Your storage facility’s staff are an extension of your business. They have the power to turn a great customer interaction into a glowing online or word-of-mouth review which can translate to increased occupancy and tenants who are willing to renew their leases. Conversely, staff have the power to repel customers. If they answer questions incorrectly, freeze up in difficult situations or simply come off as rude, they’ll drive tenants away. Fail to give them the tools they need and they’ll cost you money; train them right and inspire them to succeed in the world of self storage and they’ll grow your business. At the end of the day, the responsibility to motivate your storage facility’s staff is yours. Consider these tips when training both new and existing members of your team.
Take Into Account the Learning Curve
You can’t expect new hires to be self storage experts right away. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you’re probably so familiar with the ins and outs of leases, lien laws and all things storage that you often forget that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily speak the language of storage as well as you do. Expect that staff at your facility may face a learning curve and do everything you can to get them up to speed. This includes explaining key storage terms, familiarizing them with facility features like climate control, and making sure they’re aware of what different types of storage (including RV/boat and any other specialized storage) look like. While you’re at it, go over a lease step by step. This will ensure that your employees will be able to answer customer questions with authority, making them feel confident in their decision to choose your facility as their storage provider.
In addition to providing staff with essential information right away, make an effort to continue their self storage education by giving them access to the right resources. Make sure that they have an up to date manual but also make them aware of websites where they can read up on self storage topics. If you find a relevant article about the industry, email it to your staff or print it out and have it available in an employee area. If you’re using Facebook to market your storage facility and you’re sharing self storage content there, encourage staff members to like your page and keep an eye on what you’re doing. Lastly, if possible, bring your staff with you to industry conferences or events.
You can’t be available 24/7 to make sure that your staff are doing their jobs correctly, so it’s important to have procedures in place for all of the standard and not so standard self storage situations. Staff should know exactly how to handle everything from day-to-day paperwork to criminal activity on property. Determine the procedures for every situation and define them in staff training. Encourage your team to ask you “what if” questions. For example: What if a tenant hasn’t paid rent? What if someone wants to work on their vehicle while it’s in storage? What if a customer has questions about storage insurance? What if someone wants to see a specific unit? Allow your staff to ask about the situations they’re most unsure about and you’ll have an opportunity to explain your facility’s policies and procedures.
Emphasize Customer Service
Customer service isn’t just a term relegated to hotels and restaurants. It’s something that consumers expect everywhere from auto body shops to dry cleaners and yes, self storage facilities. If customers feel that your staff is friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable in a way that exceeds their expectations, they’ll not only want to give you their business, they’ll want other people to give you business too. You can bridge the gap between adequate customer service and amazing customer service by reminding staff the correct way to make customers feel welcome over the phone and in person. In addition to making sure that your team knows how to invite new customers to your business, go over how you’d like them to handle complaints from existing tenants. Remind them that these unhappy individuals, while challenging, can often be turned into satisfied customers.
Have Recurring Meetings with Set Topics
So many managers make the same mistake. They devote a lot of time to training new hires and then they fail to revisit or build upon that training. By having weekly or monthly meetings with your staff, you can go over new and existing policies, educate them on trends in self storage, role play to practice better customer interactions, make them aware of industry disruptors and open up a discussion on what’s going well and what can be improved on. These meetings certainly don’t have to occur every day, but they should occur regularly.
Even after years of working in the self storage, everyone can benefit from asking questions and learning about new facets of the industry. Remember this when training new staff or when revisiting that training with your team. Be a resource to them and let them know that they are always free to ask questions. Let them know that they can reach out to you if they’re ever unsure of something but also establish boundaries (i.e. no 3am phone calls unless it’s an emergency) so that you’re able to have work/life balance. Most importantly, offer incentives and give praise. Even a little encouragement will help your self storage team shine and will create a positive environment for staff and customers alike.