Training Elevated! How to Create Your Self Storage Training Process

Providing your staff with rock-solid training is one of the most important things you can do for the operations of your company and the well-being of your staff. Providing the tools, systems, procedures, and expectations will ensure your new employees are able to perform their job to your satisfaction and help them have a more enjoyable work experience.

It also elevates the level at which they can contribute to your company because they know what is expected, and have the time and capacity to think through better ways to generate those outcomes.

Our Atomic Storage Group training started much like most other operators. We would sit next to the manager for 3-5 days and tell them where to point and click. The information that was retained depended on the new employees’ ability to absorb and retain knowledge, and the trainers’ ability to clearly communicate the tasks to be completed. After 4 days, no one can remember everything that is told to them!

Typically, trainers start with the most important information, but what is remembered and what is forgotten varies greatly and can be a small, inconsequential detail, or something that can get you sued. There is no way to know.

As our training evolved, we developed checklists and PDF guides to help our staff walk through the steps that need to be accomplished. Our managers could keep the guides and revisit and reflect on the information after we left. While this method did narrow down the time it took to train our staff and left them with a deliverable to hold, it still didn’t follow the flow of learning.

We found ourselves still doing the heavy lifting in our training as we had to sit and guide our new employees through the process and make sure they understood every step of what was expected. There was not a clear path to learning, and the tools we were using were not put together in a cohesive package.
Our training evolved to our new website program. We boiled the information down to the “Core 4”, which includes:

1. Renting a Unit

2. Taking a Payment

3. The Move Out Process or “Move-Outs”

4. End of Day Processes or “End of Day”

After the new employee is solid on their Core 4, they move on to learn storage software overview, functions of the storage software, customer calls, facility tours, demand, and all the other ancillary items needed to run the business.

We are big believers in automating as much of their job as possible so they can focus on closing leads and collecting money, rather than doing busy work. As you are designing your training, consider

  1. How can you BE LAZIER?
  2. What are the key things your employees can learn BEFORE they start?
  3. What tools do they need to FIND what they need WHEN they need it?

Understanding how people learn will help you design your training process. Developing a training program that includes:

  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Touch/experience

Developing a mix of video, written, examples, and quizzes will allow employees to learn the way they learn best, no matter their preferred method.

Giving employees training before their first day allows them to start at 30-40% of the expected knowledge base, rather than 0%.
Using technology and self-training allows the trainer to focus their time on building the relationship, answering questions, and practicing the nuisances of managing a self storage property, rather than focusing on where to point and click. It creates a win/win solution for the employee and company.
Atomic Storage Group offers self storage training and consulting in addition to our full-service third-party self storage management services. To learn more about our services, email us at

Self Storage Customer Service

Customer service is a topic that has filled books, lecture halls, and training manuals since the dawn of retail. While the concept is fairly simple, it’s taken on an almost Herculean life of its own.

What customer-service formula should you follow for your self-storage business? Whose cute acronym will make your operation the most successful? I like to keep my business as simple as possible. In fact, I would go so far as to say “stupid-simple,” as in the KISS theory: “Keep it simple, stupid.” Here are four tricks for keeping your service model stupid simple.

Stupid-Simple Trick 1: Infusive Service

Self-storage is unique. We’re trusted with customers’ most valued possessions, but we only see most of these people for about 15 minutes, during the rental process. Then they move out a year later, and we see them for a few minutes again. The whole exchange can seem cold and unfriendly.

Since we don’t see our customers often, I like to use “infusive service.” Infusive means inspiring or influencing. Your goal is to help customers see the awesomeness of your facility. Have you ever had a tenant compliment you on the cleanliness of your property? That’s a result of infusive service. From a passive act, you’ve inspired your customer.

Infusive service is essential in self-storage. While you might only see your customers two or three times during their stay, they might visit their unit dozens of times, so everything little thing you do can have a huge impact. How do you increase infusive service? Look at everything the customer touches—figuratively and literally—and ask how you can improve that experience.

  • Word your signage so you communicate your message in an entertaining way.
  • E-mail tenants a few times before assessing a late fee.
  • Pipe music into your loading areas.
  • Spend $4 every Saturday and give away cold bottles of water.

By doing little things over time and paying attention to details, you’ll build a store brand that will inspire customers. This infusive service is the essence of operating a finely tuned facility

Stupid-Simple Trick 2: Interaction

The second trick deals with direct customer interaction. It’s typically what we imagine customer service to be. When I took a college statistics class I learned two things: One, I hated college statistics; and two, the bell curve is widely applicable to the world.

