Call me, maybe: The pros and cons of using a call center
Jana Haecherl |October 30, 2017 |8 min read
“Can you please hold?”
“Please hold while I transfer your call.”
“Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”
If you’re starting to feel impatient just reading these classic “on hold” scripts, then you’re probably a former victim of bad customer service. Today’s self storage customer expects fantastic customer service, and you can bet you’ll hear about it online via your customer reviews if you’re not meeting their expectations. Call centers are not what they used to be. (No more sticky notes with reminders to call back tenants!) Call centers utilize the best technology available, like call tracking, cloud-based software, advanced troubleshooting, and company messaging boards. This technology makes a world of a difference when it comes to providing high-quality customer service, and it helps brands like yours gain an edge over local competition by utilizing a data-driven approach to your calls.
If you’re thinking about putting together a call center team for your growing self storage business, then you’re in the right place! Many fast-growing, regional storage brands use call centers to reduce overall costs, improve productivity, decrease call handling time, and improve customer service. There are many benefits to call centers, but there can be some potential drawbacks, too. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the pros and cons of using call centers for self storage:
There are dozens of reasons why a self storage brand would want to manage calls using a call center. Some of the biggest reasons? Improved flexibility, quick response time, superior customer service, and reduced costs. Check out the details below:
1. Flexibility to grow as you grow
Call centers make your storage business more flexible. How you ask? Well, if you’ve ever shopped around for a property to flip or land to develop, you know that prime markets might not always be local to you. This is where call centers come in. They’re a terrific solution for storage brands that are rapidly expanding or have facilities all over the country. If you’re getting ready to build a property in a new market, having a call center already established makes it easy to scale your hiring process. You might not need to hire as many property managers - or any at all. Call centers are ideal for owners of unmanned facilities. With a call center providing excellent customer service 24/7, owners can effectively manage their properties from anywhere in the world.
2. Fast response
When done effectively, call centers allow you to respond to leads and tenants rapid-fast while still displaying an extremely high level of professionalism. Your property managers know all too well that call abandonment, slow response time, and long hold times can kill sales and lead to loss of business. (In fact, there is even a website dedicated to making fun of companies who make their customers wait on hold for crazy long amounts of time.) If there is one thing that people hate more than telemarketers, it’s being put on hold by a company when you’re trying to get some help or give them your business.
Call centers are able to respond to leads and tenants quickly because they streamline the process. With software integration and smooth call handling (it’s all done on the computer!), your customer service representatives will be able to handle questions smoothly. With cloud-based, feature-rich software like storEDGE, your call center team will be able to access your facility information (like tenant accounts and unit availability) from anywhere in the world. Your storEDGE software also allows you to create unlimited users with defined roles and permissions, so your call center team will still be able to perform their job functions without changing top-level management settings or accessing sensitive business information.
3. Customer service
Call centers put a laser-focus on customer service. Call center teams specialize in customer-service, and great call centers do it flawlessly. With fantastic call center software, an excellent team, and cloud-based self storage technology, your customer service team will be able to focus on keeping customers happy and handling any issues that they may have on the phone quickly and easily.
Compare this to the traditional property manager: he or she has to juggle cleaning multiple units, maintaining the facility, manning the office, answering the phones, performing move-ins and move-outs, helping tenants, and more. Your property managers know customer service is important, but they can only devote so much time out of their busy day to chatting with potential renters and helping tenants on the phone.
With a call center, your property managers have the freedom to do so much more with their day without sacrificing that one-on-one, personalized customer service that every great company offers.
4. Reduce costs
Believe it, or not, a call center can actually save you money. As I mentioned before, call abandonment and slow response time can lead to loss of business. Word goes around when customer service suffers, and the prevalence of online reviews means bad news spreads fast.
Don’t let bad customer service tarnish your self storage brand’s sparkling reputation. By adding a call center to your storage business, you can shorten the average length of calls, reduce wait time, and convert more leads into paying customers. Because your call center team is always working with your software at the ready to track leads and help tenants, they’re able to be ultra-fast and efficient. Plus, with fantastic technology like cloud-based software and call tracking, you’ll only need a few customer service team members to effectively handle calls from storage renters. Less phone lines and less team members all adds up to more costs saved for your business.
Opening up your business to new faces can be intimidating. Putting your business in the hands of others is always stressful, but it’s critical to effectively delegate and grow as your company grows to keep the business moving forward. Your call center needs to reflect your brand’s image flawlessly, and that can be a big challenge. In self storage, the following problems can show up when call centers aren’t effectively integrated into the company:
1. Communication barriers
A lot of people associate call centers with being put on hold, speaking to a representative who doesn’t speak English as a first language, and being frustrated by miscommunication issues. This is extremely frustrating for the customer, and it feels impersonal. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You don’t have to outsource your team to another country or hire a long-distance call center services provider. Your storage brand’s call center can be managed and run from your hometown, or right out of your headquarters.
You can hire people who are just as great with people as your facility managers to work as customer service representatives for your company. Heck, you could even find someone who used to work as a self storage manager to lead the call center team or promote from within. The options are endless.
2. Product knowledge
There should be no disconnect between your managers and your call center team, but unfortunately this happens all too often. When your renters call with questions, your call center’s customer service representatives need to have the know-how to answer their questions effectively.
An easy way to mitigate this problem? Include your call center staff in team meetings. Build the expertise in self storage by educating them and letting them in on company goals. By keeping everyone in the loop, your customer service reps will be up to date with what’s going on at the property-level. Tenants and leads need to feel confident that the customer service team is knowledgeable and can answer any questions they may have. It’s vital to the success of your call center.
Collaboration between your call center team and your property managers is key to product knowledge, but sometimes collaboration can be difficult. If your call center is in a different state or far away from your facilities, your property managers will need to make a solid effort to include customer service reps in meetings and loop them in with updates at the facility-level. If communication is already an issue between managers, adding a call center team could just exacerbate the problem.
It’s important to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses before creating a call center for your brand. Long-distance management is not a deal-breaker: you can include your call center team on property manager meetings by holding online meetings, web conferences, and screen-sharing remotely. Another way to nix this problem is by hiring managers who are excellent communicators. A group of facility managers that are fantastic about communication and collaboration will be able to integrate smoothly with a remote call center team.
If you’re still on the fence about a call center, you don’t have to go it alone. Do your research - we suggest starting with this great guide on call center best practices from Salesforce. Want to make it an even smoother process? Reach out to your self storage technology provider for more information on how to setup your software to integrate with call centers large and small.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: 15 metrics every storage owner should be tracking, How users search for self storage + the #1 reason why you shouldn't obsessively Google yourself, and How to choose the best gate security system for your self storage property.