Self Storage- What the T.A.R.P. Study Says About Customer Satisfaction

Vanessa Neal, a StorPlace Self Storage Property Manager, at Rivergate who can be reached at 615-851-2500, came into work one morning to find a family waiting on the door step of the office. They looked tired and bedraggled, like they had been waiting for a while, so she hurried in to see what assistance they needed. They inquired as to prices for boxes and leasing a unit, the smallest we had, they said. It turns out that they had lost their home to fire in the wee hours of the morning. She helped them find a suitable unit and got them leased and back out to their destroyed home where they planned to pack up whatever they could salvage.

Over the next few weeks, She inquired of all my tenants that were vacating or moving in as to whether they had any household items still in good repair that they were planning to donate or dispose of and asked them to bring them into the office. She collected items and the next time the family that had lost their home came in, she was able to provide them with some clothes, kitchen appliances, baby items, and toys for their young boy. It wasn’t much, but their fellow tenants might have given them the moon judging by their response.

This is what separates StorPlace Self Storage apart from our competitors. Listening to our customers and trying to meet their spoken and unspoken needs is the hallmark of our superior service at StorPlace Self Storage.

 

Some years back, Jan Carlson determined that he would make SKS Airlines in Scandanavia the number one airlines. He determined that the airline had 5 touches with customers, and he determined that every touch had to be positive.

These are the 5 touches:

  1. Initial inquiry about flights, dates, and times
  2. Check into the airline
  3. Flight itself
  4. Baggage Claim
  5. Complaint Resolution

The T.A.R.P. Study says that one satisfied customer tells 5 others for a total of 6 who know about the satisfied customer. The dissatisfied customer tells 6 others who in turn tell 11 others for a total of 67 knowing of their dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is important to keep your customers happy in the Self Storage business.
StorPlace Self Storage has identified that there are 5 similar touches with their Self Storage tenants:

  1. Initial Inquiry
  2. Move-in
  3. Experience of Renting Unit 
  4. Move-out
  5. Complaint Resolution.

StorPlace Self Storage trains and manages their property managers and self storage consultants to meet and exceed their tenants’ expectations.

Certainly, the family whim Vanessa helped will be telling their friends and family and their circle of influence for years to come of the wonderful, kind customer service that they received. In today’s impersonal environment, empathy, concern, and helpfulness go a long way in creating customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is something that every business strives to attain. However, in the end, customer loyalty is not achieved through machines, voice activated prompts, and good locations. While these may play a part, in the end, it is the human to human, person to person, face to face customer contact that makes for strong customer loyalty.

 

The Knitting Circle: A Book Review by VSN

I recently read “The Knitting Circle” by Ann Hood, a story of a middle aged woman working through the grief of losing her young daughter. The lead character Mary joins a knitting circle at the urging of her mother, whom she has a resentful relationship with, and meets other women with their own secrets and burdens to carry. I found myself deeply moved by the novel and emotionally invested with each of the women as their stories and history unfolds, and realized that I do this on a daily basis with my self storage tenants at StorPlace.

            Yes, I lease spaces, handle accounts, and sell packing supplies, but the job is so much more. Every person that walks through my door has a story, a history, and often a tragedy that has brought them to me. No one leases storage that is not in transition somehow. The death of a loved one, the loss of their home or job, a divorce or marriage, a dream home come true, or a new beginning in a new city. Upheaval is never easy and sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger.

            So I find myself quite often the sympathetic ear.  I like that connection and that trust that my self storage tenants show by sharing their stories and burdens with me. It helps me develop a real relationship with them that allows me to provide the best customer service tailored specifically for them. It also allows me to make their time of upheaval and transition a little easier.

I see my tenants regularly as many choose to pay in the office for the chance to talk a little, visit a while with me. Maybe they just stop in to tell me, the management, their latest test results or show me the newest pictures of their kids, or maybe they have finally gotten that job they have wanted or have decided to leave their partner.  Regardless, they know I am here. I am open and willing to hear them and whatever they need to talk about. No it’s not in the job description, but it may just be the favorite part of my job, and my passion to treat others as we all would like to be treated. This is a rare virtue so absent in our fast paced, competitive world. We at StorPlace self storage try to make each person’s burden a little lighter and their day a little brighter.

