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Simple but not easy
Welcome to the self storage blog, our window into the world of self storage.
I had the pleasure of visiting with two self storage insiders today who made the trip to COlumbia Missouri to visit our off-site sales center. We talked about how simple a business self storage appears to be. And we talked about how it may be simple, but it is not neccessarily easy. Some people make the mistake of thinking any simple business is easy and get involved without figuring out what they are doing. Other people make the msitake and think that wimple is the same as easy.
In self storage, you rent space month to month for people to put their things in. Yes it is that simple. But as in most projects, the devil is in the details and there are many complications involved.
It is probably the same in a lot of businesses. And I’m sure we all have stories about the people who thought they could run a simple business without figuring out the details.
bye for now,
Diamonds and Coal
Welcome to the self storage blog, PhoneSmart’s diary of its dealings in the self storage industry.
Some Calls are Diamonds and Some Calls . . .
I was working my way though a hot day in June talking with folks all around the country about the benefits of storing with our clients. The calls were coming thick and fast with just enough time in between to get a sip of iced tea and take a deep breath. Callers were the usual run of frazzled, stressed out, hard working people who find themselves in desperate need of some place to put things they don’t want to throw away. It seemed to be the typical mix of reservations, leads, truck rental requests and current tenants with questions.
You never know what sort of mood they are going to be in. You answer the phone with your best smile on and are polite enough to make your Mother proud. You keep a professional tone and don’t get rattled and usually even the most frazzled, most stressed callers will calm down because they respond to your kindness and know you are trying to help them.
AND THEN IT HAPPENS! A call comes in from someone who is just determined to be as unpleasant as possible from word one. You answer the questions, bite your tongue over their smart remarks and try not to let your mounting annoyance show. You get through the call, proud that you have maintained your professional demeanor in the face of an angry, bitter person. After all, it could be worse… you could be married to him! (Tee Hee) You walk away from your station take a few deep breaths, get a drink of water, fantasize about kicking a locker and go back to the phones. You again answer calls with your best smile on and make your mom proud.
AND THEN IT HAPPENS! A tenant calls and says that the gate is stuck and he can’t get out. He has tried his gate code which got him into the lot a few minutes ago to no avail. You read your info on the facility information and find that you have an emergency code that you can give. You get his name, telephone number and unit number and following the instructions on the screen give him the code and leave a message for the manager. When you get back with the tenant he tells you that the code did not work. You hear a small child crying in the car. You look for all of your options and then tell him to try to honk his horn and rouse the manager or call his police non emergency number.
You are still leaving messages for the manager and writing a trouble ticket about the situation when the manager calls back. A co-worker takes his call and tells me that the tenant is out and that he had been speaking with a very nice young lady.
Well. the day wasn’t so bad after all. Some calls are diamonds and they more than make up for the others.
Eat, drink and earn
Lunch in Newport Beach
If you are responsible for keeping your properties rented up, you’ll want to come and have lunch with me in Orange County California on July 12th. I will be hosting a lunch at 11:30 AM at the Balboa Bay Club. Seating is very limited. So RSVP ASAP.
I will be sharing some success stories from our clients. The internal upside in your property is in your phone calls. You can rent to more of the people that are already calling you.
Thanks for reading the self storage blog.
Not cold till they are freezing
Welcome to the self storage blog, PhoneSmart’s diary of the self storage business.
One of the StorageMart managers faxed me over the notes on the reservation form from a rental he just wrote. Sometimes we assume that if people don’t rent from us right away, we will lose them. I always tell people you have to stay on top of leads like white on rice until they either rent from you or tell you they don’t need storage. Of course it needs to be done in a caring, respectful and professional manner.
The reservation was made on June 19th without any particular clues as to the customer’s needs or priorities. Just a name and a phone number. The first note from the manager on the sheet said “Called 6-20 11:00 am. Got Nextel customer unavailable message”. The next note was from 3:08 on the same day. Same result. Customer unavailable.
The next note was from 6-22. It said, “Customer called to cancel. Her military unit will not be transferred. No longer needs storage.”
The next note was from 6-24. It reads, “She called back and just got orders to deploy and WILL need the unit.”
The last note was from 6-25 and showed “Rented” and the lease number.
Yes fate stepped in and caused this person to need the unit after all. But she could have rented anywhere. But I bet she rented here, because she liked the people she talked to on the phone the first time she called, she appreciated that the store showed up on her caller ID, trying to follow-up, and she liked the way the store manager treated her on the phone when she talked to him in person.
However, without all the pieces of this puzzle, she may have rented somewhere else. Make sure your rental efforts keep tabs on prospects until they rent from you.
bye for now,
Love New York
Welcome to the self storage blog, PhoneSmart’s window on the self storage business.
