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Paper jam.

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And of course...the spinning wheel of death.

Error messages and loading screens are the bane of our existence when it comes to working with technology. When you're completing tenant move-ins, technology or software errors can bring the new tenant onboarding process to a screeching halt. So what can you do to make sure your move-in process is quick and efficient? If completing move-ins at your facility is slow and complicated, check out these five tips to simplify the process and get more done, faster.

Let customers serve themselves.

1. Offer new customers the ability to serve themselves

First, it was pay at the pump gas stations. Then it was self-checkout at grocery stores. Now, customers order food from their phone without ever having to talk to another person. Today’s generation has grown up with these luxuries, and they’re used to being able to serve themselves. Having to call and speak to a human being seems archaic in comparison to online shopping where three clicks later, the item is delivered to your doorstep.

By having a high-quality website with payment processing, you allow tenants to browse through your available units, compare prices and even reserve a space. It brings your self storage business fully online and makes the process more transparent for your customers. This also helps to bring leads to you, rather than playing phone tag with a potential renter for days on end. Read more about online Rental Center tools here.

Nobody likes filling out paperwork, but it's a little less annoying when you can do it digitally.

2. Utilize digital signatures and document capture services

Do you have a pen I can borrow?

Unless you’re reading this at your desk right now, I’m guessing the answer is no. Using pen and paper documentation is more work for everyone involved in the move-in, and it can be inconvenient for your new customer. This is especially true if you're renting to a lot of college students. Millennials don’t own file cabinets. When they get handed paperwork and are told to “file it,” they do so electronically. Most millennials I know would snap a quick picture of the paperwork with their smartphone, and then have the images automatically backed up to a cloud storage service. Boom. File stored.

Why not save them the trouble by just having them sign the document electronically? Emailing or texting move-in documentation to your tenants means no more filing for either of you, and it provides an easy-to-follow digital paper trail for tenants in delinquency or storage units in default. New technology allows you to capture digital signatures and complete paperwork from your computer, smartphone or tablet. Storing tenant documentation electronically ensures you can access your documents from anywhere, anytime. And you don't have to carry around a pesky pen.

Let your software do the work for you and go with you throughout the move-in process.

3. Use software with a fast move-in flow

Nothing is worse than clunky software that struggles to keep up with the new tenant move-in process. At best, it just slows down the process. At worst, it freezes and loses valuable lead or tenant information. Your software should work in synchrony with your business, allowing you to complete tenant move-ins in real-time, on the go, or even better: from the comfort of your own home.

Your customers have high expectations for your software and website performance, and you should, too. People are less patient now than ever before, and processing speed continues to dominate all things technology. Because the customer experience starts with technology first, having slow software or a poor website is comparable to prospective customers dealing with a lazy, tired employee.

In the end, it all comes down to productivity. If your move-in process is slow, you're limited in the number of move-ins you can complete per day. When you speed up this process, you free up more time to complete other important money-saving tasks.

Not these kind of copies. Image by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr.

4. Make digital copies of important documents

Rather than using an expensive, high-maintenance copier, start using digital storage for your tenant documentation. Digital storage is an excellent way to organize all the kinds of files you need for your self storage business, such as copies of lease agreements, invoices, payment receipts, move-out statements, copies of driver’s licenses, and unit damage photos. You can even automate your move-in process to automatically send copies of legally binding documents to new tenants through email or SMS. Your management software should automatically store copies of lease agreements, receipts, and other tenant documentation, as well as provide the option to upload and attach images and files to tenant profiles. Paid plans like Dropbox Business are still much cheaper than average paper costs. Printer costs, fax/copier equipment, paper supplies, and filing supplies can add up to thousands of dollars over time. Plus, it costs your employees valuable time spent handling, ordering, managing, filing, and searching for paper documents around the office.

Another big benefit of digital copies over paper copies: when you use digital storage, there are less chances your documents can be lost or stolen. Despite all of the media hype about the danger of hackers, your files are actually much more likely to be compromised at your office than online. It is all too common for important documents to have a breach in confidentiality occur from a file cabinet being left unlocked, multiple (or lost) key copies, misplaced folders, and crushed file folders. Also, online document storage and cloud storage providers have dedicated security teams to ensure that your documents are safe from unwelcome third parties. You probably can't say the same for your file cabinet.

By far the biggest benefit of digital copies: Never hearing a customer say “I don’t remember signing that” again. With a digital record, you can see not only the exact date and time that they signed it, but also the exact date and time that they opened the email containing the digital copy of the agreement. Record keeping becomes ultra-easy with digital file and photo storage.

The customer is always right, right? Image by 10ch via Flickr.

5. Provide excellent customer service

Your customers are your #1 priority throughout this entire process. In self storage, the most you will ever talk to your customers is at move-in and move-out. You may never actually speak to your tenant again throughout the rest of the time he or she is renting. The move-in process will be an interaction that your customer will remember. And if it’s a bad experience, then why would they recommend your facility to their family or friends?

You can make the move-in process great and start off on the right foot by really taking the time to listen to your customer. Ask them questions, be friendly and kind, make casual conversation, and try to get to know them a little bit. This lays the groundwork for a great customer relationship right from the start. Plus, it helps you feel out your new customer and lets them know you care about your job, which discourages live-in tenants and property misuse.

Your technology can also help make you provide excellent customer service. Set up automatic “welcome” emails for new tenants with their login information, gate code and a link to your review site. You can do the same thing for move-outs: send an automatic “thank you” email to tenants moving out that provides them with their last statement and another link to your review site. If automatic emails aren’t personal enough, just set up a reminder that pings you to remind you to send these emails.

Remember: in self storage, your customers are usually going through a major event in their life. They might be in the process of moving for a new job, getting divorced, going to college, or sorting through possessions of a loved one who recently passed away. Take the opportunity to talk to your new tenants during the move-in process, and make renting a unit at your self storage facility the easiest part of a difficult transition happening in their life.