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Customer Experience Roundtable: Extra Space Storage Leaders Discuss CX Innovations

Each year on the first Tuesday in October, the Customer Experience (CX) community celebrates professionals and companies that make great customer experiences happen.

At Extra Space Storage, we love creating individual experiences for our customers in moments that matter. To do that, our team focuses on three Customer Experience principles—Care, Appreciate, and Inform. We care for our customers, appreciate them, and work hard to keep them informed about all things related to self storage.

For CX Day, Director of Product and Customer Success Brett Boot led a discussion with Extra Space Storage leaders to recognize the impact of our teams on providing a world-class customer experience. Participating in the conversation were:

  • Brooke Stencil, Senior Director of Digital Marketing
  • Geoff Hayth, Director of Operations Support
  • James Hafen, Senior Vice President of Product Development
  • Karen Pierce, Division Vice President of the Midwest
  • Scott Hansen, Vice President of the National Solutions Center

Below are video clips and highlights from the discussion.

Q: At Extra Space Storage, we have over 3,500 field employees, over 120 solutions center agents, and over 350 corporate employees. All of these team members support and manage the customer experience of over 1.2 million customers nationwide. We’re going to talk about that today, but before we do, let’s introduce ourselves.

Stencil: Hi, my name is Brooke Stencil. I’m our Senior Director of Digital Marketing, and I’ve been with Extra Space Storage for a little over seven years.

Pierce: Hi, I’m Karen Pierce. I’m the Division Vice President of Midwest operations. I’m about to celebrate 25 years with the company.

Hafen: I’m James Hafen, Senior Vice President of Product Development. I’ve been back with Extra Space Storage for about three years but have been working with the company for well over 20 years at this point.

Hansen: I’m Scott Hansen. I’m the Vice President of the National Solution Center at Extra Space Storage, and I’ve been with the company for eight years.

Hayth: I’m Geoff Hayth, Director of Operation Support, and I’ve been with the company for five years.

Boot: Thanks, everybody. I’m Brett Boot. I’m the Director of Customer Experience. I’ve been with Extra Space Storage for about six years. For the last two years, I’ve been over Customer Experience, and it’s been great.

Q: The industry has come a long way, specifically with customer experience. What was customer experience like ten years ago in self storage?

Pierce: Wow, customer experience back in the “olden days” was really just a byproduct of the sales process. The thought was, if you got the sale, then the customer experience would begin. So it took us a while to evolve from a heavy sales focus to a focus where we match the customer to the experience they want to have. There’s still some overlap between the two approaches, but we’ve flipped the script to focus more on the customer, and the sales process then becomes the byproduct of that.

Stencil: Our digital experience when I started about seven years ago was in a pretty solid place. People could come online and make a reservation, but it was limited for our customers beyond that. So we’ve evolved to give them more opportunities to narrow their experience and hone in on exactly what they’re looking for. But yes, back when I started, it was very simple—you could make a reservation online, or you could call and make a reservation, but ultimately you had to go in-store to rent.

Q: I want to talk about COVID-19. That had a huge impact on the industry, and it pushed us to adapt and catch up from a technology standpoint. How did COVID-19 impact our ability to maintain a best-in-class customer experience?

Hayth: It changed things a ton. It was a flip of a switch. At the start of COVID-19, as we locked our doors, we started renting units remotely over the phone. Then shortly after, we introduced online rentals using kiosks and Bluetooth access. The list of changes continues to grow, but what’s been exciting to see is how our people have rallied together through adversity, not only adapting but championing the new ways of meeting our customers’ needs. It’s been cool to see.

Hansen: It accelerated our efforts. We’re finding that there is a preference for interacting over the phone from those customers who may have gone in-store or on the website before COVID-19. More people are moving to digital experiences where they don’t have to do things in person as much. So we added pieces like completing the lease start-to-finish over the phone, focusing on anything else that can be done in a digital realm where you don’t have to be in person, and enabling our channels to accomplish that for the customer.

Q: Why now more than ever are we so heavily focused on customer-facing technologies?

Hafen: The customer experience is one of the ways we differentiate the business, and it’s one of the ways we raise the bar in self storage. That bar is being set by other industries similar to storage; the multi-family space, travel, hospitality, those experiences, and those channels are reaching out to customers and meeting them where they want to do business. That has become the standard and our customers come to us looking for the same kind of opportunities, conveniences, and multi-channel approach. That’s the way we stay ahead of the curve, stay competitive, and differentiate our business.

Stencil: It goes beyond just our industry. If you look at big brands that people interact with every day, they offer things like free shipping, same-day delivery, and one-click purchasing. That’s becoming the new norm, so that will level up the storage industry and every other industry. We have to remain customer-focused if we want to compete and provide that level of experience and service that customers have come to expect from other brands.

Q: An omnichannel experience is the idea of implementing technologies and processes that enable the customer to interact with us how they want, where they want, and even bounce between different channels. What are we doing to enhance the customer experience through this omnichannel idea?

Hansen: I think there are a few parts to that. One of them is to continue to be in the channels where our customers want to interact. We’re in a lot of channels now where customers can reach out to us that are convenient for them. But as different social media channels or different expectations of customers come up, we want to look at those new channel opportunities and be there to assist our customers. Another piece is picking up where they left off. If they’re on our website or logged in to their account and they have a question, we want them to be able to call an agent that can help them finish whatever process they’re trying to accomplish.

Hafen: It’s about making sure that these channels are consistent in what they offer. We don’t want someone to walk up to a kiosk and be limited in what they can do with that particular piece of technology. If a kiosk only allows rentals, we’ve only solved half the problem. We want that kiosk to handle service requests, information requests, and the transactional side of the business as well. It’s about the consistency of options so that, regardless of the channel they contact us on, we give them all the options to easily do business with us.

Q: What makes our customer experience stand out in the industry?

Hayth: It’s our people. I think it starts with our store managers who go above and beyond to meet the needs of our customers. It can be seen through our field leaders, the National Solutions Center, and our people working throughout the Store Support Center to make it all happen. The combined positivity and pursuit of excellence stand out.

Pierce: Our focus on customer experience makes us different. I mentioned before, I have a couple of decades in this industry now, so I’ve seen a lot over the years. At one point, I was part of an organization where the whole focus of the business was transacting the real estate, and the customer was an afterthought. So being part of Extra Space Storage and seeing our commitment to the customer and building the business plan around that really is different. Our ability to change and adapt to this evolving world in which we operate makes us different from the competition.

Extra Space Storage is focused on delivering a world-class customer experience. Interested in joining us? Learn more about our company culture and employment opportunities at careers.extraspace.com.