Imagine we had a bell curve to represent the self-storage customer base. On one side of the bell, you have the customers who love us no matter what we do. We could dump rats into their units and they would say, “Well, I was thinking about getting some pets.” On the other side of the curve are the people for which we can’t do anything right. They want a reduction in rent because their 10-by-10 unit is really 9 feet, 11 inches on a side. Guess what? These are also the people who are most likely to leave a bad online review. Yikes!

Your sweet spot is the people in the middle of the curve. Fortunately, this is also your majority. These are the customers who need the most attention. When they feel special and appreciated, they’ll post positive reviews, refer your property to others and be loyal tenants. We love customer reviews- check out a few here

Stupid-Simple Trick 3: The Right Staff

The third trick for providing the ultimate customer service is to put the right employees in place. In my short storage career, I’ve seen the change in industry professionalism. I tend to hire a more energetic employee, even if he’s inexperienced, while other operators might prefer a more sedate but seasoned crew. There’s no wrong way but hire for personality and attitude. At times, hiring is difficult and there may be occasions when you’re under the gun.

Nevertheless, take as much time as you need to find the right people. Teaching someone how to use the computer and operate the store is the easy part. Teaching them how to deal with customers is the hard part. If you want someone to treat your customers right, hire someone who’s friendly!

Stupid-Simple Trick 4: Guiding Principles

The fourth stupid-simple customer-service trick is to teach your employees guiding principles and give them the power to self-manage. Every company needs “rules,” but I cringe at that term. It stifles creativity and encourages people to look at things in only one way.

The worst work culture you can create is one governed by fear, where employees are afraid to fix a customer-service situation because of an angry boss. Empower your staff to solve problems as they arise. Here’s an example.

One day I was working the desk when a customer entered the store. He wanted a late fee waived because his wife had been getting the e-mails. As it was our policy to charge the fee, I informed him it was his responsibility to keep his e-mail address up-to-date, and I wasn’t going to waive the fee. He then told me his wife was sick and hadn’t told him the rent was due. Still, I said the fee would stand.

He decided it was a matter of principle to get this fee waived, and even threatened to move out. Then, after 10 minutes of arguing, I had a realization. This wasn’t who I was and not how I wanted to do business. I stopped and sincerely apologized to the customer. I waived the $15, and two-plus years later, he’s still paying $400 per month for his unit.

Guiding principles are in place to help you make good decisions. Once in a while, it makes sense to “break” the rules to provide the best service you can. We are not in the business of walls, doors, and stuff. We are in the business of trust, empathy, and people.

Atomic Storage Group

How to Make More Money in Self Storage

Rate reductions should be used as a temporary means to attract customers, not an ongoing sales crutch or philosophy.

I can’t think of another business that relies as heavily on discounts as self-storage, other than maybe mattress stores. I despise rent concessions, but they’re so prevalent in our industry, it’s difficult to function without them. Still, any special deployed should be considered a temporary tool, not a permanent philosophy. For a sales promotion to pay off, you need a strategic approach. By beginning with the end in mind, you can create a self storage revenue plan that’ll help avoid the challenges chronic discounting can bring.

When I ask e operators about their self storage revenue management systems, the answers I get are often a mix of “I do what the other guy is doing” or “I really don’t know.” Too often, they choose the easy route and cut rates. Before going down this path at your own facility, put in the time to do the due diligence and build a solid business foundation. This includes training staff on sales and ensuring your property is well-maintained—things that can help you kick the crutch of discounting and justify higher rental rates.

Know the Math

Discounts aren’t as harmless as you might think. If your average unit price is $100 and the average length of stay is nine months, your average customer value is $900. If you’re offering a free month of rent and the tenant came from an online self-storage aggregator, that affects your numbers substantially. That $900 customer might now be worth only $650, which drops your average unit price to $72.Offering discounts means you’re playing in the mud with everyone else. What are you doing to set yourself apart from the site down the road that’s doing the exact same thing?

Some operators argue that discounting helps them fill their sites quickly. This might be true, but the only way to know for sure is to track the closing rate on discounted vs. standard-price rentals. Are markdowns necessary, or have managers become so reliant on offering them that they no longer know how to sell without one? Self storage revenue is a lot more than the set it and forget it.

