“This is not your father’s self storage business,” says Storelocal’s own Travis Morrow, CEO of Storelocal. “Today’s self storage experience is more like walking into an Apple Store.” He’s talking, of course, about how the industry has become more customer-centric. Let’s take a look at five benefits of a customer-centric approach and five ways the self storage industry is engaging customer-centricity.
What is a Customer-Centric Business?
Investopedia defines a customer-centric approach as “a strategy and a culture of doing business that focuses on creating the best experience for the customer, and by doing so builds brand loyalty.” For the self storage industry, which used to just focus on storing belongings, this means now making the customer the center of attention. This is accomplished by making sure the company's philosophy, operations, or ideas are all designed to keep the customer satisfied.
Is this really that important for self storage businesses? Yes! Salesforce recently surveyed over 6,000 consumers and found that 66% of them expected companies to understand their needs and expectations. In addition, 82% of survey respondents expect retailers to be able to accommodate their preferences and meet their expectations.
Five Benefits of a Customer-Centric Approach
Becoming customer-centric improves the customer experience. This, of course, makes for a happier customer which benefits the business in a number of ways.
1. Greater Profits
You’re in business to make money, and studies show that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that aren't! Much of this can be attributed to the rapport and trust that builds between a customer and a company when service is top-notch. Research shows that one in four customers are willing to pay up to 10% more if they know they’ll receive excellent customer service.
2. Better Customer Retention
When a customer is satisfied with a service, it becomes more difficult for a competitor to snatch them away. This is critical because according to Forbes, it can cost five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. New customers are typically less loyal, putting you on the hunt again for new renters. Finding new renters also takes time and marketing spend, or offering discounts and promotions to reel them in. That’s why Bain & Company reports that improving customer retention by 5% can increase profits by 75%.
3. More Repeat Business
Some self storage tenants come and go… but it’s not long before they need a unit again. Will they come back to your facility? If they received good customer service, chances are they will. In fact, 60% of small businesses report that more than half of their revenue comes from repeat customers rather than new business.
4. Better Reviews & Referrals
Word of mouth is powerful stuff, and today online reviews are more important than ever. In our blog, How to Get Online Reviews for Your Self Storage Business, we revealed that 90% of consumers read online customer reviews before visiting a business and that 88% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. So while some self storage traffic is walk-in-based, as the industry changes to become more customer-centric, so are the ways potential customers shop around. So, you’ll want to offer good experiences and encourage people to refer friends and write reviews.
5. Finding Room for Improvement
A customer-centric business listens to its customers. While it’s tempting to think we know it all, the truth is customers can have a lot of good ideas. By listening to them, considering their ideas, and implementing them if it's reasonable and feasible, you can keep up with customer expectations and demand and stay ahead of the competition. If you refuse to listen to them, you may lose them to a competitor that will, or already offers the upgraded service.
Five Ways Self Storage Is Becoming More Customer-Centric
So back to what Travis said; how are today’s self storage companies learning from Apple Stores to make themselves more customer-centric? Here are a few examples straight from the tech giant’s playbook (including one location that has the concept completely nailed down), along with a few examples that are unique to our own self storage industry.
1. Building Design and Aesthetics
You know an Apple Store if you’ve seen one. They’re modern, airy, and welcoming. Today, many self storage industries have changed their whole design, using top-of-the-line materials, commercial storefront windows, dramatic nighttime lighting, and custom details and signage. Some are even eco-friendly; these LEED Certified buildings significantly improve efficiency, consuming on average 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-green buildings. Read more in our blog on Self Storage Building Design and Aesthetics.
2. Retail Shopping
Like Apple Stores, which invite you to peruse all their new gadgets on display, self storage owners are including retail space for ancillary self storage items. These spaces aren’t a couple of messy racks stocked with locks and some boxes, however. Today, retail space is more like a well-stocked showroom, with self storage retail items attractively merchandised to incentivize purchase. They use professionally-produced signage to highlight sections and items, with prices clearly marked so as not to frustrate customers. Check out our blog 10 Self Storage Products and How to Market Them Like a Retailer for more.
3. Work Stations
Many Apple Stores have workstations where people can plug in and get some work done (some also have cafes, who knows, maybe that’s next in self storage!). Having a workstation isn’t a bad idea, especially for locations that cater to commercial districts or service a lot of small business owners and ecommerce entrepreneurs. These facilities often offer printing and faxing services, along with mail services and delivery holding, so why not give tenants a place to get some work done? The longer they stay, the more services or retail products they may purchase.
4. Specialty Storage
Know your self storage market? Then you may know that specialty storage can help bring in some additional revenue. A few types of specialty storage include:
- RV & Boat Storage. In some areas, there’s no place for owners to store their vehicles or watercraft when not in use. HOAs won’t allow them on properties, and parking spaces and boat slips can be costly. Plus, they may only use them during boating and RVing months. Offering storage space on your property can be very lucrative. Learn more in our blog on RV & Boat Storage.
- Climate-Controlled Storage. Climate-controlled storage may not work in every market, but when it does, offering some of these units can bring in extra revenue. Items that can be damaged without appropriate climate and humidity control include furniture and other items made out of wood, media (vinyl and videos), collectibles such as stamps, coins, and comic books, medical supplies, makeup and toiletries, documents, photos, art and more. Check out 8 Considerations for Climate Controlled Storage.
- Niche Storage. Some facilities are really drilling down with their offerings, making units highly specific to certain items. Take Domaine Wine Storage, for example. This national facility provides business owners and wine connoisseurs a place to store their vintage and expensive wines in perfectly climate-controlled conditions. They also provide tools and workspace for tenants to manage their collection, complimentary wine receiving, and more.
Automation is key in the self storage industry (pun intended). The NOKĒ® Smart Entry system is a perfect example. NOKĒ is a Bluetooth electronic lock and total access control system that allows customers to access their self-storage facility and individual unit from their smartphone. No more lost keys, no more forgotten gate codes – customers simply use their phones to gain access and share “digital keys” with friends, family members, or anyone else who needs to grab an item from the storage unit.
There are other useful technologies for self storage facilities as well, such as online apps. These apps can provide owners with valuable customer data, but also allow users to pay bills, see move-in and move-out dates, report an issue via photo, view a live feed of their units, and more. Read more about Self Storage Automation.
Self Storage That Understands the Customer-Centric Approach
We promised an example of a self storage facility that could give an Apple Store a run for its money. Well, check out Storelocal member National Self Storage–Dove Mountain. The modern facility, located in Marana, Arizona, is a past recipient of the prestigious Facility of the Year award by Mini-Storage Messenger magazine for all-around excellence in design, construction, and technology. It offers more than 60,000 square feet of rental space and includes advanced smart technology and upscale, resort-like design elements modeled after the affluent surrounding Tucson community and the nearby Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
Renters enter a welcoming lobby containing kiosks for paperless transacting, with onsite team members offering as little or as much assistance as desired. Warm paint colors and street signs within the facility guide the way to a renter’s unit, creating a sense of home and community. Read more about this unique self storage facility design.
Today, the self storage industry outlook is bright, but as an independent owner/operator, we know you can sometimes feel like you’re alone. So, if you want to learn more about self storage industry trends and join a network of independent self storage owners to boost your competitive advantage, join the Storelocal community. Just click below or head up to the JOIN NOW button in the menu!