Tips on Finding the Right Storage Company

If you are moving home it is a good idea to consider renting a storage unit throughout the duration of the move. With the extra space at your disposal, you will have an easier, less cluttered time dealing with all of the hustle and bustle of relocation.

It is important that you find a good company and deal on storage so that you can have peace of mind about your belongings and the price you pay. This is especially true if you also have to consider hiring a moving company as this can really put your budget under a lot of pressure. There are few things you need to research about storage before you rent:

  • Price – Take into account any discounts the company is willing to offer, but also any added costs. You want to know everything in advance, which means that you should inquire whether they charge extra for additional security and cleaning so that you can make your choice. Do they offer a complimentary move in truck or trailer that may save you the cost of hiring one? Do they allow you to rent for a shorter period if you only plan on using the unit temporarily?
  • Storage space – If you think that you may not have room for all your belongings in your new home or it may take some to unpack and organise things, it makes sense to hire a unit with that will suit your space needs. You do not want to pay for space that you are not going to utilise, but at the same time you want to make sure you have enough to keep everything you need. Carefully decide on what you are going to store during your move, and ask the self storage facility staff to recommend the amount of space you will need.
  • Accessibility of the storage room – You will likely have to load a ton of things on the moving van, so you definitely want to make sure access to your storage unit is easy. Drive-up units are a good option as they allow you to park right next to your storage unit and unload easy and fast, without carrying things over great distances. Additionally, when it comes to accessibility you have to make sure that the storage company policy allows access when you need it. You might be busy with your removals during the week leaving the weekend as the only time you can visit.
  • Security – You want to hire a company that provides secure storage units, with alarm systems and other security measures installed, as this will give you peace of mind and fewer worries about your stuff. Make sure you ask about the security measures at the facility.

Make sure you take the aforementioned factors into account if you want to have an easy move and utilise self storage effectively.

Ella Andrews

Ella Andrews is blogger and freelance writer, who is very passionate about home improvement, remodelling, interior and exterior design ideas. She’s been writing about similar topics for a long time, but is also constantly searching for new sources of inspiration. More helpful tips and advises on removals and storage read at: http://www.removalslondon.com/

How Staff Training Leads to Higher Occupancy Levels

Can something as simple as staff training really increase occupancy levels? At first, this might seem a little too good to be true, but bear with me for a moment while we start things from the top.
When people talk about training (be if for themselves or their staff) the first thing that usually comes to mind is “How much is it going to cost me?”. The question, however, should be: “What’s my return on investment (ROI)?” …and that’s what this post is all about.

A little money spent on training will almost always result in business growth as a result of productive & consistent staff, reduced costs, more customers …and happier ones at that!

 

The correlation between training & income

In 1997, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) conducted a study of over 2,500 companies to determine how investment in employee training affected a firm’s total shareholder return. Using sophisticated statistics modelling (which took into account a wide variety of variables), ASTD found that training resulted in a significant improvement in shareholder return via higher profit margins (by up to 24 percent).

The benefits of staff training are many - including higher profit margins for the business
In essence, the study found that companies who gave their staff training & productivity tools, were more profitable – which is often why many CEO’s consider training to be the life blood of their businesses, and why we here at StorMan believe that you should train your staff wherever possible.

 

The benefits of training staff

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of staff training. These can apply to all aspects of your business – from how to sell (or up-sell) to customers, right through to making the most of the software tools available to your staff (eg. their Management Software, such as StorMan). We’ve included a detailed description of each under the diagram (which, by the way, you can download as an A3 poster)…

The 8 key benefits of staff training
The 8 key benefits of staff training (download this picture as an A3 poster)

 

