By Frederic de Ryckman de Betz – CEO of Attic Self Storage
People are your greatest asset and your greatest challenge
Keeping people energised, motivated and generally mentally healthy during a pandemic can be a challenge in the workplace, but nonetheless should be a priority to all businesses. In a self-storage company like ours for example, our people play a significant role in delivering our brand to our customers and it’s important to ensure a consistent approach, and to maintain the high level of service that we offer, even if this means continually finding new ways of doing this. Communication is an important part of this, particularly when teams are maybe not together physically as much as they used to be. Regular communication helps to maintain the team spirit and encourage team positivity.
Investment in technology, done properly, is almost always a good thing
We have been investing in our digital and online technology steadily since 2016, increasing the pace since our funders, Metric Capital, came on board. That technology meant we were able to adapt to the requirements of trading through a pandemic, and to do so quickly. To give an example, we invested in developing an online check-in process in 2016 which meant that we were ideally placed going into the pandemic to service our customers online where preferred. Coupled with the electronic, app controlled locks that we had installed in our Marylebone site that opened in August 2020, means that we’re able to offer a truly contactless service. Our experience has doubled our resolve to continue to push the boundaries with digital.
Keep the focus on your customers
Pandemics impact businesses in all sorts of ways; from the products and services people want or need, to the way people operate, even their attitudes and priorities. It’s therefore essential to analyse your current customers to understand how their needs are changing with the times. Look at the services that you see growing and understand what opportunities this might present and how to target these new opportunities effectively. Make sure that you evolve your business / service levels to best cater for changing needs. Consider how their needs and actions might evolve in the future and position your business to provide for this today.
Provide solutions not problems
Some people’s lives changed dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic and the simpler you can make the process of trading, the more likely you will be to secure your customers’ business. As an example, Attic has offered online, virtual reality tours of our sites since 2019 however going into the pandemic we began to offer live video chat tours directly with our store teams which meant that we could understand the customers particular requirements and tailor their experience, whilst answering any concerns or questions, without the need for them to come to store.
Upgrade your online offerings and processes
People may choose to deal with you in person but the ability to do things online simply reduces barriers. Keeping your approach flexible and allowing customers to deal with you in the medium they prefer is important. The pandemic has also had a catastrophic impact on in-person events, including networking functions and conferences, but it has also opened a whole new door to virtual affairs. These can appeal to an even larger, more diverse audience and also make do for fantastic content that can be repurposed for social media and websites to engage additional customers. Webinars on topics relevant to your industry can be a great place to start interest, particularly if they involve relevant speakers who encourage interactive discussion. Not only is it easier for customers to participate virtually, but it’s also easier to secure in-demand speakers, so take this opportunity to reach out to experts you may not have considered in the past.
Take an agile approach to business – you need to be flexible
The market context and environment is continually changing and it’s important to therefore be pragmatic in your approach to planning. If plans don’t work, learn from it and review and revise them. Don’t think of this as failure but learn from the experience and use it to help you find a new approach.