Gabfocus Episode 60 | Increasing Occupancy with a Great Experience

Gabfocus Episode 60 | Increasing Occupancy with a Great Experience

Customer experience is important to every business! Happy customers pay on time, leave good reviews, and refer friends and family to your facility! So how can you make sure your customers are well cared for while storing with you? From billing to cleanliness and support to amenities, a lot goes into keeping tenants happy. Let us show you how to start!

Featured Speakers: Luke Westbrooks
Moderators: Tommy Nguyen & Melissa Huff

Category: Operations
Focus: Owners, Operators, & Managers
Aired: May 16, 2024
Duration: 1:09:40


If you don't have time to watch the whole session, here are some of our favorite parts:

  • At 4:39, our expert discussed the importance of improving your customer experience in 2024 and how it has changed over the years.
  • 11:35, Luke discussed how having a great customer experience can set you apart from the competition.
  • Starting at 13:50, Luke covered the best way to communicate with customers, including how to identify their preferred form.
  • At 18:40, our guest talked about the importance of making it easy for customers to contact you when they need help.
  • 20:50, our expert started discussing whether it's better to offer contactless move-ins or to require new tenants to visit the office.
  • Around 25:29, Luke talks about whether you should offer carts, trucks, and free locks during the move-in process.
  • At 31:15, our guest covers how to make the billing process as painless as possible for your tenants.
  • 36:50, Luke touched on the best way to handle collections, including making phone calls, even if they lead to tough conversations.
  • 39:30, our guest discussed the physical parts of a facility that customers notice the most.
  • 43:10, Luke highlighted what you should regularly update or check at your facility to make sure its working.
  • At 45:49, our guest talked about unexpected amenities that excite customers.
  • Starting at 50:51, Luke discussed the importance of asking for reviews, along with when and how you should ask for them.
  • Around 56:35, our guest talked about after-hours availability, and how you should manage contacts during those hours.
  • 59:45, Luke discussed the best way to inform customers that you require insurance at your facility.
  • 1:03:00 Luke answered the question of the week!

Ideas from the Audience

  • "When I have a move-in, I text all the information along with basic rules they received in emails. It also gives them another way to communicate with me." - Carrie Karchella
  • "Our managers write handwritten thank-you notes to each tenant after renting. Been doing this for 20 years." - Kate Plassmeyer
  • "Our online units also have a little thank you left in each unit." - Brandi Earle
  • "I also follow up with an email within an hour, introducing myself and offering a tour, instructions on using locks, etc." - Brandie Eade
  • "We offer a coffee bar and cookies." - Delia Hicks
  • "We purchased a large magnet that we hang on the bottom of our golf cart to pick up all the nails/screws/etc on the lot. If we have any downtime, we simply drive around to keep tires safe." - Jennifer Hawks
  • "Pay special attention to what customers hear, smell, and see. Customers shouldn't see dust or clutter. They shouldn't smell food or anything musty. These tips have helped me create a welcoming office for my customers." - Eagle Eye Secure Storage
  • "We have candy and water in the office for tenants to have at any time." - Julie Mercier
  • "For all my properties, we do tenant appreciation days every month. If it's co-marketed with companies that want to put out booths at our property for the day, they will do a giveaway. We have donut days, pizza days, and chicken biscuit mornings." - Kandi Wentz
  • "Call your customers/new move-ins, introduce yourself, explain your property, ways to contact you to get help, offer to show them around, and make it personal. Self storage properties can be confusing to an already stressed customer. Don't assume they know as much about storage as you do. We are here to help!" - Melissa Lewis
  • "When you take that extra minute to do that little extra that doesn't take much time, it goes miles with people. Customers appreciate and feel like they are not just a number, but that they matter and are part of your storage family." - Jenny Rodrigues
  • "We're currently giving all new move-ins flower seeds for the spring. People seem very happy with them." - Melissa Lewis
  • "Print a QR sticker for a review and slap it on a water bottle!" - Deanna Correia

Gabfocus Takeaway

Providing an exceptional customer experience at your facility can set you apart from the competition down the street. It's important to learn who your customers are and identify what matters to them, and then you can craft the customer experience at your business around that! It's also important to provide a consistent experience to all of your renters because it only takes one bad experience to earn yourself a negative review, but a consistently good experience can encourage positive reviews and referrals that can help bring in new customers and increase your occupancy!

