Storage Co. Ups Business Through Sign-On with CSC

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In a bid to capitalize on calls to its 230 stores nationwide, Storage Trust, a provider of storage space, in April signed on with Margate, FL-based Communication Service Centers.

"We were missing potential customers," said Kevin Bowman, of Storage Trust. Calls were either abandoned or lost when store managers were not available to answer the phone.

But now when callers dial their local Storage Trust location, they are automatically directed to a central 800 number and greeted by one of six agents dedicated to Storage Trust.

Important to the program is the knowledge the agents have of the business and each location, Bowman said. "Callers believe they are calling someone at the actual property," he said.

A screen automatic number identification shows the agent the caller's location. Three major benefits of that property are displayed with a complete listing of sizes and prices.

"The number one goal is to get people to visit the property," Bowman said, where store managers hope to convert the visits into sales. The company expects to extend its program with CSC, possibly this year, so agents will be able to take credit card reservations over the phone. Although capability is there with CSC, gradual growth was favored. "We don't want to go too far too fast," he said.

In the beginning there were problems with remote call forwarding by local phone companies. Before the local number could be routed to the 800 number, each local phone company requested a change and often completed the work incorrectly.

There were initial concerns, as well, from the store managers about giving up their calls to a third party, Bowman said. They were hesitant to let someone else talk to the customers. Now that the system is up and running, however, response is positive. With information on customers' needs recorded, solid leads are generated, facilitating the closing of sales for managers.

Store managers follow-up leads with a phone call of confirmation. Leads are considered lost after two missed appointments.

The company reports 7,000 new move-ins per month, with a 15 percent increase in sales generated through the program. In July, 30,000 calls were answered. Of those, 6,000 were rental inquiries, 15 percent were converted into actual rentals.

Bowman said the company was surprised by the high volume of non-rental related calls, such as customer service, directions, wrong numbers. In the near future the company hopes to streamline the process so an automatic voice response system will free up agents.

Maximum wait time for callers is 30 seconds. If all dedicated agents are occupied, the call is transferred to a semi-dedicated agent, who also answers calls for other companies. Approximately 85-90 percent of calls are handled with fully-dedicated agents.

All calls are connected to the Web, a key advantage for companies, according to CSC President Herman Shooster. As agents answer the phone, a specific Web page associated with the 800 number dialed is displayed on the agent's screen. Upon completion of the call, the agent submits the record to the Web host and collects, locally, all call detail including date, time, caller ID, agent notes, duration of call, number dialed and agent ID. Information is received in real time with inventory tracking, scripting changes, data reporting and marketing information updates taking place as calls are processed.

"It is fast and efficient," said Bowman. For instance, if Storage Trust wants to change a price, instead of contacting CSC to determine how long it will take to change the price and what the cost will be, the company simply makes the change on a desktop computer. The new price appears on the next incoming call.

CSC reports data to Storage Trust daily. Reports include ACD, Track It and client information orders. Storage Trust collects the data and then forwards it to the appropriate store. "We update information daily through the Web," Bowman said.

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