I absolutely love the payment process at my hair salon. (Before you think I’m a weirdo, remember I’m a nerd for technology and design, so bear with me.) They use a Square point-of-sale system - a bright white card reader attached to an iPad. When I go to pay, I see my stylist’s picture on the screen and a checklist of the services I had done. I select ‘next’ to confirm, then choose a custom or pre-calculated tip amount and pay for the services with my chip card or Apple Pay. I finish the payment flow by signing for the transaction with a quick hand scribble on-screen. When the transaction is complete, I instantly get a confirmation in my email with my full receipt, and the point-of-sale system then prompts me to schedule my next appointment before leaving, which saves me the time and hassle of having to call back and coordinate my schedule with the receptionist. It’s super slick, and it makes checking out and scheduling smooth, easy, and efficient.

A modern point of sale system featuring an iPad and chip reader.

Every time a customer interacts with your technology, they’re interacting with your business on a personal level. Your tenant-facing technology is more than a tool, it’s a conversation. With great technology tools, you can convey your storage brand’s unique personality and provide exceptional customer service to your tenants that saves them time, money, and energy.

Today’s technology has transformed the way that prospective renters can interact with storage brands. But there’s still the ever-present, hard to pinpoint human element: customer service. The on-demand, gotta-have-it-now economy has changed the meaning of customer service to something more: customer experience. Customer experience embodies the customer’s entire interaction with your brand, from how easy it is to find your storage facility online to the cleanliness of their unit. Instead of looking for someone to help them, today’s modern renter is looking to technology first to find their own solutions.

Ready to transform your customer experience? Read on to find out how your technology can make or break your tenants’ experience, how you can empower customers with real-time updates, and the right way (and the right time) to reach renters:

1. Make a move towards messaging for customer service. (Your tenants already have!)

Texting has become the preferred communication style for most consumers, and self storage tenants are no different. We all know how difficult it is to get tenants to pick up the phone (especially if you’re trying to collect rent) and you often end up playing phone tag for days before you can finally get in touch. At storEDGE, we offer free two-way texting to our software users to make communication with tenants simple. There are tons of uses for texting in self storage, and with built-in tools, it’s easy and affordable. With SMS messaging, you can eliminate rent reminder calls (that tenants don’t want anyway!) and instead just shoot them a short message with a link to pay online. From there, your tenants can simply tap the link and pay right from their phone.

A payment reminder from Super Cool Storage to a tenant.

Text messaging is an easy way to improve your tenants’ customer experience, at no extra cost to you. If tenants can easily shoot you a message to get their gate code when they’re locked out or request a quick update on their balance, it makes their overall rental experience smoother and provides them with communication tools that many of your competitors may lack.

2. Provide real-time updates to keep renters in the loop.

Just like my salon’s confirmation email puts me at ease (and saves paper!), a confirmation text or email to tenants after completing an action online (like moving in, paying rent, or signing up for autopay) increases their confidence in your business and provides them with important information in an easy-to-find place: their inbox. But why not take it a step further?

New security tools like cloud access control, smart storage units, and bluetooth locks can send real-time updates to your tenants from triggers like overlocking due to late payment, a door opening or closing, or the use of their personal gate code. With instant security updates, tenants can immediately know if their gate code is being used by someone else to access their stuff - adding another level of security and convenience to help renters rest assured that their stuff is safe.

3. Hone in on the “right time, right place” for your message.

To nail “right time, right place” customer communication, you’ll first need to understand the rental process through the eyes of a tenant. Find out what part of your customer lifecycle needs a boost. Are leads coming to your website, getting frustrated with your online rental process, and abandoning the move-in? Do you always seem to forget to ask satisfied customers to leave an online review? Pinpoint what’s mudding up the customer experience and look for a “right time, right place” solution with your current technology tools.

A screenshot of a text message in the storEDGE software.

Whether you utilize chatbots on your website that can answer frequently asked questions, a self-service kiosk for walk-ins at your facility, or a call center support team for 24-hour assistance, you can provide convenient, simple ways for renters to find answers to their own questions and get going fast. With plenty of options for renters to choose from, they’ll be able to choose their preferred way to pay their bill, get in touch with your facility, or find answers to their own questions. Because every renter is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service - some tenants may prefer online tools, while some want to talk to a manager, and so on. But when your message is provided in a timely manner through the right medium (email, text, or mail), it makes the entire customer experience better.

4. Use automated communication to bring in leads.

If you like online shopping, you’re probably familiar with the following scenario: you move an item to your shopping cart, think about buying it, then exit the website and decide not to buy after all (for any number of reasons). The next day, you open up your email to find a “did you forget something?” email from the website with - lo and behold! - a coupon code for 10% off your order, plus free shipping! You head back to your shopping cart with newfound enthusiasm and complete the purchase, feeling like you’ve won.

Big brands like Target and Amazon have automated communication like this down to a science. By studying their sales process, they know that a little incentive might be all you need to go back to your abandoned shopping cart and buy. You can apply this same idea to your storage business, and it’s actually easier than you might think!

With web analytics tools that can track user clicks, bounce rate, dwell time, and more, you can find out what’s causing leads to abandon your website and head back to search. You can also use automated emails or text messages to reach current or past tenants and target like-minded renters with customer referrals or special promotions.

A screenshot of a text message from Super Cool Storage.

Using chatbots, you can reach out to people who are viewing your website to provide assistance or throw out a coupon code to encourage them to rent a space. You could also use automated email communication to remind past seasonal renters (like RV or boat storage renters) to reserve an indoor, temperature-controlled unit for the winter before your spots all fill up and provide them a special discount for being a loyal customer. The options for email and SMS marketing are nearly endless and very affordable for self storage businesses large and small.

5. Provide self-service tools to allow tenants to serve themselves.

When given the option between paying at the pump for gas, or going inside to pay at the counter, which do you choose? More than likely, you choose to serve yourself. Why? Because it’s faster - you know what you want, how to pump your own gas, and you’ve done it before. You don’t need help from a gas station manager to figure it out.

Today’s renters know how online shopping works, and renting or reserving a unit online is no different. By providing self-service tools like online rentals or an on-site kiosk for your tenants, leads can easily see your prices, select a unit, sign their lease, and choose add-ons like locks, insurance, and packing supplies at their convenience. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

So does paying at the pump provide a worse customer experience than interacting with a gas station manager? Of course not! When the gas pump technology works correctly and the gas station is clean, there’s no drop in the overall quality of the experience. It’s the same at your storage facility - by providing easy-to-use self-service tools, you’re still providing helpful customer service that makes the process transparent, fast, and simple for new renters.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: How to get more Google My Business reviews without having to nag customers, How to optimize your tenant’s rental experience, and How to handle a price increase.