This article was written for the Self Storage Association of Australia, and will appear in the June 2020 edition of their Insider magazine (nb. one of my largest client categories is self storage).
Just because we’re working through uncertain times, doesn’t mean we have to change everything about the way we run our businesses.
With a few simple and careful considerations, we can keep storers up to date, continue to do business and keep our staff engaged.
These days much can be done remotely. We can watch our facility CCTV remotely, open and close the gate from anywhere on the planet and we can manage your storers, units & payments with a customer management platform such as Storman Cloud.
However, if your facility staff are working from home and accessing storer data (such as CCTV images, personal details, payment history, etc) on their own computer, you may wish to have an appropriate Working From Home policy or legal document created and signed by staff to ensure nothing goes awry.
The team from HR Central (the SSAA’s HR Helpdesk) will be able to point you in the right direction.
Some things to think about may include:
- Are any remote systems (CCTV, alarm systems etc) locked down so only certain IP addresses or computers can access them?
- If a staff member has their web browser set to auto-login and their laptop gets stolen from their home, how quickly do they need to act? What does the business owner need to do? Do you know where to go to change passwords for any of your compromised business systems? You may even be legally obliged to inform storers of a data breach.
- Do any work-from-home (ie. non-company supplied) computers have up to date virus scanners installed? Do they auto-lock after a short time of inactivity? What else do you require of staff when using their own technology to access work systems & storer data?
Remember: Your storer data is only as safe as the weakest computer system that’s being used to access it. If there’s no password, no IP address restrictions or two-factor authentication in place, how might your storers feel if they knew?
Your business may have passed a PCI compliance test as part of a wider security audit, but if you’re suddenly letting staff accessing data remotely, the rules & guidelines change.
Keeping Storers in the Loop
Storers, both existing and prospective, will no doubt have plenty of questions – so be sure to keep your communication channels open and up to date. For example, does your website have a prominent banner on the homepage advising of your response to COVID-19, whether you’re still open and the things your facility is doing to support social distancing, improved hygiene & cleaning practices etc.
Your email signature and phone-on-hold messages or voicemail greeting should also contain similar details or, at least direct storers to your website for more information so they know how to reach you, access their goods or purchase any additional supplies (boxes, etc) if they have to store more goods from their home or business.
As new storers find you online and enquire about your services, ensure that your online resources are up to date. Can people reserve online for a contactless experience? Are your office hours (both on your website and on your Google Business listing) correct? Existing storers will also want to know how they can reach you if they need to.
Employment (or lack thereof) will also play a part in how your storers are able to cope with change in the coming months. As time goes on and four months turns into six, you may find more people choosing to store with you if they lose their jobs and are forced to downsize or move into a smaller / cheaper home.
Additionally, existing storers may come to you seeking a discount if they are finding it hard to stay on top of their finances due to a job loss or a reduction in hours or pay.
If you’re noticing slower-than-expected growth at your facility, you’ll need to weigh up whether temporarily discounting your rates (for those that ask for it) is better than losing a storer completely and then having to fill that space from scratch and pay for the advertising to do so (remember: keeping an existing customer is always cheaper than paying for a new one).
In trying times, people remember kindness. Supporting them now may result in some referrals and positive feedback down the track when life returns to normal.
Using Your SSAA Resources
And finally – if you’re an SSAA member, don’t forget that you get access to their wealth of knowledge, online resources and legal + HR advice. It’s all included as part of your Facility or Service Member membership.
Be sure to keep up to date with the regular COVID-19 email updates from SSAA CEO Susan Phillips and log into the SSAA Members Portal to browse the latest news and document downloads to help you during this most unusual time.
All the best – and stay well!