When self storage first began you would often find operators asking customers to come over and have a look at what size shed would suit their needs. Even today many consumers think of storage sheds when thinking of self storage. As the market has grown many operators have moved away from words like shed or facility, and now refer to units, centrers, spaces and even guests. So what is in a name and what effect do they have on customer perception?
Most customers have a limited knowledge of self storage until they have actually visited a self storage business or used the services offered. Often perceptions are based on the visuals from driving past facilities or local advertising. This means that a potential customers’ idea of self storage can easily be shaped through contact with your facility. Presentation of the site, conduct of the staff, first impressions are all important when first greeting a potential new customer. So to, is the language you use and the way you describe your business. How you and your staff perceive and describer your business will be communicated to potential customers as soon as you greet them.
The importance language plays in communication is often overlooked, but careful use of words can bring an entirely different response from a person For example, think of a wristwatch..now think of a time piece. Chances are that the timepiece you thought of was something of higher value than the wristwatch. Why? A wristwatch is just a timepiece, they mean the same thing, or do they? Often different words that describe the same thing can generate entirely different images or perceptions from the listener. What images does shed, conjure up in your mind, or unit or space. More importantly, what kind of images do these words conjure up in your customers’ mind?
Continuing with the shed example, a simple thesaurus search will show that shed is aligned with words such as hut, shack or lean to, and also means discard, get rid of or drop. Not overly positive images. Unit is compared with element, part piece or section. Space can have many meanings including room, freedom, opening, gap or place. While all could equally be used to describe your product, each will inevitably produce a different image or perception in your customers mind.
A centre, by definition, is the hub or nexus; a very positive word. It is also associated with retail and customer service through the use of shopping centres, fitness centres, service centres and medical centres. Facility is also a fairly positive word by definition, with meaning such as resource, ability, feature or service. It can also be associated with industry and science as in research facility, nuclear facility, correctional facility or medical facility.
Some self storage centres want to be viewed as part of the retail trade and use language consistent with what customers would relate to as being more retail. In this context words like facility or complex are more appropriate for factory, industrial or even prison environments. Many self storage centres invest a lot of energy, money and time in the presentation of the property and it is important not to undermine this by describing them poorly. Words like shed have a very unsophisticated sounds do them and don’t help to enhance the image of the product or industry.
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