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  • A Funny Thing Happenend…
    By admin on October 27, 2006 | 84 Comments84 Comments  Comments

    Written by Kay Johnson PhoneSmart call center blog editor

    Welcome to the PhoneSmart self storage blog, an inside peek at the self storage industry.

    A funny thing happened to me on the way to retirement. I came to work in call center taking calls for self storage facilities. It is difficult for me now to say why I accepted this job over the other professional positions that I was seeking. I was looking for something in accounting or management. When I came into the call center for my interview, the first thing I noticed that people were smiling. They were also laughing between calls and they seemed relaxed and comfortable. There was not the electricity of stress or the oppressive curtain of depression that you can sometimes detect when you enter a business.
    My interview was encouraging. There was none of the stuff shirt, uptight, arrogance that some interviewers display. There was a kindness about everyone I talked with, and genuine interest in the skills and talents that I might be able to bring to the company. I looked around and heard representatives speaking with potential customers without the high pressure, boiler room pressure tactics that some marketing centers think of as the road to success. It seemed from my observations that call center reps were treating callers with respect and good manners. It seemed a good combination. Training was one on one and designed with sales techniques to create success.
    So here I am, 27 months later, on the phones selling self storage and editing blog submissions from team members. There are times when callers have been so angry, bitter and abusive that I need to walk away from my phone for a bit but mostly things go pretty well. The income opportunities are good and co workers get along very well. We find opportunities to socialize away from the workplace and there are many acts of kindness and friendliness between crewmembers. We are a little family here.
    The job lacks the mundane boredom of “bean counting” and we have a lot of fun on the night shift. There is no whip cracking supervisor, no upper management arrogance, and no high maintenance wardrobe. There are programs such as Secret Shopping, Outbound calling and other projects to add a bit of diversity to the job. I like it better than accounting. I think I will hang around a while.

    Your local self storage unit provider in 9580 Potranco Rd. San Antonio, TX. 78245

    Total Quality Assurance Services has quality written all over it.

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  • Under Fire
    By admin on October 19, 2006 | 1 Comment1 Comment  Comments

    Written by Ronald Smith PhoneSmart call center reservations specialist, and business blog writer.
    Welcome to the PhoneSmart call center blog. We offer and insider view of the self storage business.

    I have been in the self storage industry for a little over 6 months. I have taken a lot of calls and talked to hundreds of different types of people. All of them have a different reason for calling. I have had to deal with angry, frustrated, distraught, and many other types of callers that contact our call center. I have also talked with many managers along the way. I have learned that technology can sometimes be frustrating.
    Technology has come a long way in this business. We have evolved from regular storage units to climate controlled. There are now companies that bring the unit to your home. We also have software to allow the managers to update their screens and alert the call center of how many units are left on site. However, there are sometimes hang ups in the communication.
    I received a call one day from a manage who couldn’t update their screen and they were frustrated because they had changed the screen the night before. The computer would not do what they wanted. How many times have we tried to figure out things and it turned out to be some little thing we overlooked. This was a big issue for a huge client and emotions were high.
    I was under fire and could have lost control. At that time I was in the role of customer service specialist. It was my job to find a solution for this manager and help calm the situation. With the help of my team members I was able to get the manager the instructions he needed to update his site. The important thing to remember when dealing with clients or the actual customers is that in both situations you are still serving as a customer service rep.

    Your local self storage unit provider in 6700 River Rd. W. New York, NJ. 07093

    Total Quality Assurance Services has quality written all over it.

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  • The Zipper
    By admin on July 28, 2006 | 1 Comment1 Comment  Comments

    Liz Langsteiner bilingual PhoneSmart Rep and Customer service specialist gives us a glimpse in the self-storage call center.

    Welcome to the PhoneSmart call center blog and insider view of the self-storage industry.

    Just when I thought I had lost the deal I heard the sweetest sound I know the zipper.

    I work in an inbound call center. Our callers are current storage tenants or self storage inquiries. We get really excited when we get a rental inquiry because that is the opportunity to make commission from the storage business.
    First, you must determine the callers needs, then create a little urgency and hope the caller has a credit card to reserve the storage unit. We use various sales techniques along with experience to give the best customer service we can.
    Just the other day I was on the phone with a caller who needed storage that very day from a StorageMart. I went through the agreements used one of our original price stalls and offered the assumptive close. I asked the question, which credit card you would like to use. The caller came back with 10 questions. I answered all ten questions and stressed limited availability on the unit my caller was interested in. I went for the close and this time the caller only had a few more questions for me. I decided if she won’t give up a credit card I would invite her in for a site visit. So I asked her what time would you like to come in and see the unit this morning or this afternoon? The next sound I hear is the sweetest sound I know!! THE ZIPPER and in our line of work it truly is the sweetest sound we hear while on the phone (when you hear the sound of a zipper you know the caller is unzipping a purse and is about to give you a credit card).

    Self Storage in Missouri Need Storage in Columbia, Missouri? Call 573-443-3233 and ask for Arlene.

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  • to sell or not to sell
    By admin on September 29, 2005 | No Comments  Comments

    Welcome to the self storage blog, our diary of the self storage business.