And so one might wonder how can self storage really alleviate the stress and pain and dilemmas in a person’s life. It is certainly not the unit itself, regardless of size, location, inside or outside, heated and cooled, door that pulls up or opens sideways. The security feature of a keypad entry and gates. These features aid one in finding the spot best for their needs. But, in the end, it is the people to people business. Is the store interested in your dilemma and willing to recommend options and solutions? Is the store manager warm, friendly, respectful? Is the store manager competent and with a degree of expertise?

You see in the end it is a people to people business. It is sort of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Does the person feel loved, needed, wanted and appreciated? The tone is set up by the first  meeting—standing up, greeting them with a smile, asking how you can help. Warmth, caring, and respect, go a long way in today’s impersonal and fast-paced world. When a person is storing their belongings for a long or short period of time, they want to have their possessions at a place where they feel that they can trust the people. They want to know and feel theses people are as concerned with their belongings as they are their own. If something should change, they need a person with whom they can have a friendly dialogue with while moving towards a solution.

Pizza and Self Storage: What Are You Serving Up?

Kirby, an executive with the largest pizza franchiser in the United States, has lived all over the country. He has lived from Portland to Dallas, San Francisco to San Jose, Seattle to San Antonio, and most recently Little Rock to Nashville. He has used self storage units all over the United States. To quote him, “How different can self storage be; its only three concrete walls, a concrete floor, and a metal door.” He and his wife were really looking forward to moving to Nashville from Little Rock and finding a house to move into. After finding many wonderful homes, for some reason or another, someone beat them out of the price. They became very very discouraged. They wanted to move all of their belongings from the Little Rock self storage unit to their new home, but this was not possible. So, they have had to rent an apartment and move all of their belongings to a self storage unit in a suburb of Nashville called Cool Springs. They have finally decided to build a house, but first they must find the land. They looked around at several different self storage units and they felt that StorPlace was by far the best. The main reason they decided to use StorPlace was because Judy Urffer, the manager at the Cool Springs location at 1006 Flagpole Court in Brentwood, their newest location, telephone number 615-373-3006 was so friendly, so caring, and so empathetic about their situation. They felt very cared for by her and knew that she would take good care of them and all of their household belongings. In fact, on Wednesday, September 2008, Kirby stopped to tell our operations manager Cathy that their experience with StorPlace and Judy the manager was unlike anything they had experienced all over the United States in all of the self storage units since they moved a lot. In fact, Kirby said that when they moved again, he would never use ANY self storage company other than StorPlace. This special kind of treatment is the standard of excellence and trademark that our customers at StorPlace have come to appreciate and value. They also needed  a covered, secure place to store their prized weekend roadster. Due to potential aging from inclement weather and safety issues, they did not want to store the roadster at the apartment. They were directed to a perfect inside unit, which had heated and cooled space and seemed the perfect place for car storage. In addition, they had a baby grand piano, which was quite temperamental, rare and expensive. Not only did this furniture storage require a heated and cooled unit, but it also required one that was humidity controlled as well. They found the perfect inside spot with easy access and egress for this piece of furniture storage.

Kirby was very particular about the safety issues of the moving company bringing in and placing all of their household belongings and prized antiques. In fact, he had a special company put tags on all of the boxes and furniture so as to inspect them from the place of destination to the place of arrival. So in addition to Kirby overseeing the all day move into the self storage unit, also the tagging company was there to determine if there were any missing boxes or items broken in transit, everything checked out to the satisfaction of Kirby and the inspection company with the moving tags. The weather held, and it was a good day to spend all day at the self storage units.

 

