G&M Stor-More: Our Approach to Self Storage Maintenance

G&M Stor-More has been servicing the self storage industry in Australia for 16 years. It is the brain child of Michael Watson, a Sydney based commercial builder who decided to specialise in the construction of self storage facilities in 1997. G&M Stor-More has gone from strength to strength, building brand new facilities, renovating and extending existing facilities and undertaking conversions of commercial buildings into storage facilities. Based in Sydney and servicing from the Hunter Valley through to the Sydney metropolitan area and the Blue Mountains, Michael certainly know the ins and outs of the self storage industry.

Over the years, as well as constructing facilities, G&M Stor-More has undertaken maintenance programs for several of their clients. In 2013 they decided to expand their operations to include offering maintenance programs to all facility operators. Their maintenance team can take the hassle, cost overruns and delays off the maintenance ‘to do’ list at your facility. “Spending as much time in storage facilities as I have, I understand that keeping your facility clean and well maintained makes it attractive to customers and makes them want to store with you. Every self storage operator knows that any repair, no matter how big or small, if not attended to will affect their facility’s operations and financial returns” says Michael.

Customers have said of G&M Stor-More “I have been doing business with G&M Stor-More for about 13 years now. Michael and his team have been doing maintenance work for me and have done a great job, they have repaired the roller doors to the units, re-configured some of our storage units, built new units and most recently they have been repairing some of the flashing on the gutters of the sheds. It goes without saying that the works completed on site are to a very high standard and this is a reflection of how Michael completes all his work”.

A timely reminder to consider your maintenance commitment to doors, scuffed halls, rundown partitions and general updates on your self storage facility.

Chairman’s Report – 2016 Mid-year update

I know we say it every year, however 2016 seems to flying past at a rapid rate of knots. Through discussions with various members around Australia and New Zealand, there are mixed reports on the state of their market and the self storage industry. On the whole, sentiments are positive and given the challenges of the wider economy, upcoming federal election in Australia and some negativity in the media around current growth forecasting, the growth of our industry continues to be healthy and buoyant.

From a Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA) perspective we have been very busy. Unfortunately our CEO, Simone Hill, resigned from the position in April. Simone was CEO for approximately 18 months and was extremely hard working, dedicated and brought 20+ years of storage industry knowledge to the role. The board extends a big thank you to Simone for all of her help and support over this time. We would also like to congratulate Simone on her new role as the Legal Advisor to the SSAA. Recruitment for a new CEO has commenced and we anticipate that there will be some excellent candidates.

The membership drive that the Association office and Board commenced late last year is in full swing. Through tireless research and verification of storage listings, we have well over 700 potential new members that can now be approached and informed of the benefits that are available to SSAA members. Increasing the number of members in our Association will secure the future financial viability of the SSAA and increase awareness of best practice storage industry standards to operators that aren’t currently members. More members will also assist in the amortisation of SSAA operational expenses and reduce the cost of future events, like annual conventions.

The Board has identified that the current traffic study in Australia is out of date and has commissioned an update to the study. This will be released over the coming months and assist any members that are building new facilities or completing renovations to comply or object to the sometimes onerous car parking requirements handed down from local planning authorities. We would like to thank all of the facilities that have volunteered to be a part of the study and we appreciate that this will help the industry as a whole.

Over the past year the SSAA office has been investigating options to upgrade the current SSAA website. We are happy to announce that the construction of a new website has just been approved and this will see extensive improvements to all facets of the user experience. The ‘Storage Finder’ porthole will be completely upgraded and the ability of SSAA members to update their information and promote their facility will be greatly improved. Integration of the various accounting and management systems used by the SSAA office will be integrated into the site and this will make membership management, reporting and communication more streamlined and efficient. This is a huge project and we are really looking forward to the release of the finished product.

The Bi-annual 2016 Convention at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne is just around the corner. The venue, speaker line up and activities on offer are second to none and this event is not to be missed! If you haven’t booked already, spots are very limited and I really encourage you to get involved. This event now runs every second year, in between the Summit and Staff Retreat, therefore it has been 2 years since the Gold Coast and a long time since we could join together, exchange ideas, socialise and learn. Please contact the SSAA office today to book your spot. I look forward to seeing you there.