I had a dicussion today with a client about taking calls for New York City stores. I have a discussion like this fairly often. Most people, even people who live in New York, find New Yorkers intimidating. I lived in New York City for 25 years and I love the town and its people, so I am certainly biased in their favor. But our call center reps love New Yorkers, too. We answer for quite a few stores in the NYC Metro area and even though you do talk to peolpe who are in a hurry from time to time, the vast majority of the callers are no different than anyone else.
Actually they can be more open, honest and forthright in the answers they give us. They are also looking to make a decision, so they can get on with their hurried lives So when we offer a good solution to their situations, they accept them. New York callers are rarely rude, even though they sometimes like to haggle and like to “give you a hard time” about issues, just to see if they are getting a good and honest deal from you. Our reps know that you just have to give them a hard time back and assure them that they are making a good choice.
Like in any immigrant centers in the US, sometimes New York callers are difficult to understand. So we have to be patient with them and in turn, they tend to be patient with us. Like people everywhere they enjoy being treated in a friendly and respectful way. And they like to make a reservation when you offer them a good value at a fair price. I heard a rep of ours thids morning getting off of a phone call after taking a reservation signing, “I love New York”.
bye for now,
the question is changing
Welcome to the self storage blog, where we let you in on the experiences we have at PhoneSmart dealing with the world of self-storage.
We are taking some time to examine how consumer behavior towards self storage is changing and/or staying the same. When we started five years ago, nost callers started by saying, “I need to store my stuff. What do I do?”. About two and a half years ago we saw the balance was shifting towards an opening question like this: “How much is a storage unit?”
We are starting to see a change. More and more people are asking first: “Do you have any specials?”
We still get some people who say they need to store and ask for help figuring out what they need. We still get plenty of people who lead off the conversation with a price question. But if the trend continues, the specials question may become the majority.
I know that people in the apartment home business are sensitive to this quesiton. It has been the prevailing question of callers for some time, as overbuilding and the unprecendented rise in home ownership has put pressure on the apartment industry. Their situation is a little different, as amenities mean a lot more to an apartment renter than a storage renter. You might disagree, but you are a little more particular when you are going to live somewhere as oppossed to just leaving your belonings somewhere. Apartment leasing pros still do not have a graet way to get someone enthused about renting with them without a special offer.
The fact that people ask about specials may mean that there are enough newer and luxurious storage facilities in most markets, that they are all starting to look alike and the newness and the neat features are less interesting than they were two years ago. It may mean that people are doing more “shopping around” than they used to and whoever they talked to earlier made it seem like the special is the “Thing”. I know some large companies work very hard to promote its specials. Maybe they have been successful enough that callers are conditioned to look for specials.
Whichever the case may be, you have to give buyers what they want. We certainly have more success creating leads and reservations for stores that give us specials to offer.
How does this fall into play with how we revamp our selling proceedures?
Tell me your thoughts about specials.
bye for now,
Storage sales 201
Welcome to the self storage blog, where we keep a diary of the self storage industry.
Today I met with our supervisors and top sales people to get a feel for how they are reading consumer behavior this year as oppossed to years past. Since we pride ourselves as being on the forefront of selling self storage, we want to know how we have to adapt, change and respond to what goes on in the market place. How does one sell storage space this summer? Is it the same as last year, or this spring?
We had an interesting discussion that we will continue in a few days. How do you see the world of renting storage space cahnging this summer?
As we clarify our thinking, I will let you in on it.
bye for now,
The Wheel of Storage
Welcome to the self storage blog, PhoneSmart’s diary of its experiences in the self storage business. Today’s blog was submitted by Kay Johnson, a self storage insider. She is one of our many super telesales reps.
Sometimes as we sit in our cubicles staring at the screen and waiting for the phone to ring we may feel a bit disconnected from the outside world and from the stores that we serve. We have callers who are happy, polite, nice, sad, angry, stressed out and down right nasty. We answer the same questions call after call, day after day, and count our credit card reservations as the measure of our accomplishment. We fret over our numbers, our percents, and our evaluation scores and develop a sort of tunnel vision that wears down our spirits.
If we start to look and think beyond those numbers we can begin to see a greater importance in the work we do. Just imagine that you are a busy working mother of three needing to retrieve your extra bed from your storage unit for an emergency overnight guest. It is 7 PM and the office at your storage facility closed at 6:30. You know that the gate is working later than that but you don’t want to drive over there if you won’t be able to get in. You call the office number hoping against hope that they are working late and you might luck out. You get a message “press 1 for information” and expecting a recording you hear the friendly voice of a live person who assures you that the gate is working until 9PM.
Imagine that you are tenant of your local storage facility. It is 10 PM and you need to catch a plane first thing in morning. Your bill is due and you are concerned about getting it paid on time. When you call and friendly live person tells you that you can pay your bill online and gives the web page address.
Imagine you are shopping for a storage unit and looking for the best value. You call and call getting answering machines or people who give you a price in a bored voice and hurry you off the line. Then you make one more call that rolls to us and you get a friendly, knowledgeable person who guides you though the selection process and sends your request and your information to the manager so that they can contact you and have the opportunity to serve you.
