(May 29, 2020) – Phoenix, AZ. OpenTech Alliance, the leading developer of innovative smart-connected technology solutions for the self storage industry, helps nationwide storage provider Simply Self Storage deliver on its promise to provide the best service possible. The Florida-based operator offers a high-quality storage experience in 23 states and growing – with a business model built on a commitment to innovation.
Kerry Richard, SVP of Operations for Simply Self Storage, attributes the success of the partnership to a collaborative approach rooted in a shared commitment to continuous improvement. “Good or bad,” stated Richard, “we work through challenges together.” Though he couldn’t have known at the time of the interview, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic would soon put that theory to the ultimate test.
Long before the world was in limbo, Simply Self Storage was committed to providing a storage experience that was truly that – SIMPLE. Storage where, how and when you needed it – free from frustrations or limitations. This continued focus on the customer experience is one of the main reasons the company, with 121 facilities nationwide, has thrived within the industry. Especially in a challenging market, Richard attests that to compete in the saturated markets, you have to give the best customer service possible.
Making Storage Simple with Critical Call Center Services
For Simply, the first call is the most important aspect of a successful customer interaction – you may not get another chance to engage this customer (especially if it doesn’t go well). After you invest resources in expanding your online presence, ongoing digital marketing and cosmetic property improvements – everything you do to attract new customers – when you finally get them to call your facility, be ready to answer the phone when they do.
“We partner with vendors to ensure everything runs as it should,” stated Richard. “Our call center is very important. Our offices are not open 24/7. When we are open, the managers have to deal with customers at the property. If someone is calling, we don’t want them to leave a message. We want them to talk to someone. Our call center and manager have to be at the top of their game to ensure they’re happy and get them in the store.”
Simply relies on open communication and transparent data to ensure the INSOMNIAC Live! Call Center is performing to expectations. As in all areas of their business, Simply reviews daily metrics – on agent call quality, call conversion %, average speed to answer, abandon rate, etc. – to evaluate call success. “OpenTech is committed to sharing information and data and working with us to train the Storage Counselors dedicated to our account. OpenTech allows us to come out to the site and train them on the Simply way. That’s been very beneficial – it really builds a relationship between the Storage Counselors and our team here at Simply. Throughout the year, OpenTech’s training supervisors work with us on any issues that may come up. We work together to get the results we do, and they’re great representatives of our brand.”
Simply began a pilot with the Live! call center in September of 2017, with all facilities onboarded by December 2017. From Jan 2018 to May 2020, Live! Storage Counselors answered 256,919 sales calls for Simply Self Storage at an 89.50% service level (96.4% handle rate). To ensure superior customer service, Live! Storage Counselors maintained an average speed to answer of 9 seconds for the Simply Sales Queue (15 seconds faster than the average time to abandon), and an average handle time of 3 min 5 seconds, one of the lowest rates of the Live! Call Center queues.
This communication and willingness to work together when challenges arise are critical to the health of this partnership. Whether operating business as usual, implementing a new process or dealing with a nationwide crisis, this mutual trust has been the key to success.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it snowballed fast,” stated Richard. “As government mandates poured in, we all had to find ways to pivot our operations. Our call center team at OpenTech never missed a beat. We could tell their staff was working really hard – calls were being answered and we saw no interruption in service levels. We felt fully supported. On top of that, we had introduced a new online rentals process earlier this year that allows our customers to complete a rental without coming into the office. The Live! Storage Counselors mastered the new process quickly, and my managers and customers felt supported during an incredibly quick transition in our operations. Everyone is truly stepping up in this time. In light of the new challenges each day brings and the constant negativity that surrounds us, I’m proud to be part of a strong industry that will continue to work together to pull our communities and colleagues through this trial.”
A Supportive Foundation for Innovation: Testing New Technology Solutions
Simply’s long-standing partnership with OpenTech Alliance has allowed them to confidently test new technologies as they hit the market. In addition to superior service – a key tenet of Simply’s operations – Richard, believes much of their success lies in their willingness to try new things – even if it means they might fail.
“If it’s a good idea I don’t care where it came from,” stated Richard. “At Simply Self Storage, everyone feels like they can be part of the team to make change happen. We rely on that a lot. It’s out in the field that things happen, and that’s where we get the best feedback on how we can do our jobs better.”