Instead, Be Strategic

Taking a tactical approach means setting revenue goals and devising the right type of self-storage unit pricing to achieve them. This will help you avoid the common challenges associated with lingering discounts and bring in more revenue. To ensure a promotion is successful without damaging your business in the long term, consider these planned approaches:

First, find clarity.

Be clear about why you want to offer a discount. Typically, the goal of a special is to acquire new customers; but some operators may offer one as a thank-you to members of the community, such as senior citizens, military personnel, or first responders.

Typically, these types of promotions won’t be the deciding factor in whether a customer chooses to rent with you. While it’s OK to offer them, make sure you control their use. Giving 5 percent off here and there might not seem like a lot, but at year-end, when 60 customers have taken advantage of the offer, it adds up.

Keep it simple.

I’ve seen self-storage operators get extremely creative with their pricing structures, but if you’re going to offer a discount, make it easy for staff and customers to use.

Offering 25 percent off the first two months of rent isn’t a simple discount. There’s a Reddit feed I love called “Explain it to me like I’m five.” It’s great advice for marketing, too. Train staff. One of my biggest issues with discounts is, over time, employees believe they can’t sell without one. If they believe they can’t sell without a crutch, they never will, and that’s a real problem in self storage revenue.

Use a limited-time offer.

This gives new customers a reason to rent or reserve now rather than later. Consider using a callout on your website and other marketing that states, “Only 2 Left!” Scarcity is a great persuasive strategy that creates a sense of urgency, particularly online. Upsell. When you offer a discount, offer other items to help make up the margin. For example, sell the customer some tenant insurance or moving supplies. The renter may move in for a dollar, but upselling can at least increase your per-rental profit.

Focus on hard-to-fill units.

You likely have units at your self-storage property that are less desirable than others, maybe because they’re upstairs or farther from the office. To attract budget-conscious customers, consider selling these spaces at a lower rate than “premier” spots.

Try bundling.

Rather than lowering your rental rates, try selling the unit together with another desirable product or service at a “special bundle price.” For example, if you have a moving truck, offer to let the customer use it for free if he rents a storage unit of a particular size or for some specified length of time. The idea is that the individual prices of products in the package become less expensive vs. buying them individually. Get creative with the concept, and be sure to measure and record what works to increase your self storage revenue.

Tools for Tricky Times

Let’s take a moment to address the current and future situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. As the crisis ebbs and flows, so will customer behavior. For self-storage businesses, online and phone-based demand has increased, while walk-in traffic has decreased. Even with safeguards in place, most facility operators are trying to limit the presence of people at their facilities.

It’s more critical than ever to take advantage of every phone call and Web lead you receive. That being the case, I encourage you to maximize the positive impact of whatever resources and systems you have at your disposal. Make sure your team is armed with the proper tools, including a smart discount system, to help them succeed. I suggest adjusting your phone-sales scripts and online content to promote any specials you offer.

Remember, rate reductions should be used as a temporary means to attract customers, not an ongoing sales crutch or philosophy. The moment you begin to rely on them, you’re moving in the wrong direction—away from profitability!

What Are Important Self Storage KPIs?

Still, have questions about how we do what we do?

One of the great things about self storage is that you can measure everything with detailed metrics. Everything we do must be backed up with data. ​

We Identify Both Lagging and Leading Performance Indicators

One of the great things about self storage is that you can measure everything with detailed metrics. Everything we do must be backed up with data. ​Measuring calls, visits, rentals, clicks, or conversions is one approach to data analysis. However, at Atomic Storage Group, we identify and focus on the core KPIs for your business. Rather than choosing dozens of metrics to measure and report on, we focus on the key items that move your business forward. Many companies try to track too many KPIs, instead of laser focusing on the ones that matter. Data for the sake of data is useless. Data in Atomic language is an action verb.

Lagging Indicators

Measure the output of what has already happened, such as rentals or retail sales. These types of metrics are good for purely measuring results, as they solely focus on outputs.​

Leading Indicators

They measure the inputs. These metrics help predict what is to come. A great example is website traffic, conversion rates, demand, demand trends, and area activity. ​Most organizations focus on lagging indicators. One of the main reasons is that it is easy to report on lagging indicators. It is easy to run a rental report. However, focusing on the outcome does not give you information to change the story. ​

At Atomic, we look at leading indicators as a huge driver of business. They help discover trends before they emerge. This allows us to maximize revenue, reduce costs, and have a much greater impact on the future goals at each self storage location. ​This is how we make every decision. Data. Experience. Your best interest. We consistently do what’s hard for us if it’s best for our customers. That’s the Atomic Way.