While consulting with a property management company on Marco Island a few years back, we quickly sailed through software features and began to discuss the generic issues facing a new project. This was their first foray into self storage and they were converting an existing four story building across the street from their high end office.
We discussed the fact that the consumer choice in the industry is often made by women, even when the man of the house actually shows up to sign the lease. Sometimes the golf clubs aren’t going to get used until the garage or basement gets cleaned out. And just because he signs the lease doesn’t mean that she won’t eventually need access.
When I mentioned the term “feminine friendly,” the woman, soon to be self storage manager, piped up and said, “Yeah, sometimes when I’m alone on that fourth floor it really creeps me out.” The owner was blown away, and asked her what she meant. She said sometimes when someone else came up there was only one way out, other than a fire escape, and you couldn’t see around the metal rooms to see who it was. Furthermore the noise of the metal creaking sometimes gave her the willies.
The owner, now very concerned, asked why she didn’t say something earlier. She said, “I thought it was just me!” He wisely added, “If it’s you, it’s every woman that goes up there!”
If a woman customer is not comfortable in or around your facility, you will likely lose business without ever knowing why. Men are also sometimes spooked in converted metal buildings with the sounds made by expanding metal when they are the only one present. They’re just too macho to normally share it with you.
Several steps can be taken with modest expense to increase ‘friendliness.’ Better, brighter lighting always helps. Soft music playing will mask most of the metal sounds. Intercoms placed at convenient intervals are very reassuring. In addition to these steps, my customer added a mirror on the corner so that you could see who was around it. Another of my customers had his maintenance person paint something, anything, every day or two so that the odor of fresh paint was always present. It plays on olfactory senses which are actually stronger in women than men, and gives the impression that an old facility is both clean and well maintained.
Take the time and effort to have several people stroll through your project alone and have them give you an honest assessment of their thoughts. Use their feedback to take proactive steps to mitigate any discomforts they might express. You will be enhancing the rental experience and likely extending the stay of many customers.