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Intervention time at my self storage business - Update #1

By Gavin Shields on
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Intervention time at my self storage business!

Gavin shares his first update since reviewing the performance of his Portadown self storage facility on Stora and goes through the steps he's taken to address the recent slump in occupancy levels.

Video transcript:

Hi, this is my first update on the intervention I am trying to make at my self-storage facility business, StoreStuff, in Northern Ireland. I have two sites and over the past three years, they've filled up completely, and I have been somewhat ignoring the business. It has been running on autopilot, and I am just trying to make a few changes now to see if I can make a difference to the booking rates, and if we can get some more bookings and try and get this facility filled up again.

So, the first thing I did was I checked our booking flow, checked the website, made sure there was nothing wrong there, and there wasn't; that was all going through fine. I then decided to phone our number and make sure that the number was there. So, I started to make a phone call to the business to try to see what customers experience when they do that, and I started listening to a bunch of recordings of calls.

We've been using a service recently to answer our calls, and I found that some of the calls weren't being handled the way I would have liked. You know, I've always been a big proponent of letting people book online, but a lot of customers have questions. So they will phone and they will have questions and want to know how it works, what size they need. You can't get away from that in self-storage. That is going to continue. We've always taken telephone calls, and we've always wanted to do a good job on those calls.

We've also wanted to let people get on the website and go ahead and book. When I listened to the calls, I just don't think we were handling them well enough at all. And so, we've made a couple of changes. One is I've changed it so that if a customer phones us, well, the immediate change was I put it straight through to my phone. So, for the first four or five days after I looked at that, I took all the calls. That was one a day. So we'd one call a day, and that was one inquiry a day, with one or two other calls for people moving out.

I took the inquiries and it gave me the impression that we probably will get some bookings quite soon. I felt like there was a bit of demand there. Maybe it's coming into summertime, maybe there are going to be more house moves. I took those calls. Unfortunately, that's not sustainable for me to be always answering the calls. So I've changed that now. It's going to call me and a colleague of mine, Brian, who I also run Store Stuff with first, and then if we can't answer, it will go through then to where we're taking those calls.

And we're just going to see how the calls go with that third-party service over time, see if they improve. And yeah, I just don't want that to be an issue. I want to make sure that if somebody phones, we do as great a job as we possibly can. So we've done that.

Then there's making our offer more attractive as well. So, we used to do free van hire on all bookings, and just from taking phone calls at the time, two years ago, I knew people really liked it. So, we've reintroduced that. So, we've introduced free van hire on all bookings. So if somebody books a unit, they will get a van on the day of their move for free. And they get it for 24 hours.

I've arranged a new booking process with a third-party van hire company we've used before. We used to have to call them every time someone booked the unit and make the booking directly with them. Now, I've built a little form that will be sent to our customers when they book automatically. They'll fill out the form, and the van hire company has access to that form and will see when somebody submits it. They will then contact our customer and arrange the van hire, which takes us out of the loop and saves us time. The van hire costs anything from 40 pounds for the smallest van to 70 or 80 pounds for the biggest, and we just pay that to the van hire company. They've got our card details to charge us, so it doesn't take much time apart from getting emails sent. We will need to keep an eye on that, but it should be fine.

I also looked at all the pricing and took a look at prices for Portadown and Dungannon. I brought a lot of them down a little bit, not too much, but I just don't want to overreact. I made it clear that some units didn't have a 50% off, and I made it available for all of the units. I also tried to round the pricing a bit and simplify it, making it easier to see with the eye. I did the same with Dungannon, making it a bit simpler-looking for customers.

We now offer a 20% discount for annual stays. If anyone calls us, we can take a booking over the phone and take the payment upfront for the year, which works out as a 20% discount. I've got a couple of people asking about it, but nobody has taken up the offer yet, and there are no bookings for it yet. But it's there, and we're going to try that and see what happens.

I've also changed the layout of the StoreStuff homepage, added an image to show that it's a high-quality storage facility, and made the site look cleaner. I want people to see that it's a nice, clean site.

In my Dungannon site, I have 2,600 square feet of unused space, and I've added it to the site. I talked to another guy who runs a couple of sites, and he suggested advertising smaller units for businesses to see if there's demand. If there is, I can get someone to divide the space into the right size. I haven't done a lot of advertising for this yet, but it's on the website for now.

I've also started running Facebook ads for my Dungannon site, but they don't seem to be working. I've spent 26 pounds, and it says 11p per click, which is 23 clicks, but I don't think we've had one single phone call. The ad is supposed to be optimized for phone calls, but it doesn't seem to be working.

A good friend of mine is a drone videographer, and he came over to my sites and filmed them with his drone. I think these videos will be interesting and help people understand what they're getting if they come to our storage facility. I plan to put these videos on Facebook and Instagram to drive interest and awareness of our storage facilities in Dungannon. I'm going to use these videos in ads and see how it goes.

As for the results so far, they aren't great. I've made changes to the customer experience, phone call process, website, introduced new offers, simplified pricing, tried to get the extra space rented out, and started running Facebook ads. But nothing significant has changed yet. My occupancy rate has actually gone down a little bit because of a couple of move-outs, although we did have one booking and a 200 square foot move-in scheduled in a couple of weeks.

I'm trying different things, and I'll continue to experiment and see what works best. I'll provide another update in a couple of weeks, and hopefully, by then, I'll see some improvements. For anyone attending the conference next week, I hope to see you there. Cheers, bye!

Gavin Shields gavin.jpeg

Gavin Shields

Gavin Shields is the CEO at Stora, a provider of self storage automation software and services, as well as the MD & Owner of self storage operator, StoreStuff.

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