Investigating Thresholds of Self-Storage Concepts That Could Be Introduced to Satisfy Customers Needs

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Boston College
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CHAPTER 11.0 IntroductionPeople constantly move from one place to another. In some cases, they have no choice but to move with their belongings. In cases where the movement is urgent, such as an urgent family relocation to another city, the movement of goods is usually very inconveniencing (Plumer, 2013). Due to the uncertainty of the search for a house, for instance, it is necessary for ones household goods to be stored in a convenient location on a short-term basis until a suitable destination is found. Apart from individuals, businesses also need storage spaces for the goods that they intend to use or sell later thus the need for self-storage facilities (Pickords, 2017). To provide storage services, the concerned business enterprises have constructed self-storage spaces that can be hired and used by the tenants to store their goods. In self-storage, people hire storage spaces such as containers, rooms, lockers or even garages to store their commodities in the short-term. The storage space hired is directly proportional to the volume of goods to be stored. Small items such as a backpack can be stored in a locker while household items such as couches, refrigerator and washing machines require a room or a container (Rodgue, Comtois and Slack, 2016). The rented space needs to be secure and conveniently located. It is also important to note that in this type of storage only the tenant can access the goods. The management of the storage facility cannot access the rented space without the permission of the tenant. This prevents theft and pilferage of the tenants property. Nevertheless, the customer needs to feel satisfied with the storage service every time they use it.

1.1 Statement of the ProblemThe self-storage industry is growing at a huge rate. In the United States, for example, self-storage is a huge, lucrative industry in the United States with revenue of more than $31 billion in 2015 with more than 50,000 facilities (Colascione, 2016). It is approximated that more than 9%of households in the United States have used self-storage facilities to store their property in the short-run (Vanderbilt, 2017). However, Zhang (2016) notes that the industry lacks suitable guidelines to ensure that the quality of the service offered to customers remains high. This has made the industry less attractive to some clients who feel that the services offered do not guarantee them the value for their money. In South Africa (herein referred to as SA), the industry is still very young with major players preferring to operate in large cities such as Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein (Du Plessis, 2017). This can mainly be attributed to poor marketing. Some South Africans even view self-storage facilities as local out-of-town goods storage places that cannot be transformed into anything important (Gong and de Koster, 2016). Such ideas work against the growth of the self-storage business in SA and in that cases, many owners of these facilities do not take the business seriously, thus hampering the provision of quality services.

Although, according to Du Plessis (2017), challenges such as low consumer awareness, facility design, and rental rates are common in the self-storage industry in SA, all is not lost. The industry has a future. However, the main problem is that the players are not keen on customer satisfaction. Research undertaken by Gong and de Koster (2016), shows that by using a customer choice model to specify the probability of purchasing a storage service, there is the need to have a set of fair product offerings, in order to allow different customers choice in their behavior. This means that a customer has to be satisfied for them to purchase a certain product. The demands of a client in regard to the storage facility location, pricing and size are important aspects of customer satisfaction (Pickords, 2017). Therefore, the main problem here is that the self-storage business model in the SA market could be possibly losing relevance and customer storage needs due to the changing times and phases in the industry.

Solutions, therefore, need to be sought by investigating the threshold concepts of the self-storage industry in relation to customer satisfaction, emerging trends and the significance of these trends with the aim of building customer confidence. In so doing, an inductive approach will be applied so as to get a clear picture of the current trends in the industry. This will lay the foundation for qualitative research that will seek to establish the emerging trends in relation to customer satisfaction in the self-storage industry.

To get solutions to the problem stated above, there is need to apply the appropriate methodology that will provide the most relevant information. The information will act as a platform for a discussion and conclusions that will culminate in the invention of new frameworks and concepts geared towards the satisfaction of the self-storage facility customer. With emerging trends and demands in the industry, there is need to use the best methodology that will take into account all elements involved in the aspect of customer satisfaction.

This study will, therefore, utilize the qualitative approach in the collection of data. The qualitative approach is preferred to the quantitative one due to the nature of the information required, which is mainly descriptive. According to Creswell (2013), qualitative methods allow for the collection of firsthand data that can neither be manipulated nor distorted. The data is reliable and with proper interpretation, provides valid results that are verifiable. In this study, therefore, the qualitative approach will be applied. Additionally, with the incorporation of Porters five-force analysis as a supplementary approach, it will be possible to determine the emerging trends and competitive advantage in the SA self-storage industry. In that case, appropriate conclusions and recommendations will be made in regard to new concepts in customer satisfaction in the self-storage industry in South Africa.

1.2 Objectives of the StudyThis dissertation aims at investigating the emerging trends in the SA self-storage industry so as to come up with thresholds of self-storage concepts that can be introduced to satisfy the needs of the customer. The specific objectives that will apply in achieving this aim include:

To critically evaluate emerging trends in the self-storage industry in the South African (SA) market.

To critically examine possible competitive advantages of new self-storage concepts in SA.

To determine a model for customer needs in order to identify how the customers may be better satisfied.

1.3 Research QuestionsThe research questions that this dissertation will seek to answer in regard to the research topic include:

What are the current trends in the self- storage industry in the South African market?

What are the possible competitive advantages of emerging self-storage concepts in the world that also apply to the South African market?

What can be done to ensure customer satisfaction and confidence in the SA self-storage industry?

1.4 Significance of the StudyAs a result of the ever-changing consumer needs, new trends will always emerge. Therefore, better ways of satisfying these needs have to be sought. Due to the changing consumer need to acquire more and more consumer-orientated goods though living in smaller homes and apartments, for instance, the demand for self-storage facilities has been on the rise. This demand has been driven by two significant user groups looking for alternative storage space: those in need of storage services for short stays "life-changing events" - less six months 31% and those in need of storage service for longer term requirements 1 year + 50% (Stor-Age 2016, p.19). Therefore, this dissertation will provide guidelines on how to improve the quality of services offered in the self-storage industry, particularly on convenience, accessibility, and security.

Furthermore, it will review the emerging trends in the SA self-storage market and provide vital information to investors and business owners in the industry on the shifting needs of their clientele. By synthesizing the data obtained with the aim of establishing a threshold of a new self-storage concept, with an effective objective of satisfying existing or new customers needs in storage businesses in the South African market, this study will offer very crucial information for the customer. Information provided by this study will also be useful to the government policymakers in an effort to regulate the industry. This information will also significantly contribute to the existing knowledge on the emerging trends in customer satisfaction in the self-storage industry. It will help develop a firm blueprint for future researchers on the need for the improvement of services in the self-storage sector.

CHAPTER 22.1 Literature ReviewSelf-storage refers to a storage system in which individuals rent storage units within a large warehouse to store their possessions (Holsinger, 2015). The storage units vary from lockers, rooms, and containers to external outdoor spaces. In self-storage, the tenants usually lease the space on the short-term basis. However, long-term agreements can also be made between the tenants and the owners of the leased space. After renting the space, the tenant secures the space with his own key and lock. This ensures that the staff of the company providing the space has no access to the stored property. Special circumstances such as the failure of the tenant to pay the agreed rent may lead to the company's access to the storage without authorization by the tenant.

Apart from the provision of storage space, the businesses in the self-storage industry also offer other services such as insurance and trucking (Bass, 2017). Insurance is offered to the tenant either by the busine...

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