Music City USA: A Great Place To Live and Work

A recent study named Nashville, Tennessee: Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida, as the three best cities for business and pleasure in the United States. Some of the criteria that were used in the selection process were the economic, climate, diversity of the economic base, crime rate, colleges and universities, arts and entertainment, professional teams, transportation systems, and weather conditions. Nashville has an outstanding professional football, the Titans and pro hockey team, the Predators. It is home to Vanderbilt University that has a leading edge university, medical, and research center. It has a symphony hall, which has been rated as one of the best in the US. The airport has recently been updated, funded through money made in the airport. This airport is one of the larger in the country and is a hub for Southwest. Also Nashville is home to StorPlace, which pioneered self storage in Nashville in the early 70’s. Finally, several years back, Music City was voted the friendliest city in the United States. In addition, with the Bridgestone and Nissan operation located here, there are many people moving in and out of the city. Nashville is a healthcare leader with HCA leading the pack. There are many other health care providers located here in Nashville. The number of hospitals such as Vanderbilt, Saint Thomas, Centennial, Summit, Williamson County Hospital, to name a few provide a lot of jobs. Nashville has a very diverse economic base. Then let us not forget the very important music business industry which is constantly moving in famous and want to be famous talent from all over the country. All of these entities have employees who have a need for short term or long term self storage units. In addition, Nashville is home to many universities besides Vanderbilt such as Maherry, Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Belmont to name a few. Vanderbilt provides leading edge cancer and medical research. Belmont recently hosted one of the three presidential debates. The Titans are undefeated this year. The Predators went to the playoffs last year, and they hope to do so again. The famous people in the Music Industry mix and mingle with the common folk and can be spotted for a late lunch or a late evening dinner at many of the local restaurants. Nashville has many upscale shopping malls, whether at Gaylord, Cool Springs, or Green Hills. The public school system is outstanding, and there are many fine private schools ranging from single-sex education to coeducational to parochial. The crime rate for a city over a million people is relatively low. The cost of living is acceptable, while providing many options in the suburbs and greater Nashville SMSA. The quality of the arts is exceptional with the recently opened Frist Museum, phenomenal Schermerhorn Symphony Hall which rates as one of the top in the United States for its beauty, acoustical sound, and flexibility for private charity events with drop-down floors. Opportunities for charity involvement abound. These range from the Monroe Carrel Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, DeDe Wallace to the arts, such as the Frist Museum, the Blair School of Music, the Cheekwood Museum, to being a docent at the Schermerhorn or TPAC. Both TPAC and the Tennessee Reparatory Theater offer a wonderful selection of plays, events, musicals, for anyone’s taste young and old alike. Everyone wants to be in Nashville.

 

Staging a House For Sale

 

Our family was moving to another neighborhood to be closer to our children’s school. We needed to sell our house because we already had a contract on a house close to the school. Since the average length of time to sell a house in this market is 6 to 7 months, we hired a staging consultant to come in and evaluate how to best show our house for the market. This consultant said that our house had way too much clutter and furniture. This made the rooms look smaller and made it more difficult for a prospective buyer to visualize themselves in our house. The staging consultant recommended we move 1/3 of our belongings and declutter the closets and children’s’ rooms. So, we had to go find a self storage unit. The people at StorPlace were so helpful and friendly, realizing our urgency and our need for a safe and secure place to put our antiques and cherished family picture albums. They helped us find the perfect unit, and they were flexible on the length of time to store because we didn’t know how long we would need. Also they had a lot of packing supplies like boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc. to help expedite the packing and moving process.

Moving is a very stressful event in the life cycle of a family. Even though the reason may be a positive one, it requires so much planning, ingenuity, and down right hard word. Our staging consultant was excellent, but in truth, she had no mercy about the salability of our house. In fact, decluttering was not nearly enough. She insisted that we move all of our comfortable family room furniture such as the two sofas, the La-Z-Boy chair, the armchair, and the ottoman into storage. She said this furniture that we found comfortable and quite acceptable looked old and ragged. She insisted that we go rent brand new furniture to put in the den. Of course, this added a significant additional expense to our moving cost, for which we were unprepared. We had the cost of the staging consultant, rented furniture, and furniture storage. My husband loves to go fishing in the spring, and it is truly his way to relax. She took one look at our beloved fishing boat and trailer and said that his rust-eaten, hideous boat and trailer must be gotten rid of. In order to save costs and still maintain convenience, we looked at several options including a POD, a marina slip, and boat storage. However, all things considered, the boat storage option represented the most economical and feasible solution. The POD, while slightly more expensive would have cluttered the yard, and this is what we were trying to get away from. The boat storage option was economical and convenient. We had access to the boat from 6 in the morning until 10 at night and could pay for 24 hour access on an as-needed or permanent basis for those early morning fishing trips. We had our choice of which parking space to pick on the lot which was fully-lit, fully gated, had 24 hour surveillance and a full gated property. This provided an easy and happy solution for my diehard fisherman who can’t wait to hit those early morning bass, crappie, and bream. So we are now onto our personal task of packing up storage boxes in the garage, children’s baby toys and riding vehicles, and all of the excess athletic balls and shoes that we have accumulated for years. Actually our house looks a lot better and newer and makes us kind of want to stay here.