M icon
End Missed
The 411 On Call Centers
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
End Missed Calls!
The 411 On Call Centers
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
illustration of woman wearing headset and working on a laptop with a conversation box floating next to her head

magine preparing to move and needing to rent a self-storage facility. While researching self-storage facilities, you see an online ad for one near your location. Rather than renting online, you pick up the phone and call the facility. You’re in a time crunch in the chaos of moving and calling the facility seems like the easier option.

Instead of hearing a helpful, live person answer the phone, you get an invitation to leave a voice mail; or worse, the phone just rings. It happens more often than one might expect.

According to data from OpenTech Alliance Inc., although we’re living in a digital world, 38 percent of initial contacts to a storage facility are made via telephone. Of those calls, it’s been estimated that one in three calls are not answered. If you miss that first call, Sherry Miller, business development manager for XPS Solutions in Richardson, Texas, says your chance to capture that rental drops by 52 percent. “People will simply move on to the next facility on the list.”

Apparently, the average facility misses one to three calls per day, but she once heard from a facility owner who said they were missing 40 percent of their calls. “If you’re missing calls, you’re just wasting your marketing dollars,” says Miller.

While only about 20 percent of your facility’s calls are potential new tenants, according to Miller, the other 80 percent are typically tenant related. “If you’re serving them by being available, you’re creating a good tenant experience,” she says.

That tenant experience can determine if you retain the tenant and could also determine if that tenant refers friends and family to your facility.

Who Uses Call Centers?
“For small facilities, the misconception that call centers are primarily designed for larger enterprises may lead to the belief that such services are beyond their reach,” says Dan Scaman, vice president of strategy and analysis for OpenTech in Phoenix, Ariz. “Moreover, the scope of service offered by a call center is not limited to the scale of the facility. Whether it’s handling routine inquiries, managing reservations, or addressing urgent concerns, a call center can enhance communication and streamline operations for storage facilities of any size.”

It is likely the smaller operators who need call centers the most. “If a facility only has one person sitting behind the desk and they have to leave the office, we know they are missing calls,” says Miller.

Do You Need A Call Center?
Industry experts says there are five reasons you may need a call center:

  1. You only have one person staffing your facility. Self-storage facility managers perform a variety of functions that include outside marketing, walking the property with prospective tenants, checking the property’s security and locks, and taking breaks. Sure, the manager can carry the phone with them, but if they’re with a prospective or current tenant, or off the clock for a break, they won’t answer the call. If you only have one person in the office, chances are your calls are going to voice mail if your manager isn’t available.
  2. You have decided to operate a facility remotely. Even remotely operated facilities need someone trained in your rental process and facility processes to help both prospective and current tenants.
  3. Your new rentals are declining. There could be several reasons for this, but it may be that your manager is missing calls. Reports from a fully integrated facility management software (FMS) can tell you if you’re missing calls.
  4. Managers have expressed that they feel overwhelmed. In addition to walking the property, managers have a variety of other responsibilities, including marketing, collections, and contacting tenants. If they feel overwhelmed taking calls on top of their other duties, a call center may increase their productivity and increase rentals.
  5. Your manager’s strengths lie in other areas. If you have a manager who excels in closing walk-in tenants, collections, or other managerial functions, but just isn’t adept in closing sales over the phone, your facility may benefit from a call center.
Choosing A Call Center

There are several companies offering call center services specific to the self-storage industry. Here are some questions you can ask if you’re thinking of hiring a call center:

  • Can we keep our own telephone number? For those concerned you need a dedicated number to utilize a call center, that is no longer mandatory. Many companies that specialize in providing call center services for self-storage allow you to keep your store number. “There is no need to change anything,” says Miller.
  • What kind of service do we need? There’s a variety of call services from which to choose, including allowing the call center to handle all calls or rolling over the calls only when no one is available on site. Carol Mixon, president of SkilCheck Services, Inc., in Tucson, Ariz., says most call centers can customize to your needs. “It isn’t really about which plan is most popular or requested, it’s based on the configuration of the office and staff members,” says Mixon. “The fewer employees, the more they rely on a call center for all calls and not just roll overs.”
“The fewer employees, the more they rely on a call center for all calls and not just roll overs.”

– Carol Mixon
  • Although their services are fully customizable, many facilities choose a roll-over plan. “Many customers, especially those new to the industry or with a new facility, will opt for a roll-over plan,” says Scaman. “This allows any call to first ring at the facility, or directly to a manager’s or owner’s mobile phone before rolling over as a backup. Many operators choose this option for the flexibility.”

    XPS Solutions has a variety of stores that choose a roll-over plan and stores that choose to allow all calls to go to the call center. “We have one property that told us we close 90 percent of all their sales calls,” says Miller. “We do everything for the property.”

    Depending on the company, your company or managers may also be able to listen to calls that are rolling to the call center as well.

  • How do call centers keep each individual store straight? How are the call center representatives trained for each store? The self-storage call centers mentioned in this article have rigorous training programs. “As a dedicated call center for over 15 years, our counselors undergo rigorous training programs to handle customers from different facilities effectively,” says Scaman. OpenTech’s training program begins with industry insight. “Our training begins with an in-depth exploration of the self-storage industry,” he says. “New employees gain a comprehensive understanding of industry terminology, common customer inquiries, and the unique challenges faced by self-storage facilities.” Training is then followed up with site-specific training and training in technology.

    XPS Solutions provides 40 hours of comprehensive training before agents even take a phone call. All the centers also train specifically in providing good customer service. SkilCheck agents must be able to build rapport quickly and assess the customer’s needs. “They must treat each customer as if they were managing that facility in person,” says Mixon.

  • How do I track call center results? All of these call center experts say they provide their clients with comprehensive data to assess results. “Our agents even help with marketing efforts, determining how the prospect learned of the facility,” says Miller.

No matter the size of your facility, if you know your facility is missing calls, employing a call center will likely improve your occupancy and sales numbers.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to Messenger. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.