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Industry-veteran Jim Ross boasts improved customer service and sales after making the switch to the OpenTech Remote Manager solution.
3 Mile Storage Management is a third-party management company owned by Jim Ross that offers solutions for self storage operators who want to dominate their local market. Ross is the host of The Self Storage Show, and published author of 3 Mile Domination and Unlock the Power of Remote Management for Your Self Storage Facility.
In July 2022, after trying for over a year to manage customer calls internally, 3 Mile Storage Management transitioned all managed self storage sites to Remote Manager to save on customer service costs, improve the tenant experience and free internal staff to focus on other revenue-driving activities. The company reports saving an average of $4,000 per month in payroll costs with Remote Manager.
“I’m saving about four grand a month on payroll on average,” said Jim Ross, Owner of 3 Mile Storage Management. “We’re doing just as well, if not better, because now we’re answering the phone seven days a week, pretty much 12 hours a day on average – so we’re getting more rentals. And I’d argue that we provide even better customer service than we were before.”
Remote Manager, a service of the INSOMNIAC® Live! Call Center, is a remote facility management solution that can support nearly all customer service elements of a self storage operation — at a fraction of typical payroll costs. A dedicated team of professional Remote Managers oversee multiple properties in a single portfolio and can manage move-ins, move-outs, collections and the auction process, customer inquiries, property appointments and more. These time-consuming yet revenue-driving tasks are critical to any self storage operation.
Jim Ross, owner of 3 Mile Storage Management, has been in self storage more than half his life. Ross started out as a regional manager in his early 20s, overseeing daily operations for several facilities across the US before branching into property management seven years ago. Well-known author of 3 Mile Domination book, newsletter and other industry-dedicated publications and podcasts, Ross has always had a passion to share his operations and marketing experience to help others in the industry gain a leg up on the competition. He’s built his operating model on a commitment to constant, never-ending improvement (1% each day) — a goal Remote Manager has helped him achieve by a much larger margin.
“For remote management as a whole, calls are the cornerstone of success,” said Ross. “If you don’t have people to answer the calls in place and actually doing a great job, everything else after that kind of falls apart. So that was a critical aspect when I transitioned over to this model.”
Ross felt compelled to pursue remote staffing solutions during the height of the pandemic to ensure his facilities could remain operational. Like many, he quickly uncovered new challenges. “Covid frankly lit a fire to make sure I had those kind of systems in place,” said Ross. “I started doing my own internal call center, with managers taking calls. I created a job in and of itself just running a call center, and that wasn’t what I signed up for. My time is better spent elsewhere, and after a while I sat there and said, ‘there’s gotta be a better way.’ That’s where OpenTech came into the picture.”
Before transitioning the self storage facilities in his portfolio to Remote Manager, a service of the INSOMNIAC® Live! Call Center, Ross wanted to ensure the team, and call center service, would be a good fit for his operation. He reviewed service rates, historical call performance and call recordings to gauge quality.
“Obviously, the first two main criteria are you answer the phone and provide great sales presentations,” said Ross. “You have a small team and that’s their sole focus. When it comes down to reps, I remember being a manager — sitting behind a desk, you’re lucky to get three sales presentations in a day. You just don’t get lots of opportunities to hone your skills with only a few sales calls a day. Remote Managers, that’s what they do day in and day out — it makes their presentations so much better, and you can hear it on the phone.”
Ross, who estimates his average lifetime tenant value at $2,500 ($180/mo; 14 mo average), knows the cash he loses from every missed sales opportunity. In terms of value, he estimates the loss as high as $23,000 (at a 6% cap rate). Still, one of the biggest selling points for Ross, beyond the time and money to be saved, was the personalized approach the team took to onboard his facilities — and their commitment to represent his brand well. “There’s plenty of other call centers out there. What’s different about Remote Manager is they’re actually doing all of that, plus all the other services that a manager would do. You have your small team and you’re treated as such. They’re an extension of your brand, they’re an extension of your company.”
When asked how well Remote Managers have represented his self storage portfolio, Ross shared a story from a recent site visit to a facility in North Carolina:
“I’ll tell you a story. It’s not just the phone calls — and I’m doing great on the phone and great sales presentations. They’re good people. I was just in North Carolina doing a site audit. I was walking around the facility and one guy went out of his way to track me down. He asked, ‘Hey, are you Brandon?’ I replied, ‘No, not Brandon. I’m Jim, with the management company.’ He wanted to know who Brandon was, so I shared he was an extension of our team, a Remote Manager, answering the calls. He responded with: ‘Oh yeah. He answered the phone and helped me get this unit. He was fantastic, so helpful and just a really nice guy, so I wanted to introduce myself and say thank you.’ He tracked me down and wanted to make sure he shook Brandon’s hand (he was kind of disappointed I wasn’t Brandon). I’ve done this for years — I’ve never heard that from anybody.”
“A tenant wanted to know who Brandon was, so I shared he was an extension of our team, a Remote Manager, answering the calls. He responded with: ‘Oh yeah. He was fantastic, so helpful and just a really nice guy.’ He tracked me down and wanted to make sure he shook Brandon’s hand. I’ve done this for years — I’ve never heard that from anybody.”
By already having a team in place that he trusts, Ross has been able to bring new facilities up to his service standards and reduce accounts receivable quickly. “Remote Manager has been instrumental helping with collections, especially during auctions,” said Ross. “We’ve taken over a few locations that are mismanaged, and when we take them over, it’s a big process to go through the auction process. My Remote Managers were great getting the collections down.” In addition to supporting new facility turnover, the service has helped Ross grow his remote management business faster than anticipated.
“For remote management, I look at it as a three-prong thing: you have customer management, which is through Remote Manager — taking the calls and doing everything a manager would do. Second, you have facility management, which are your boots on the ground guys. Finally, you have your property management team, which is what I do. Having that first piece already in place makes it that much easier when it comes to onboarding any new client, which will allow me to scale faster.”
Ross, who spent months researching solutions before pulling the trigger, has two primary pieces of advice for other operators. “This is one of those things where you just have to do it and try it. This is what OpenTech does. I’m all about finding your zone of excellence. Leverage your zone of excellence. OpenTech has this process down to a fine-oiled machine, because they’ve been doing it for years. I wish I would have done it a long time ago and saved myself the headache of doing my other call center and the stress and time and energy of doing that. But I couldn’t be happier.” Second, “quit framing it as a vendor. You’re looking for a partner. OpenTech is more of a partner to help make the facility a success, not just a vendor you’re plugging in.”
To learn more about Remote Manager or how you can transition your facilities to remote property management, speak to a storage pro today.