Monday, June 16, 2014

First Impressions Can Be Wrong

Due to the problems with the economy and my secretarial position having been dissolved, I had no choice but to accept a part time position in 2009.  As I was looking for a full time job in North Jersey, I came across a position in the self storage industry.  I had rented a self storage unit for six months many moons ago when I was single in New York City but my experience was not a good one!  The location of the self storage facility was only open certain hours, and the people who provided me with basic customer service at the self storage location were very crabby!

As I was readying myself for the interview, this past experience was on my mind.  I had already had a bad day at my then current position and was trying to keep up-beat and happy for the interview.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the people I interviewed with were pleasant and welcoming.  I was offered and accepted the position but my past experience was still in my head.

As I was new to the industry, I was placed in one of the locations so I could learn the business from the bottom up.  I started with learning the software used to keep track of all the units.  The software was like nothing I had used before.  I had to learn and go through the daily operations of checking the facilities for anything out of the ordinary as well as ensuring that the individual units were properly locked.

My past experience with customer service was usually over the telephone or through e-mail.  Now, I am seeing customers face-to-face at the point of sale!  What a difference it makes being in front of someone when they are trying to comprehend what you are helping them with.  Some people are here not because they want to be: some are getting a divorce and were forced to sell their house, some people’s houses where they were renting were sold to another person and they had to move.  Other tenants rent spaces to put their old and vintage cars in storage for the winter months!   The list of reasons is unfathomable.  No matter the reason, they are looking to you to help the experience be a pleasant and smooth one.  There can be trying days when it seems that many issues are coming at you at lightning speed, but how well you handle them by keeping your head about you is the most important.

I have tried my best to remember all the important information that needs to be conveyed to a prospective tenant regarding the contract and insurance requirements.  I’ve had to make a cheat-sheet to remember the more important parts of the contract.  I don’t remember there being so much information when I rented my unit.  There was definitely more paperwork involved behind the scenes than I previously thought.

At the training facility, I dealt with tenants who have been customers for years; new tenants who needed help with the logistics of when and how to store and customers who like to come by every month just to say Hi.  I never realized how personal this industry really can be.

After my initial training, I moved over to the main management office where my job is located.  I am in the back office, but I am never out of the eye of the tenants.  This facility has commercial tenants like contractors and a the like; we store cars, boats, trucks, commercial equipment, etc.  The traffic through the office is almost as numerous as the traffic coming and going from the facility daily.

I have had the pleasure of meeting some interesting and funny individuals so far.  They stop by just to say Hi and share in some water cooler talk.  It has been a pleasure to be welcomed into a tight-knit family where most of the people here have been here for many years.

I have forever changed my view of the self-storage industry!  I am and will continue to learn what it takes to keep these facilities running smoothly and do my best to keep the employees and the tenants happy and content.

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