What are Gabfocus Sessions?

Gabfocus Sessions are virtual workshops for self storage owners, managers, and operators. Brought to you by the team behind Gabfest: StoragePug and Lighthouse Storage Solutions.

Each session features hand-picked industry pros who will dive deep into relevant topics surrounding our industry, share best practices, and explore trends in the market. It's our hope that these sessions help you navigate your self storage business better during these uncertain times.

Want to learn more about self storage? Join us on select Thursdays for Gabfocus.

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Questions Answered in this Session

  1. Why is customer experience important to your overall business strategy?
  2. Has customer experience changed in 2024 compared to previous years?
  3. How can customer experience set you apart from competition?
  4. What's the best way to communicate with customers?
  5. How should customers be able to contact you?
  6. Is it better to offer contactless move-ins or require them to visit the office?
  7. Should you offer things like free moving trucks, carts, and locks?
  8. Should you put welcome packages in units?
  9. How do you make the billing process as painless as possible for tenants?
  10. How do you handle collections?
  11. What do customers notice most about a facility?
  12. What should you regularly update on a facility?
  13. Which amenities do customers care about the most?
  14. How can you use a positive customer experience to get more reviews?
  15. How does a good customer experience drive referrals to your business?
  16. Is it important to retain existing tenants?
  17. Which one adjustment to improve your customer experience would have the most impact?

Live Poll Results: What tools are most important to provide to your employees?




Meet Your Speakers

Luke Westbrooks

Luke Westbrooks

Ziff Real Estate Partners


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Resources from this session

Awesome Quotes

“Once your operation is in place, you can become more dynamic with your pricing, but that requires data. You need some method of being able to record the data that you need to know whether your price is in the right place - whether you need to move it up or start giving some concessions.” - Warren Lieberman
“I never want to downplay to what someone else is doing. I'm better than they are, then I'm going to be worth a higher price. That's what value is. If you go out to a restaurant and get really good service, would you go back? Yes! What if it was pricier? You'd still go back because you got better service and a better product.” - Jim Mooney
"It's good to be informed on your competition. I don't want to ignore them, but I don't want to respond too strongly to them either." - Warren Lieberman
"We did a survey of 10,000 facilities on their pricing. We found out that two-thirds of those operators didn't change the price of a single unit of the course of a month." - Warren Lieberman
“Rate increases and value pricing are the number one ways to grow your revenue.” - Jim Mooney
"Tenants in more convenient units tend to be less price sensitive." - Warren Lieberman
"The size of the unit is only one aspect of what people are willing to pay for." - Warren Lieberman


Foundational marketing strategies to have in place - whether leasing up or stabilized:

  • Website
  • Set up listings (Yelp, Google My Business, Apple Maps)
  • Social Media
  • Establish Local Partnerships

Lease up marketing strategies:

  • Lead Generating Strategies (like digital ads)
  • Aggregators (Sparefoot, Storagefront, etc.)
  • Awareness Campaigns (like billboards, flyers, and sponsorships)

Your average customer value
Find the average stay length of all tenants. Next take your economic occupancy and divide by how many units you have. That will tell you what the average customer pays.

Multiply the average length of stay by what the average customer pays, and that's the average value of a customer.

For example, if a customer stays for 12 months and pays $100 per month, then their value is $1,200.

Your average lead value

Figure out your closing rate (or conversion rate) i.e. how many leads do you turn into tenants? Multiply that by your average customer lifetime value to figure out what your leads are worth. 

Pro Tip: see which lead sources are converting the best. It may be that certain sources have a higher conversion rate, so those leads are worth more to you than a source that barely converts.

Typical Lease-up timeline

According to our panelists, it's typical to see a 3-4% increase each month, putting your facility at 36% after the first year, and 72% after the second.

Alternately, you can look at your lease up goals through the lens of your units, aiming for 20 units rented per month.

For Nick and StorageMax, they pro forma their economic occupancy at 85% with their sweet spot at 92%.

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