The realization that anything can be made easy and fun thanks to the Internet (and the expectation that it will be) came home again recently when I needed to rent a storage space for some belongings that don’t fit anywhere but still are needed.
A friend told me about SpareFoot and within minutes I found myself comparison shopping for storage units by size, shape and dollar amount. The site was easy to navigate, full of utility and a huge time- and stress-saver.
What made it work were tools allowing for easy price comparisons between service providers, crystal clear instructions for how the process would work and a visual tour of what the place looked like.
According to statistics compiled by SpareFoot, 1 in 10 Americans rents some form of self-storage unit, and publicly traded Public Storage is the industry leader with $2.38 billion in revenue in 2015. This was my first foray into the experience, and I went with a lower-cost local space place called Keepers.
Once there, it was easy to check in, pay my first month’s rent, and become registered in the system. The entire operation opens and closes with a digital identity. What happens if the system is down? I’ve decided not to think about that! I’m just grateful the possessions in my 5-foot-by-7-foot room with the 8-foot ceilings are stored high enough to protect them from any storm surge.
I reserved my space about two days before the actual move-in date and was comforted that things were moving along properly through peppy little emails from SpareFoot confirming my reservation, providing my confirmation code, then reminding me “It’s move-in day!” at the appointed hour.
A follow-up email asked me to confirm if I did in fact move in when I intended to and saying yes or no gave me a chance to win a $100 Visa card. Next step was an easy rating and review template for a chance to win even more — a $250 Amazon gift card. Typically, I ignore these things, but something about the playfulness in the language engaged me to respond.
While this experience is individual, several universal truths emerge.
1. Be Playful! Renting storage space is not glamorous but SpareFoot made it easy and fun. And the site itself has a great name — signaling the benefit of the product. A boring task becomes a little bit less so.
2. Be Clear! The emails guiding me along each step of the way took any anxiety out of the process.
3. Be Concise! The emails also were short and visual. One clear message with visual buttons for the call to action when one was required.
4. Be Personal! Thus far, my relationship with SpareFoot is a brief one, but it’s gotten my name, location and membership details correct in every follow-up communication so far. This makes me feel comfortable.
5. Be Focused on the Customer! SpareFoot offers multiple opportunities to “manage your reservation” before the actual move-in. Without sounding like an upsell, there’s a visual cue. One improvement would have been to make it easy to rent a van at the same time the reservation was made. It turned out low-cost “U-Haul” rentals were available at my storage space and that would have saved a few trips.
6. Be Responsive! Most of my activity occurred on my smartphone. Some of the useful background information was not as easy to find there as it was on the actual website.