  • Consistent Quality: Staff that don’t know how to use the tools around them (regardless of whether they are physical tools or software-based ones) often causes inconsistency in their processes, as they wonder whether they’ve done something correctly. The way they may be performing a particular task may not be the correct – or the most efficient – way to do so. Training ensures a quality & consistent result amongst your staff.
  • Improve Customer Satisfaction: Happy staff inherently always means happy customers, but an improvement to customer satisfaction levels can also be achieved thanks to the ability for your software systems (be they Billing systems, Customer Relationship Management systems, etc) to send good-looking, well-written, personalised communications to the right customers at the right time – and that can only come with a correctly setup software package that your staff know how to use.
  • Increase Participation: When staff understand a business and its internal workings & processes, they are more likely to feel comfortable in “piping up” and having their say through ideas and concepts that you may not have considered before! Training promotes participation through an understanding of key business concepts.
  • Improve Productivity: Staff that know what they need to do & how to do it means they’ll get straight to the job at hand, as they are confident with their tools and with your business processes. Those lacking in confidence due to a lack of understanding (generally due to a lack of training) will take longer to complete tasks and question the path they took to achieve the end result. A firm understanding = productive staff.
  • Increase Knowledge Retention: When people are having fun, they learn more – thus ensuring new knowledge is retained. Training in a structured environment can also help build an employee’s confidence in their tools & software. For you, this means less errors (see Reduce Costs, below).
  • Reduce Costs: Proper training ensures that procedures are followed according to business requirements; thus far fewer mistakes are made and costs are reduced. In the business world we must, of course, also remember that “time is money”, so less time wasted on things like data re-entry due to human error = reduced costs.
  • Employee Retention & Development: Employees that feel like they’re playing an important part of the business are happier and will stay longer… but just as important, is two-way employee feedback (ie. feedback from you to them is just as important as feedback from them to you). A recent OfficeVibe survey found that 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognised.
  • Increased Profitability: A combination of any of the above factors will always result in increased profits. Whether it’s through higher quality output, happier staff, happier customers or time & money saved thanks to automation & the streamlining of processes… it’ll all go towards an increase in your bottom line!

 

So how does this relate to occupancy at my business?

  • When staff are confident, they become better salespeople.
  • When staff are happy, their mood becomes infectious.
  • When customers are happy, they leave good reviews, refer friends & are willing to spend more with you (that is, more time and / or more money).
  • When staff know how to use their tools, they make less mistakes and this costs you less in wasted money & time.
  • When you give staff a chance to participate & have their say, they feel like they are a true part of your business & they’ll grow from this experience.

At the end of the day, all of this will result in more customers for you. This equals increased revenue and higher occupancy. So take that leap and invest in training for your staff today!

 

My experience in all of this

There’s nothing better than experiencing something for yourself; it’s then that one will see the real value in something. So while I could go on about the benefits of training until the cows come home, I’d rather leave you with a real-life example.

You see, for the past 10 months or so, I’ve been using a web-based task management tool. Apparently it’s had a workflow automation tool built into it for years. I’ve even subconsciously looked at the icon for it day after day at the top of the screen – but I didn’t know what it did, so I didn’t really ever bother to really explore what it did.

It wasn’t until a few months ago when I invested some personal time in attending some online training for this particular software package, that I understood what the workflow automation function did. Fast-forward a few months and I now use it religiously to automate stuff & create sub-tasks when certain criteria is met… and it’s kind-of funny, because after initially glancing over it for month after month without doing anything, the workflow automation function now smugly displays how many minutes of my work day I’ve saved, thanks to its automation engine (PS: it’s currently up to 5 hours of time-savings).

So there you have it – some real-life experience as to why training is such a no-brainer. If done correctly – and if you give your staff a chance to express their ideas – the rewards for you & your business can be huge.

PS: We might be in your area soon for StorMan training! Check out our upcoming training sessions...

Regards,
Andy (Customer Experience & Marketing Manager, StorMan Software)

Self Storage Management Services

As the self storage market becomes more competitive and consumers become more educated, professional management is becoming a defining feature for a successful self storage operation. Gone are the days of the ‘build it and fill it’ attitude. Facilities that are not well-managed with professionally trained staff proficient in a range of skills to compete in today’s competition may be left behind.

With self storage maturing as an industry, many owners and investors are investigating the advantages of management companies to lift the facilities professional image and provide a service that allows the owner to step back or move on to other interests or investments, whilst letting the management company maximise the return on their investment.

