What must your business have in common with a business that sells gourmet burgers?
Successful take-out businesses are experts in delivering satisfaction to each and every customer quickly, efficiently, and profitably. This is no mean feat when you consider that each and every customer has different needs. Isn't it the same in storage? Read on and discover why you want your storage business to be just like a successful gourmet burger business and how you can easily make a low-cost start on this very profitable transformation.
Ever seen the movie, "Pulp Fiction"?
Do you remember the characters in this movie? Vincent, Jules, Marsellus Wallace, as well as good old reliable and helpful Jimmy? Don't you just feel sorry for Jimmy's poor "working the graveyard shift at the hospital" wife? Do you remember how, throughout the movie, the timeline seems disjointed but at the end of the movie it all makes sense? Well, this article has one beginning, and one end. It gives you a choice of two "middle bits". You can use one "middle bit", you can use the other "middle bit", or you can use both as you read the story. The choice is yours and, in the end, it will all make perfect sense...
The story begins here...
Imagine you have had a really long, hard, day at work. It is your turn to cook for your spouse but you have left work way too late to stop off at the supermarket on the way home. You are starving and you know your spouse will be too. You decide to pick your spouse up from home and treat them to dinner at a restaurant. When you get home and discuss it with your spouse you both agree the delicacy of choice will be burgers. This, curiously enough, is a delicacy which features in Pulp Fiction a number of times.
You don't know where to go so you decide to take a look in the yellow pages. Under "Restaurants" you find "Pizza", "Thai", "Indian", "Mexican"...but... no burgers... So you go onto the internet. Same thing happens there.
You both now realise there will be no reservations made for any burger joint tonight. But you both still really fancy a burger for dinner. So, un-discouraged, you decide you will hit the streets. You are sure you will find a McDonald's, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Red Robbin... SOMETHING!
With the gentleman in the relationship gallantly opening the car door for his spouse you jump in and head off down the road. Sure enough within 3 minutes you see a big, bright, blinking neon sign that shouts "Gourmet Burgers". With jubilation you pull into the car-park and pick a park right next to the door. The gallant gentleman walks around the motor-vehicle and opens the door for his spouse who, with delight, takes his hand and together you walk towards those big front doors.
The gentleman moves to open the restaurant door but it is locked! You check your watch. You both agree it is strange that the doors would be locked at 6.30pm. You and your spouse start discussing the fact that other people are usually thinking of dinner around about now and surely the restaurant should be open?
Then you notice the Drive-Thru. You smile at each other when you realise your dream of having yummy gourmet burgers for dinner is still on the cards. With a new spring in his step the gentleman escorts his spouse back to the car where, once again, our gallant hero opens the door and the spouse gently and elegantly alights onto the passenger seat. In a flash the gentleman has whipped around to the driver's side and is sliding behind the wheel. The engine roars into life with a turn of the key and the driver, with smooth and gentle precision, expertly guides the motor-vehicle into the Drive-Thru lane.
The middle of the story might go like this...
There are little lines on the road with the words "Stop Here" painted next to the little lines. A sign to your left tells you this is where you need to stop to place your order. You look for the speaker-box. There isn't one. Your drive around to the window. The window is shut, the lights inside are off, and there is no-one around.
Or the middle of the story might go like this...
There are little lines on the road with the words "Stop Here" painted next to the little lines. A sign to your left tells you this is where you need to stop to place your order. You look for the speaker-box. You see it and place your order with the attendant. The attendant repeats your order back to you, tells you it comes to $18.75, and instructs you to drive around to the window. You drive around to the window. The attendant advises that the restaurant does not accept Visa, Mastercard, Amex, check, nor cash. In other words, this gourmet burger joint does not accept a form of payment other businesses all over the world, especially other burger joints, would readily accept without hesitation. Your order is ready, but as you have no way to pay for your order, you cannot get to it.
In either case, this is how the story ends...
