The self storage landscape has become inundated with choices, it’s no longer enough for facilities to rely on unique selling points or brand strength. Almost more than a unit, a facility must sell an experience. And that experience begins with their relationship to the customer. Markets with lots of competition are under pressure to provide the best customer experiences, whereas markets without the pressure of competition are often the culprits of some of the worst.
The best way to define customer experience (CX) is the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey. Multiple touch points factor into the customer experience, and these touchpoints occur on a cross-functional basis. Standardization of CX has become increasingly automated to meet the demands of consumers. Customer relationship management (CRM) is the technology lever in business performance that can extend operations by automating many manual tasks thus improving the customer experience.
Mapping your business logic to the natural customer journey will allow you to deliver an experience that is always reliable and on-brand. After these customer journey paths have been identified we create campaigns that will be automatically triggered based on rules we have pre-determined.
Following our buyer journeys and path to purchase we discover that speed to follow up is a crucial component to securing the rental and we standardize that process. By designing out a contact strategy and mapping out all the communications and copy ahead of time we are systemizing our best assets. A follow-up campaign can then be triggered based on actions like a form being submitted by the prospect, or a lead being created by a manager. Depending on what marketing source and medium drove the lead will depend on the templated actions that are triggered within the process.
For instance, a web form submitted on an inquiry will trigger an automated cascade of communications. An example campaign of this nature might look like an immediate email with facility information, a text message follow up inquiring if they are still looking for a unit, followed by a scheduled task for a manual follow-up call from a facility manager. As this process is pre-determined and automated based on the trigger of the action (in this case a form filled out via the website) operators are guaranteed to provide the customer experience for that specific buyer journey that has been standardized and subsequently systematized.
Integration is the key to creating an experience that leaves your customers feeling like the service was created just for them. An application program interface (API) based approach can synchronize information seamlessly between different systems, like your CRM and facility management software. When your CRM knows the entire customer journey—the ads they’ve called, the conversations they’ve had, and what products they’ve purchased, their billing situation, etc.—it makes a huge difference to the customer experience.
84% of organizations working to improve CX report an increase in revenue (Dimension Data)
CRM platforms are the technology powerhouse you may have never even known you needed. They ensure that every interaction exceeds their expectations without extra manual effort. Using a bi-directional integration with your property management software, tenant and lead details are available in the CRM. In an age where it’s crucial to create personalized experiences for each customer’s unique needs, intelligent routing streamlines your customer support process and delights customers.
Automated communication tools are key to extending and systematizing operations. Text messaging for various activities, including follow-up and collections, have been pivotal in renting faster, and collecting sooner. By focusing on our customer’s experience, we have identified areas where technology can augment our efforts.
Following up with prospects is of the utmost importance. Recently, CallPotential called 700 of the top operators in the industry and performed a wide scale mystery shop. The mystery shoppers were instructed to call the facility and leave a voicemail that they were coming to town next weekend and were interested in receiving information on a 10x10. Of those “top operators”, only 7% actually followed up with the lead. Only 2% of the locations called back more than once.
How frustrating would that be to a potential tenant? To make the effort to seek out services and have the business not even return their call? The bottom line is that people are wanting to spend money and are unable to do so, due to a poor customer experience. Most of these operators had follow up protocols that were not being executed. It’s not enough to assume that follow-up is being done There should be checks and balances in place to ensure that interested leads are not being turned away.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to rent and ensure that no one is forgotten or left behind. Increasing the lead-to-rental conversion rate means we need fewer leads, which equals a lower marketing spend. By employing tracking phone numbers and an automated follow up system we ensure every lead is captured and worked to peak efficiency. A higher rental conversion rate means we need less leads saving our marketing budget for truly profitable campaigns.
Since you know who your typical callers are a CRM with an integrated VOIP system allow for tremendous personalization capabilities. Logic based call routing features allow an existing customer calling in to have a different experience than someone who is a prospect. A prospect calling from a marketing campaign can be standardized to automatically route to a team member who specializes in closing the sale. An inbound call from a current tenant with past due status can be automatically routed to a secure pay by phone system completely bypassing the site manager. Each experience is customized and standardized based on the individual.
If a tenant misses a rent payment – it’s generally due to one of two circumstances; their current financial situation does not allow them to make a payment on time or they just plain forgot. Either way, a well designed reminder campaign using a variety of texts, emails, live and recorded calls will help remind them and keep you top of mind come payday. Using their preferred communication channel with easy access to payment options is the ultimate in tenant convenience with the double benefit of reducing bad facility debt.
Customization of messaging allows you to communicate whatever message you want. On the day that rent is due a payment reminder can be automatically sent out in whatever channels you integrated into your strategy. Whether it is a text, email or phone call you can deliver a personalized relevant message. If payment is still not made, a message in a different communication channel goes out at whatever time interval you desire. Incorporating auto-pay sign-ups into this process helps make strides into automating billing. More auto-pays = consistent and predictable cash flow as well as providing another tenant convenience.
The use of technology allows you to deliver a truly thoughtful and impactful customer experience that will result in raving fans, positive reviews, and an avalanche of new business.
(Originally appeared in ISS Magazine November 2019)