Many management companies have a proven track record in performance and years of experience in the industry. They know what works and what is required in order to make a self storage facility flourish in the present climate. This experience and organisation is advantageous to those owners and investors who may want to retire, improve their lifestyle, have health issues or simply think that the property can be better managed by someone else.

The day-to-day management of self storage is more intensive than when the industry began. A lot of new entrants to the industry can underestimate the effort and time required to run a self storage facility to the level that consumers demand these days. As competition grows, the customer has choices and they start to look for high levels of customer care, value-added products and services, convenience and reputation of the facility as well as the marketing that surrounds them.

From accounting to payroll, staffing, HR, IT, training, systems and procedures right through to expansion and design, unit mix and even construction management, self storage management services offer property owners the opportunity to become completely passive and pursue other interests. Management companies basically shift the responsibility of performance to the sub-contractor. Those looking to management service companies include both older operators and new entrants to the industry. With the changing needs of customers, self storage has edged towards a more retail focus. With state of the art security, meeting rooms, cafe amenities and business centres, facilities are finding they have to differentiate themselves from other operators in the customer’s mind. Operators are finding that they now have to have an effective sales presentation to turn more prospects into tenants. It is not just property management any more, older operators who don’t have up to date sales and marketing skills, are close to retirement or want to move on to other interests but still realise the potential in their investment are turning to management companies to take the reins and deliver results.

Many of those who turn to management companies may have more than one facility. Very often they are involved in other types of real estate or located interstate and are looking for an expert in self storage who has the tools and experience to help increase occupancy, decrease operating expenses or oversee capital improvements and repairs. This gives them the peace of mind that their property is being professionally managed. Monthly, quarterly and yearly reports are compiled by management service companies detailing occupancy rates, income, discounts, delinquents, KPI’s and operations analysis for the owner to reference. Essentially, these reports allow the owner to assess the performance of their investment. (Management companies base their fees on a percentage of income and/or share of profits).

Good management companies will standardise an operation based on a case by case basis so the facility runs at peak performance based on its amenities and surroundings. This leads to a ‘high level of service for a high level of performance’.

More skilled employees are being attracted to career advancement that professionally managed facilities can offer. There is a career path that could see staff moving between facilities, becoming a regional manager or moving to ‘head office’. This helps to ensure high levels of customer service are maintained. Intense training and feedback opportunities through such avenues as mystery shopping in addition help to provide staff with targets and provides them with a sense of responsibility that some owner/operator employers don’t have the time or resources to provide.

While management companies can’t be expected to compensate for a poorly equipped, constructed or located facility, they will however, review a facility to see if they can improve the business’ profitability before promising the world.

They also admit there are many owner operators out there with the time, skill and drive to have made their self storage facility a thriving success. Reviewing those facilities on a case by case basis ensures not only that the investor receives the rates of return expected, but also the management company maintains the high standard, benchmarking and quality control that they have established over many years.

Using a storage management company can provide new entrants and existing operators a chance to keep their investment within the industry whilst being able to step back, reassured in the knowledge that they have an expert to run the property to its best potential. Whilst this is a choice for owners within the industry some would still quote the old adage of those that own the store know how to run the store best. Professional management gives owners the option of exiting the duties of the operation, rather than exiting the industry.

The Changing Face of Service Industries

When travelling locally and overseas I am always on the lookout for other service industries to see how they operate and how we can potentially use and adopt their best case practices into our industry and offering.

Market sectors like hotels, hire car and equipment rental companies seem to be the most closely aligned to self-storage. They all offer an asset or space for a potential customer to use on a short or long term basis. There is usually a contract, which is executed prior to the use of their asset or equipment, and their customers are mostly transient.

So what trends in these industries can we learn from in our operations?