    I often talk to people about adopting a sales culture. I say how you get more customers and keep more customers when you have a sales culture in place.

    I had the opportunity to be on a panel at the ICCM.com call center conference the other day. We talked about changing the culture of a call center. We had a standing room only crowd and a very engaged audience. It is not only storage companies looking to be more sales savvy, but call centers, too. Most call centers are set up as answering services or customer service help lines. They take a reactive role to the caller’s concerns. In a sales center like PhoneSmart, we are taking a proactive role and trying to walk the caller through a sales process and win their business.

    Changing your culture, once it is in place is a little like taking a baseball team and turning it into a football team. Or maybe to be fairer, it is like taking your defensive football team and turning it into an offensive team. It takes good strategy and careful tactics.

    Bye for now, Tron

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  • Stuff? Who has stuff?
    By admin on September 14, 2005 | No Comments  Comments

    Welcome to the self storage blog, our diary of the self storage business.

    Self Storage is an interesting thing. In our lives we somehow accumulate too much “stuff” and don’t have room to fit it into where we live. I know of someone whose grandmother had a storage unit for over 30 years. She paid over $100 a month and never moved anything out of it. When she had to put into a care facility, the family decided to empty out the storage unit. They found detergent, cleaning supplies, furniture and other odds and ends. All of the products were old and deteriorated, and had to be thrown away. The family couldn’t understand why after all the years she had storage, why she was just storing a bunch of nothing. Obviously, it wasn’t just nothing to the grandma. Or did it get to a point where she didn’t want to have to clean it out, so it was better to just pay the rent every month.

    So, that brings me back to the interesting thing. Why as a society would we have so much “stuff” that we would have to pay someone to store it for us? Companies and businesses are making money (a lot of it) on people storing their extra stuff. If you had a lot of stuff, why wouldn’t you try and get rid of some of it? That is the million dollar question. Of course there are the people who store because they need a temporary place between moving or buying or selling a home. Those people are not who I am speaking about. I am talking about people like me.

    I myself have a storage unit that I share with my parents. For some reason we cannot get rid of enough stuff that it would fit into our homes. My goal this fall is to go through all the stuff and sort and toss and sell anything I don’t want or need anymore. To make the goal more interesting I am putting my things on my side of the garage in the new house my boyfriend and I are building. My vehicle will have to be parked outside until all the items find a new home. My boyfriend doesn’t know how much stuff I really have. Right now he is fixated on my 5 pairs of shoes. Little does he know I have about 40 more pairs packed away!

    Thanks,
    Natalie

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  • trends
    By admin on August 30, 2005 | 94 Comments94 Comments  Comments

    Hello to those of you in self storage and welcome to the Self-storage blog, our diary of the self storage industry.

    If you are a self storage insider, and interested in self storage trends, you should keep your eye on our storage blog.
    Some days we reveal self storage secrets. These are based on lessons we learn in our call center, which handles thousands of calls related to the self storage business.

    The storage business is an interesting one to be involved with, as it ebbs and flows with the economy with a leveling component. Peolpe need to store in good times and bad. According to the self storage association, the typical client owns a single family home and uses storage as an extra closet, garage and store room.

    However, we do see sales increase during moving season, student rush and times of disaster. So our sales techniques need to be able to help people in a variety of situations.

    As a business blog in general and a self storage diary in particular, we tend to share general impressions of the business climate as well as specific issues that impact our self storage industry.

    The busy moving season is about to come to an end, however if our projections hold true, we will see a more gradual decline in demand than last year. We base this in part on the number of calls we are starting to get for October. In years past, we did not start seeing October requests until well into September. The rise in home sales, the continuing deployments of military units and an economy that is moving along in some sectors and sputtering in others seem to be the influencing factors.

    Don’t forget to come to our booth at the SSA show next week in Las Vegas.

    Bye for now, Tron

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  • Diamonds and Coal
    By admin on June 29, 2005 | No Comments  Comments

    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.

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  • Customer survey
    By admin on March 23, 2005 | 46 Comments46 Comments  Comments

    A lot of people were very interested in the results of the market survey that the self storage association recently commissioned. I picked up on a few items at the Philadelphia show. One thing that many people talked about was the finding that only 25% of renters found out about their storage place through the phone book. Our clients have been telling us for quite some time that drive-up business is becoming more and more important. This hammers home the adage that real estate is all about location, location and location. But the study did not ask if renters called first before going to the store or where they got the phone number if they did call first. These are important things to know before you start cutting back your phone book presence.

    Another interesting finding was that pet control and expanded access hours were two of the most important reasons people choose storage. I ran this by a few of our experienced sales reps who talk to 100 people a day about storage. They scoffed. As a matter of policy, we do not talk about pest control unless a callers bring it up, because we do not want to suggest that pests may threaten their belonings. Very, very few people ever ask about it. As far as acess hours, you can sell 24 hour access successfully and you can sell limited access successfully. We sell whatever the store offers, and it almost always works. So expanded hours is probably not the great attractor that it might seem from the study. Let me know what you read into the study and what you have found from other market surveys. Tune in next time. Bye for now, Tron.

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