In my last Chairman’s report I discussed the high number of board positions that are becoming available at the next election. If you are interested in joining the SSAA board please start to think about the election process, talk to your peers about your intentions and start campaigning for election. It is such a rewarding endeavour and great opportunity to give something back to the SSAA. The Board is currently working on future strategies that will reduce the number of board members vacating at one time, however that will occur in the future and it is important that the positive initiatives and momentum that we are currently experiencing is fostered into the future by a strong Board.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Melbourne for the 2016 Convention and hope that 2016 is proving to be a positive and prosperous year for you.

All the best

Guy Wilson

Technology & Customer Service

The world’s communication techniques are rapidly evolving due to fast-moving technology and as such the way self storage facilities relate to customers is also changing.

In fact, the way self storage facilities engage with their local municipality, competitors and the online community at large is experiencing a major overhaul. As we find our fee in this ever-changing environment fuelled by technology that seems to change more quickly than it can be mastered, it is vital to accomplish a balance between good old customer service and the inevitable automated experience that accompanies this new technology. A savvy computer program will not bring a cup of tea to an elderly customer, and yet, to that particular customer the cup of tea is a gesture that will be remembered. While technology has its many merits, it is still our job to achieve harmony to create a favourable and memorable experience for our customers.

Keeping up with technology
While we are busy keeping up with technology, creating websites, using the cloud, updating Facebook profiles, publicising promotions – we need to be mindful that our customer service remains consistent with, and equivalent to the technology we are employing. Consistency is critical. For example, there is little point in sending out an email saying ‘come in and speak to our super friendly staff about our Super September promotion’ when in fact, customers who do come in are met with a decidedly unfriendly (and slightly surly) staff member, who unfortunately knows little to nothing of the Super September promotion…definitely not consistent.

Talk to the customer as if they are in the store with you, which is exactly what you would do in person. Websites where possible, should not replace the human element and should encourage feedback and two-way communication. Websites when created appropriately, can easily entice customers to store with you using brightly coloured pictures and meticulously landscaped gardens. Consequently it is important to back this up in person. When your potential customers make a site visit they will expect to see a clean environment, maintained storage units and a respectable reception office as depicted on your website. Basically whatever they have seen on your website is what they will expect to see when they make an unannounced visit.

Infinite possibilities for communication
Technology has definitely changed the manner in which we communicate with self storage customers, and in turn, how we provide customer service. In the past customers were called on a landline, sent a letter, or you waited until they dropped by the site in person to communication with them. In today’s setting you have more options to contact and communicate with your customer. They range from emails, texts, telephone calls, on-site visits, IM, your website, Facebook and a long list of other social media alternatives.

How many of these mediums are successful for self storage? Not all of them, that’s for sure. In your process to trial these and work out what’s best for you, you can get a bit creative. Have you had a customer who is not paying their bill? Try looking for them on Facebook. Do you have a customer who has moved away temporarily that you need to discuss something with? Why not arrange to Skype with them?

Do you want to make better use of your social media profile? Use it to announce promotions, moving tips, renovations or photos – then send an email to customers asking them to check out your site and follow you. Photos of employees going about their business, merchandise on your shelves, the family dog, the staff picnic – these are all things that give people an inside look and are a clever bridge to building rapport. People tend to do business with companies they feel comfortable with and creating an online relationship helps facilitate that relationship. Give some thought to which posts or websites have caught your attention and ask yourself why? Consider creating a competition online to see how many views you get and make a big deal about promotion of the winner and the prize. Above all, don’t be afraid to try something! If it doesn’t prove successful try something else until you find something that works for you.

In this instance, technology alone doesn’t do all the hard work, it’s just a tool for you to improve your customer service and your interaction with your customers.