Absolutely frustrated, the gentleman drives his spouse home and, because there are no other supplies in the pantry, he makes porridge for dinner. After all his efforts our perfectly gallant and gentlemanly hero spends the night on the couch.
So, what has all this got to do with the storage business? Is the situation outlined in the gourmet burger story a crazy scenario? You bet! Would you ever expect this to happen, unless something very strange was going on (such as a disaster or emergency)? No! Never! Do you think there are people in the self storage industry who do this to their customers? You bet there are! And you can tell who they are.
Here is how you identify them:
- Number 1: They keep a nice, clean, aesthetically pleasing facility so it is an attractive place for customers to frequent with great signage which makes it easy to find from the road.
- Number 2: They are not listed in the Yellow Pages and/or the white pages.
- Number 3: They open and close at hours that suit Management and staff more than the needs and wants of the customer.
- Number 4: They ignore the existence of all 24/7 technological innovations such as Access Control, Insomniac, and the internet. Some may employ Access Control but not the other technologies. Some employ all available technologies yet I have never seen an example of this we cannot improve to the mutual advantage of storage business and customer. I am prepared to award a FREE copy of StorMan to anyone who can prove me wrong before our next article is published.
- Number 5: If they do have a web site it is not easily found when you search on Google.
- Number 6: If the website exists and can be easily found with a Google search the website offers the customer insufficient means with which to communicate with the storage business. For example, there may be no email address advertised on the "Contact Us" page. This is a bare minimum requirement, although the website can and should be used for many other communicative functions. It is now March 2008, and I haven't yet seen a single storage website that provides all of the communicative functions available with today's technology to maximise customer satisfaction. Again, I am prepared to award a FREE copy of StorMan to anyone who can prove me wrong before our next article is published.
- Number 7: If the website exists and can be found, web surfers cannot search for and reserve a unit over the internet.
- Number 8: There is no way for the customer to pay their account over the internet so they can gain access to their stored goods outside of business hours via Access Control. If there is a way, is the selected method the most profitable for the storage company concerned?
- Number 9: And finally, here comes the "porridge line". This is the equivalent of our gallant hero being relegated to sleeping on the couch. Because of the previously mentioned eight factors, some storage companies miss out on business with people who should be their customer. These "should be" customers either do business with their competition, store their stuff in their garage and have to park their car on the street, or store their gear in the shed at "Aunt Louisa's" place.
Everyone is aware of "number 1" in the above mentioned list and most of us are very good at it. We all agree that our customers rate us to the extent we execute "number 1". But "number 1" is just part of the product. One swallow does not a summer make and a well executed "number 1" does not a self storage business make. We can have the most beautiful, attractive, well appointed, well kept facility but if any of the items listed from 2 through to 9 apply to our operation then we are neglecting things that can make a huge difference to the profitability of our business.
Even if we think we have employed all of the bells and whistles how can we be sure they are all interfaced optimally so as to provide a fully productive and optimally performing business machine? In other words, you may have a website, but does it present your business with all of the marketing value it should? Does it provide your customer with the optimum measure of convenience available through today's technology?
Does your website integrate with you Management Software so customers can perform real time requests for space relevant to availability? Do you use an Insomniac Self Storage Kiosk so customers can move in, pay their account with a check, or buy a padlock from you outside of office hours? Does your Insomniac Self Storage Kiosk integrate fully with your Management Software? Does your Management Software automatically, efficiently, effectively, regularly, and profitably handle rent increases?
There are many, many more questions of this nature than there is space in an article to mention but you get the idea. If everything is not all pulling together to get the desired message across to your market, to allow your market and you to interact (even outside of business hours), and to allow your business to efficiently and effectively collect the revenue owed to it by your customers, then the good news is that there is still room for your business to be even more productive than it already is.
Most of us are already well versed in the importance of these things. The reality is there are only so many hours in any given day, and there are only so many dollars in the budget. StorMan realises that time and budget constraints can hold people back and we would like to help. Until next time... :-)
- Wayne (VP Sales and Marketing, StorMan USA; 2007 - 2010)