Imagine that you are a businessman with a very busy schedule and you need to store a sudden influx of excess inventory. You are constantly on the run and cannot spare the time to keep calling if the store does not answer. You call, perhaps expecting a recording and get a friendly voice that helps you select a unit that will work for you, gets the paperwork information started and even reserves the unit you need.
Imagine that you are a tenant and you enter your unit, the door swings closed behind you and locks. You know that the managers have left for the evening. You call out on your cell phone and get a friendly person who calls the alternate number and help is on the way.
Imagine you are the manager of the store that these calls were taken for getting information that will aid in increasing your store profits by having the opportunity to talk with the one that might have gotten away and assisting customers with immediate special needs.
Imagine yourself not a small person sitting in a cubicle in fly-over country staring at the screen, waiting for a call, but at the hub of a huge wheel whose spokes reach out across North America. Imagine the gratitude of the mother of three, the person anxious to pay his bill on time and the businessman with a need, the poor soul trapped inside his unit. Imagine your value to the store that you serve.
At the mercy of careless individuals.
Welcome to the self storage blog, where we consider the self storage business.
We had some unforseen challenges last night and this morning due to the carelessness of an excavator.
Sprint lost all its T1 lines in a large portion of the state of Missouri last night, but we are 80% recovered and should be 100% recovered any minute now.
According to the story that was told to us, last night a contractor laying water lines near Jefferson City Missouri cut the main bundle of cables that connects Sprint’s T1 lines for a big portion of the state of Missouri. So Sprint clients like us with T1 lines were completely S.O.L. We all lost phone and data service. This is the worst case scenario that is completely out of our control. All our redundancies would have come into play under just about any other scenario. The good thing about this kind of crisis is that there are some very big customers Sprint needs to take care of.
The lines that went down served the state government offices, the National Guard headquarters and some very large commercial customers. Our usage is teeny, tiny compared to some of them. So it is nice to have that kind of clout on your side when a large company like Sprint needs to get motivated.
Most of the repair was completed last night. The fix is not 100 % completed, but we had about 80% of our lines working by 10:00pm last night. We are transferring the paths of the remaining lines so they will be functioning any minute now. Thank you for your patience.
I know we are all glad we will not be receiving the repair bill that the excavator will be receiving from Sprint. You would think contractors have all heard enough horror stories like this that they would be more careful. The state of Missouri spends tons of money educating homeowners and contractors about these kinds of issues. You can usually get a utility line spotter to come out to a work site on the same day you call.
A few years before PhoneSmart opened a contractor cut data lines that served the entire downtown portion of Columbia, Missouri, our home town. It took two weeks to completely restore phone and data service and the contractor paid a huge fine. About one month after we opened an excavator laying fiber optic cable cut the T1 line that runs our side of the road. It didn’t take long for Sprint to wire around the break, but again, the contractor paid a huge fine.
Our redundancies can handle the local cable loss, but a state-wide event is beyond our capabilities. Perhaps when we grow to the next level and move some of our reps and some ouf our equipment into the virtual realm, we could just swing all our lines to our reps in other states.
I want to thank all our clients who have been patient and understanding during this difficult time. It is busy season and neither you nor I want to miss a single revenue opportunity.
Welcome to the self storage blog, our diary of the self storage business.
One of the hidden values we bring to the self storage industry is the analysis we do on phone call and rental activity. It is essential to us to be able to anticipate call volume for staffing purposes. Running a call center is all about right-sizing your staff. We also need to be able to track our results to see how our training and selling approaches are working and how consumers are behaving. Our approaches and consumer behavior influence each other to a very great degree. Since this is the busy season, we need to pay particular attention.
June is off to a very good start compared to last year. The first ten days of June gave us better call volume than last year and the demand wave stayed higher than last year. We also saw good rental demand. Our ratio of credit card reservations for the first part of June was as strong as last year. This is a good sign, as credit card “action” has been slower than last year up until now. Many clients have reported to me that they have found their second quarter of ’05 to be weaker than ’04 in net rentals and total move-ins. This indicates that “something is up”.
There were many people being deployed in military actions last year. Home sales were booming and a softness in the economy may have been causing life changing and career changing events for people. This year, home sales continue to stay strong, yet the storage business seems a little soft. So the fact that this June is looking better than last year’s June and the fact that June is looking better than other months of this year, in comparison, has got to be positive.
Of course we are also experiencing the anti-climax of the “middle of the month syndrome”, when we get lots of current tennant calls and fewer rental calls than we had towards the end of May and the beginnning of June. The rush of heavy rental demand at the end of the month in busy season is balanced off by the dissapointment the middle of the month brings. But the end of June is coming along with 4th of July weekend, so don’t fret. The new customers will be flooding your stores and our phone lines again.
bye for now,