It’s true: People seem to prefer self-service these days. But while lots of your potential self-storage customers will rent a unit online, some still prefer to speak with a facility representative, especially if they need help. According to the 2023 Demand Study released by the Self Storage Association, 58% of prospects will rent from the first facility they call; so, if you miss that initial inquiry, you’ll likely lose the business.
Employing a call center can help you capture these rentals while also offering your existing tenants stellar customer service. Even facilities with onsite staff and an office find that a call center can be highly effective and helpful in significantly increasing sales.
Moreover, it’s better to capitalize on the strengths and talents of your employees, and answering every customer call isn’t always the way. A manager’s time is often better spent performing collections and managing auctions, conducting property walk-throughs, and generally taking care of the site. So, let your team do what they do best, and let a call center handle the rest.
So, what does a professional call center offer? You can enlist a range of services such as unlimited call answering and rentals, payments, and general customer service. Some providers will also handle collections.
A call center acts on behalf of your self-storage business, providing tenants with the same level of attention as an onsite manager. Today’s providers leverage automation and artificial intelligence to ensure the best performance. They also employ teams of customer-service specialists who can answer questions about your facility, assist prospects in renting a unit, take a payment or troubleshoot issues.
The biggest advantage to employing a call center is cost savings on operational expenses—sometimes dramatic savings. Why? Because it allows you to eliminate additional staffing, phone systems and some technology.
The Communication Factor
You may have noticed that your self-storage tenants have become increasingly picky about the forms of communication they use. To succeed, it’s important to use as many methods as possible, especially when it comes to collections. A good call center uses texts, emails and outbound calls to collect past-due rent.
It can often employ a mix of personal and automated efforts to help you lower your accounts receivable, too. For example, by using a software with interactive-voice response, past-due tenants can be directed to a “pay your bill now” path before speaking to a live agent. In my personal experience, this type of system has tremendously boosted our collections efforts.
Partners and Pricing
When selecting a call center for your self-storage business, it’s important to find one whose services fit your specific business needs. You might opt to have them answer all inbound calls or only rollovers when the onsite team is unavailable. And yes, many call centers allow you to keep your existing phone number. Calls will simply be redirected to center agents during designated times.
When vetting these companies, make sure they can combine all your facilities into a single platform, even if you’re using different property-management software. They also need to create efficient call routes through which you can prioritize sales opportunities over existing-tenant issues. Make sure its agents possess superior communication and customer-service skills and can complete 100% of the rental process. The provider should also have the infrastructure necessary to handle your call volume.
Ask for references. Some call centers will even provide you with sample calls, so you can hear how agents interact with customers.
It’s also important to understand what’s included in the price. Some vendors provide more robust services than others and can support remote management as well as traditional. The cost will vary depending on facility size, number of calls and which services are included. The industry average is $500 to $800 per month.
By having the appropriate support and processes in place to satisfy customer needs, you won’t only streamline your self-storage operation, it’ll be extremely cost-effective. If you were to attempt to do this in house, it would be a lot more expensive and could impede your ability to grow in other ways. Consider all variables when vetting a third-party provider, and then decide the best route for your rental process and tenant communication.
Hiring a call center can reduce expenses, increase revenue and enhance the customer experience. In addition, your self-storage business will have better control over its collection efforts. Just fully investigate any potential partners to ensure they meet the needs of your business and customers.
Brett Copper is a partner and director of business development for Copper Storage Management (CSM), which owns self-storage and offers third-party management and consulting services. He has experience in acquisitions, feasibility, management, marketing and manager training. CSM recently launched C3, a nationwide call-center solution for the self-storage industry.