Convenience: Consumers now have an expectation of automated payments for reoccurring services. This could be in the form of direct debit or automated billing from their credit card. Some customers will still prefer a manual payment via cheque or cash / card in person, however due to advancements in internet based transactions, throughout all service industries, customers are more likely to expect automated payments at your self-storage centre. On the plus side, automated payments will usually increase the length of stay for a client, so the costs associated with the setup of these systems, are likely to be quickly offset. Most self-storage software used in our industry will have some form of payment automation options, so if you are not offering automatic payments yet, you should consider implementing it now.

Time expectations: In modern society most of all feel like we are very busy and tend to get frustrated when completing menial tasks, like monotonous paperwork. Hotels and Hire Car companies have led the way in reducing the time taken to rent a hotel room or hire car. In both cases, providing you have given them your details prior to arrival, their clients have an expectation that the paperwork associated with these functions will only take a couple of minutes. Recently, when returning a hire car I was met by a service person in the parking area, gave them the car keys and was on my way in under 1 minute!

We can all appreciate that renting a hotel room or hire car for 24 hours is a very different proposition to being entrusted with another parties worldly possessions. However, as other industries use technology to reduce the time taken to complete their paperwork, our customers will expect the same from their self storage company. Features such as online move-ins and allowing clients to complete some of your paperwork online in the comfort of their home or office will usually reduce the time it takes on move-in day, thus hopefully meeting their time expectations.

Web based Pricing: When looking to rent a hotel room or a car we expect to find the price and availability of these services, regardless of your location in the world, prior to your arrival at the point of rental. In most cases we are provided and understand the options that are displayed and make a choice based on safety, quality, convenience, location and value.

Self-storage is no different and your customers are looking online at your business and services everyday judging these factors. Therefore, do they expect you to have your pricing shown? There is no definitive answer to this question as we all differ as operators and all of our customers have differing expectations and demands.

Some points to contemplate before offering web based pricing… Do your customers know how much space they need? Will they simply not call you if you do not show the price? Will they over quote or under quote themselves using your space calculator or lose patience with it altogether? Does having web based pricing make management of your location more efficient?

These are all valid questions and depending on which side of the fence you sit on, it is up to you to make a reasonable business decision about how you choose to run your facility and offer your services. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the time will come when our potential clients will expect to see our pricing online, as we do now when renting a hotel room or car.

It is an exciting time to be in business and an exciting time in the self-storage industry. Technological advancements do make our lives, in most cases, more efficient. However, these advancements have shifted the expectation of consumers and their tolerance levels for outdated systems. With this in mind, take the time to look at your business and ask yourself if you think you could align some of your current processes closer to the expectations of your customers. Potentially, take the time to ask the question to see where there was a difference between what they expected and what they received from you and your company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members in the Community: Timor-Leste Volunteer Service Abroad

Ever wondered what it would be like to pack up your things and head overseas for a year to live? Trevor and Alison Gatland decided to do just that when they signed up for Volunteer Service Abroad’s (VSA) project in Timor-Leste. Founded by Sir Edmund Hillary, VSA is New Zealand’s largest international volunteer agency and has been in East Timor since 2002.

Timor-Leste

“Timor-Leste is the second most oil dependent economy in the world with the country’s offshore natural gas and oil reserves providing the majority of Government funds. Coffee is the main private sector export commodity, while aid money continues to support the development of infrastructure and buildings” (www.vsa.org.nz/what-we-are-doing/asia/timor-leste/).

The high birth rate, high unemployment rate and low school completion rate combined with Timor-Leste’s turbulent past (which involved the destruction of the majority of the country’s infrastructure); has meant that programs such as those run by VSA are vital.

Timore-Leste Flag

Trevor will be volunteering as a Water and Sanitation Adviser (partnering with World Vision) with Alison acting in a support role. The aim of their assignment is to reduce infant mortality through increased access to water infrastructure and improved sanitation. In order to assist with the cost of their VSA placement, Trevor and Alison are currently fundraising and any support that can be given is much appreciated:

www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/TrevorandAlisonGatland/

It’s great to see SSAA members getting involved in volunteer and community work across the region. If you, your business or colleagues have a story to tell regarding ‘giving back’ we’d love to hear it. Please contact rmuir@selfstorage.com.au

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