2013 SSAA Demand Study

In 2013 the SSAA, in conjunction with David Blackwell and his team from Urbis, completed the SSAA Demand Study. The fourth edition of its kind it complies previously unavailable empirical evidence as to key drivers of customer demand for self storage use in Australia and New Zealand. Since its inception, the SSAA Demand Study has provided a wealth of useful information to self storage facility operators, investors, financial institutions and developers to assist their understanding of the levels of awareness, knowledge, preferences and satisfaction of both current and potential self storage customers.

The 2013 Demand Study represents responses from its largest survey sample size, with a 6.7% increase in respondents from the general population (3500) and a 22% increase in current users (1692), when compared to those that completed the 2010 Demand Study survey.

Key trends determined include:
– Declines in usage of self storage facilities by the general population (save for a positive trend in Auckland NZ) over the past three years following constrained demand during the post Global Financial Crisis economic slowdown in 2010. The prevalence of price-based competition among facilities in many regions also reinforces the importance of facility operators employing effective sales and marketing campaigns to build loyalty with and retain current customers.

– The internet maintaining its position as the dominant source for both current and potential users to gather information about a self storage facility. This underpins the importance of an interactive website as a central component of marketing activities. Indeed, the internet has now surpassed site visibility as the most common method of finding a facility for current users.

– Social media trends of potential users seeking friends’ opinions are also evident in this study, whereby 12.3% would defer to this information source (up from 3.5% in 2010) prior to making a purchase decision. Personal visitation also ranks highly, whereby 17.4% of users would undertake to view facilities pre-purchase (an increase from 5.3% in 2010). This trend reinforces the importance of facility cleanliness and well trained staff to secure a sale, when int he presence of a potential customer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, existing customers’ traditional methods of considering self storage options (telephone and Yellow Pages) continue to decline in relevance.

– Sales declines in the retail sector seem to be having a positive flow-on effect for the self storage industry. When considering the reason for self storage use by business customers 62.1% nominate a lack of space in their current business as their primary reason for use (up from 29.1% in 2010). It would appear that down scaling from larger warehouse facilities and minimising stock levels help make self storage a flexible and cost effective alternative.

These are a mere fraction of the multitude of the self storage industry trends detailed in the 2013 SSAA Demand Study. To learn more prior to making decisions on future strategic planning initiatives or development for your facility consider purchasing a copy of the Demand Study from the SSAA – +61 3 9466 9699 or admin@selfstorage.com.au

A study of this magnitude would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors:
Platinum
Kennards Self Storage and National Storage
Gold
Rent A Space

The expertise of David Blackwell and his team of consultants at Urbis is also critical to ensure that this document maintains its position as an authoritative information source detailing consumer sentiment in the self storage industry.

2016 Awards for Excellence now open

Enter our 2016 Awards for Excellence Program and go in the draw to win a $500 Coles/Myer voucher or $500 SSAA credit.

It is with great pleasure that the Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA) invites you to nominate for the 2016 Awards for Excellence Program. These awards represent the pinnacle of the Australasian self storage industry, and reward our members’ commitment to excellence across a wide range of areas.

If your business or staff has achieved success in the self storage industry throughout the year or displays a consistently high standard, we encourage you to put forward an award nomination. Nominating is FREE and can be completed by returning the enclosed cover sheet along with 1000-2000 words on why you think your facility/business/employee should be considered for the specific award (please include at least one picture in your entry).

All completed nominations should be emailed to membership@selfstorage.com.au or faxed to +61 3 9466 8081. Alternatively nominations can be submitted online at www.selfstorage.org.au/ssaa-awards-excellence-program. All nominations should be submitted no later than close of business Thursday 30th June 2016 (to allow time for the finalists to be mystery shopped).

The SSAA Awards for Excellence category winners will be announced at a gala dinner to be held at the Park Hyatt Melbourne on the evening of Thursday 1st September 2016 (as part of the SSAA Convention). All category finalists are strongly encouraged to attend the event and network with their industry peers.

Can you really afford to allow a competitor to gain a marketing edge over your business? Don’t delay, enter now!

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact our office. We look forward to your nomination in these high profile awards and your subsequent involvement in our upcoming Convention.

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