This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Mini Storage Messenger Magazine.

Wouldn’t it be nice for your self storage customer if he could pull up to your facility when you’re closed, use his phone to reserve his unit, and get his gate code all at once? He could move right in no matter what time of day, and you could reap the benefits of increased business without extended business hours.

The industry isn’t quite to this point yet, but this is certainly the direction it’s headed. Right now, the proper technology at your facility enables you to preserve one of the most valuable resources you have: your time. Time is what allows you to provide better customer service for your tenants rather than spending your days — and your dollars — fussing with technology.

So, what technologies does your property need to make this happen? Here are four key types that can propel your business toward offering the experience your leads are looking for.

#1: INTEGRATED INFORMATION

When proper integration is in place, your customer receives more accurate information and a more seamless experience overall. But integration is about more than just showing the correct unit availability on your website after each reservation. While it’s beneficial to your customers if all of your technologies are integrated, it also reaps rewards for the operational aspect of your business.

Integration includes, but is not limited to, the following technologies:

  • Gate software

  • Payment processors

  • Storage unit software

  • Insurance

  • Collections

  • CRM

  • Security systems

It isn’t enough to just have the technology on your property. It’s now time to expect all of your providers to integrate well. When they don’t, it’s too often the case that you become the middle man between all your providers — sometimes without even realizing it.

Say, for example, you have a customer who pays his bill one day late. He called you a few days ago and let you know his situation. Since this is his first time missing a payment, you cut him a break. You make a note in your self storage business software, waiving the late fee and therefore keeping your customers’ gate code active.

A week later this customer shows up to your facility to find that he can’t gain access. Even if you handle the issue promptly, you’re left to clean up the mess when your management software and gate software didn’t integrate properly. Suddenly it’s the very technology that’s meant to improve your customer experience that’s belittling the level of customer service you promised. Then, to top it all off, you have to get on the phone with both of those providers to resolve the issue.

With information integrated across your property, you can eliminate time spent solving issues with different providers and instead spend that time providing an experience that’s as helpful as you are to your customers.

#2: CLOUD-BASED MANAGEMENT

There’s been plenty of talk about cloud-based storage unit software lately, and for good reason. From an operational standpoint, cloud-based management software benefits both small and large storage companies. It encourages the use of helpful gadgets like smartphones and tablets, enabling managers to become more mobile around the property.

Along with these benefits, cloud-based self storage management software is reliable, fast, secure, and accessible worldwide. Cloud-based software, the next step beyond web-based self storage software, provides a simple solution to storage owners aiming to maximize their return on investment. It’s ground-breaking technology without new hardware. Now storage operators can streamline their management, cut down on operational costs, and access information anywhere without the hassle of buying, installing, and downloading new technology regularly.

Because cloud-based technology is relatively new to the storage industry, it may be a while before you can form a steadfast opinion on it. As you consider what it might look like when implemented at your facility, think about a few of its everyday perks:

  • Improved manager-to-owner communication. Whether your company owns one facility or 100, communication can make or break your entire operation. Managers and owners can log into the software simultaneously — whether they’re sitting next to each other or across states — and then collaborate with real data in real time. That’s powerful for your business.

  • Instant updates: Simple and accurate. No one wants to spend hours re-familiarizing themselves with the product after each update. Cloud-based storage unit software implements new features seamlessly and more frequently, making each update easier to understand without slowing down your business.

  • Managers can leave the front desk and still provide great service. Gone are the days of making a trip around the property to tackle important maintenance work only to come back to three missed calls. Cloud-based self storage management software allows managers to take their management program and all its features with them, providing better service to their customers.

With cloud-based self storage software, you can put down the manual, collaborate with your team, and bring your business with you wherever you go.

#3: ROUND-THE-CLOCK SERVICE

In a time when nearly any task can be completed online, an “I want it now” mentality is prevalent among your customers. While it’s unrealistic to expect that your property should be staffed 24/7, your leads will most often choose the facility that’s most convenient for them.

Your office doesn’t need to be open all day every day, but your customers do need a way to give you their business or send payment any time. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that this can be accomplished. Here are a few ideas, stretching from low commitment and low investment to high impact and high pay-off:

  • Smartphone applications. An app might be best used when a lead becomes a customer. Use it to send payment reminders, share information about upcoming events, and provide a centralized spot for facility news.

  • 24-hour kiosks. This type of technology has been a big buzzword in the self storage industry for a while. The logistics may vary, but the gist is that it allows customers to swing by your property any time to reserve a unit and manage their account.

  • Mobile-friendly website. A mobile-friendly website can have a wonderful impact on leads and customers alike. Speak with your website provider to learn what you can do to provide a seamless experience for your mobile customers.

  • Call centers. A call center can be a great way to provide improved customer service to your customers without expending a large amount of resources. For example, if your office closes at 5, try forwarding your number to a call center so your leads can get assistance no matter what time they call.

  • Online functionality. One of the simplest ways to meet your customers halfway is to provide a wider range of capabilities with your self storage website design. It can be reserving units, paying bills, or even reading up on storage advice — anything that saves them a trip or a phone call.

With round-the-clock service, you can make it easy for your customers to choose your business over the competition by reserving units, making payments, finding answers to their questions, and managing their accounts any time.

#4: CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)

Customers need to be remembered. Any good businessman knows that little gestures like remembering names and responding to phone calls promptly can go a long way. It’s a powerful strategy and a fascinating fact: Your customers will choose whether or not they want to work with you based on your ability to connect with them person to person.

Beyond being remembered, prospects need to be reminded. If they’ve contacted your facility, chances are they need storage. But if they didn’t rent a unit right away, they may be looking elsewhere. There’s also a strong possibility that, though they know they need storage, life simply got in the way and they haven’t acted on that need as promptly as they originally meant to. In this scenario, it’s often the first self storage manager to reach out to them that ends up closing the deal.

Customer relationship management, or CRM, is about two things: tracking and following up. The ideal CRM system will provide you an at-a-glance overview of current tasks as well as the ability to view a complete rundown of any given lead’s specific needs, situation, and contact history with your facility.

With customer relationship management, you can proactively approach your leads with a quick snapshot of their needs and circumstances before they have a chance to turn to the facility down the street.

EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUR PROPERTY

Of course, technology doesn’t stop with these four areas. Along with new software for self storage management and renewable resources like solar power, building technology will continue to emerge, ultimately leading to a stronger industry with increased productivity, enhanced customer service, and less time spent fiddling with technology.

What technology do you find most propels your business?