Simply applies this same philosophy to their vendor partners – stating it was their relationship with OpenTech that led them to first test the company’s access control system, INSOMNIAC CIA. “One thing I’ll say about our relationship with all departments at OpenTech,” stated Richard, “they’re not pushy. They’re very communicative, and proactively share what they’re seeing as new products hit the field. When we decide to try something, they’re very hands-on from the beginning to make sure everything goes right from the time we order, to install, to getting it up and running – they’re all over it. That level of service isn’t seen as much today. It’s nice to partner with someone who believes in and is investing that kind of service in their product.”
Simply initially installed CIA at four properties and has been pleased with the ease of use for managers and the overall enhancements to the customer experience. Richard visited a location with CIA during a snowstorm and was happily impressed to see the hands-free access via the Storage Genie tenant mobile app worked as advertised (and he didn’t have to open his window to enter a code at the keypad). His managers have reported that it’s an easy sell, being easy to use and offering good benefits to customers, and as such has provided a competitive advantage at those facilities. These perks, in addition to the reporting capabilities, remote management and improved hardware, have made CIA their system of choice when systems go down – particularly in light of the challenges introduced by COVID-19 restrictions. Simply will also look to replace functional systems at properties where it will bring a big enough benefit to their customers – such as properties with 200+ RV spots or those close to highways that see a lot of semi traffic.
Simply Self Storage also piloted INSOMNIAC SmartEye, a live security monitoring service powered by BlueEye, at one of their locations experiencing security issues. SmartEye uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to proactively monitor and respond to incidents at a facility in real-time. When Simply was having issues with security after hours – including customers on the property, break-ins and vehicle damage to the buildings – SmartEye provided the perfect solution. “We had tried two other competitor solutions,” stated Richard. “It was such a fiasco it wasn’t worth it. We had false alarms – the police were called so many times they stopped coming. We were very hesitant to try SmartEye. A year later, it’s been really good. It has helped cut down on incidents at the site and has helped our customers and onsite manager feel better. Our customers know sites are monitored overnight so they feel safer going on property – it’s a selling point for them.” Simply is adding SmartEye to an additional site in Kansas, and will continue to evaluate opportunities to upgrade their security at other locations.
Partnership Provides Added Protection from Liability
Another area where OpenTech helps Simply cut down on liability, and a working relationship once again defined by history, trust and ongoing collaboration, is online auctions. Simply has hosted auctions with StorageTreasures since the early StorageBattles days – and were initially conducting both live and online auctions. They recently made the decision to switch all 121 properties to online auctions exclusively with StorageTreasures.com.
According to Richard, this decision was driven by several factors. Because each state is different with different lien laws, StorageTreasures helped standardize the process across the operation. Reduced liability and increased efficiency were also reasons for the switch. “I would go with online auctions any day,” stated Richard. “When you have live auctions, not only do you run the liability of having all of those people on your site, but you have to clean up after them. Online is such an easy process from start to finish – it takes less time, and in our studies the return is the same or a little more.” One of the biggest motives, however, was once again the collaborative nature that defined this vendor relationship.
“We’ve worked with StorageTreasures for years. We have quarterly calls, where our dedicated rep reviews our business and provides all sorts of details on trends, what works best, where we can improve our auctions. It’s something you really have to dig into to improve your return. We have a great relationship -StorageTreasures is very easy to work with, very data driven and informative.” In the 3.5 years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and halted storage auctions, Simply saw an average sale price of $151 and average lien loss recovery rate of 29%.
Robert Chiti, Chairman and CEO of OpenTech Alliance, believes it is this willingness to test new things where others may have feared failure – be it cutting-edge technology, different operating procedures or the like – has fortified both operations. “Partnerships like these have long formed the foundation of OpenTech’s success. We find our strength in the trust and collaboration of like-minded partners in the industry.” A sentiment, it seems, that is shared by Simply Self Storage.
“I would say that there are a few partnerships that we have in the industry where we do work like we do with OpenTech,” stated Richard, “but it’s not a common theme to find partners that want to collaborate together as much as we do. Partners who are trying to make their product better, and trying to make our business better at the same time. That’s what makes a partnership so strong. Both benefit, and both looking out for each other.”
To learn more about INSOMNIAC CIA, INSOMNIAC Live!, INSOMNIAC SmartEye, or StorageTreasures, contact OpenTech Alliance at email@example.com.