virtual phone software like VoIP can make your self storage communications much easier to manage!
We’re probably all familiar with what a call center means.
It might even imply less personal (or a lower level of) customer service for some of us.
A call center indeed means relying on people who don’t have “boots on the ground” at your self storage facility for your self storage communications. Still, they do have their benefits for customer service!
If you’re a large operation with many self storage facilities—and especially if most of them are unattended, such as with a hub and spoke model—you may get great benefit out of working with a call center.
That said, even a single-location self storage operation might benefit. For example, if you have gate access hours outside of your office hours, especially if you allow access 24/7, then employing a call center to accept calls after hours can be a great boon.
While texting and email might be the preferred outbound communications methods, data shows most customers prefer to resolve their issues by calling in.
There are many call center services available for you to work with, and there is even communications management software available to create your own in-house call center if you like!
Let’s make communicating with your self storage customers easy.
Like with many aspects of the business, we can do that via automation.
Automating (some of) your customer-facing communications can be a great timesaver. It frees up you and your managers to spend time working on other things that can’t be automated. It can increase the customer experience and even decrease the rate of late payments at your self storage facility.
You may even be able to automate some of this with your existing self storage software rather than utilizing a separate communications software!
Some key communications to automate at your facility include:
Even at a facility with only 60 or so storage units, manually sending all of this information will quickly eat up your time.
Once you scale up from there, it only gets more time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to properly utilize your self storage software or other communications software to free up time for other important tasks!
How do you feel about robots?
In a very basic way, chatbots are essentially robots. They use pre-programmed responses (based on keywords in messages) or artificial intelligence to communicate with customers.
Back in the day, these popped up as fun ways to pass time, such as chatting with SmarterChild on AOL Instant Messenger in the early 2000s (wow, there's a throwback).
These days, chatbots are seeing mainstream use as a customer service tool.
Customers often prefer convenience, and letting them solve simple tasks through chatbots frees up your team to provide a higher quality of service to customers that need more hands-on assistance.
Email marketing is a potent tool, but like any tool, it isn’t ideal for every problem.
Some of the top industries where email marketing is most effective are luxury brands, hospitality, retail, and weddings.
These industries feature leads that shop around, are repeat customers, or are likely to live as a lead status for long periods prior to making a purchase.
In some of those industries, all of those factors apply.
These don’t really apply to most self storage customers, but that doesn’t mean email has no use.
There are three ways to use email communications in your self storage business that are highly effective:
These are three things you should be doing, and they are all served well with email communications (or texting, in some cases)!
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