When running a self storage business, it’s important to have effective ways to communicate with customers. Customers who aren’t able to contact you are apt to take their business elsewhere. It's also important for you to be able to contact your customers with important information.
Here are six methods for communicating with tenants today, and how to use each effectively.
When a tenant has an issue they need to discuss, they may come in to talk to a manager in person. For example, a tenant may be bringing a truckload of items to their unit, and another tenant is blasting loud music. Or, you may have informed a tenant that they’re late on their rent, and they may come in to pay it and to ask questions.
The advantage of in person meetings is easier communication. With a text or an email, you have to wait for a response. Cell phone connections can make it difficult to hear the other party, and you don’t get the feedback of body language.
We hope that most of your communications with tenants will be amicable, but sometimes a tenant will be upset. It’s your job (and the job of any of your employees working with the tenant) to remain calm. Recognize that they’re upset, but listen to the issue they’re having. Often, they’ll have a legitimate concern that needs to be addressed fairly. You may need to explain a policy the tenant doesn’t understand. You may need to bend a rule, depending on mitigating circumstances. Never talk down to the tenant. A friendly and considerate approach can ease most situations where a tenant is angry, and help bring about a fair solution acceptable to both sides.
Over the Phone
There are several good ways to contact a tenant over an issue. When the need is urgent, calling them on the phone is generally our best option. Perhaps a tenant forgot to put the lock back on their door and you had to overlock it. Perhaps there’s a bad smell coming from their unit and you need to warn them to clean it up immediately or face eviction. At other times, a tenant may simply call you with a question.
When you call tenants, you may get their voicemail, or they may answer but tell you they’re busy. Let them know if an issue is urgent either with a message or when you talk to them. You don’t have to linger long on the phone in these cases. It’s more important to get the information to them.
Remain friendly and do your best to answer the tenant’s question. Offer to call them back if it will take a while. If there’s an issue they need to solve, such as the lock problem, make sure they know when the best time to come in is for assistance.
Many people check their email several times a day. As such, this is a great way to remind tenants when their rent is due or to inform them of deals.
Since rent is usually due on the first of the month, we recommend setting up an automatic email that goes to all your tenants around the end of the prior month. You may send it out on the 25th of January to remind everyone of February’s approaching rent, for instance. Your emails should draw from your customer database so that each email appears personal, with the person’s name and the amount of rent due.
The same goes for other news, like sales. Perhaps you’re putting everything in the store on sale at 10% off for a week, and you want to make sure your tenants know that if they need boxes and such, it’s a good time to purchase those. Emails with this sort of general news don’t need to be personalized. However, write them as if you were writing to an individual. “Ready to put your winter clothes in storage for the summer? We have the wardrobe boxes you need at 10% off!”
One problem with email is that, these days, even with spam filters in place, much of the email people get is impersonal. They may subscribe to a variety of mailing lists and ignore half of them, for instance. So, they may accidentally overlook your messages. When tenants are late to pay their rent, consider calling them by phone, or texting them.
Texting is a touchy area in that many people only want to receive texts if they have agreed to receive them. While many phone plans these days include free texting, some do not. A tenant who gets charged for a text you sent may be upset. Consider adding a line on the contract that they can initial to allow, or disallow, you from sending them such messages.
That said, texting is the best way to contact some people. If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed urgently and the tenant is not answering their phone, consider texting them instead. One advantage of texting is that you can compose a friendly, yet matter-of-fact message. Avoid sarcasm (which you should do when working with customers anyway) and humor. These can easily be misunderstood in text.
While sending email for things like rent reminders works well and can save your facility money, regular mail is necessary in certain situations.
For example, if a tenant is far behind on their rent and you need to start the process of moving their unit toward auction, or getting them to finally pay their past-due bill, you will want a paper trail. In other words, if you need to send an important document to a tenant, mail is the way to do it.
We recommend you send these documents via certified mail. The tenant will have to sign for any certified letter, proving they received it.
It can be a good idea to keep your facility in the mind of your tenants on a daily or weekly basis. Seeing a post from your facility on their Facebook timeline will keep you in their thoughts in a positive way. This can help them remember to pay their bill, but it can also make it more likely for them to recommend you to their friends who need storage. Yes, right now, Facebook is the best platform for this, though you may want to share the same posts via Twitter. Put links to your social media pages on your websites and encourage tenants to follow.
Finally, if you notice a particular tenant responding better to some forms of communication over others, note that in their file. For example, if you know that they’ll respond within a few minutes to a text, but won’t respond to email or a phone call for a few days, then you know it’s best to text them.
We hope this helps you to better communicate with your tenants and to grow your business. This will allow you to have a good relationship with most of your tenants and the community.