Tablets and Mobile Technology in the Self Storage Workplace
Tim Schlee |April 17, 2014
With the rise in mobile technology, businesses must increasingly ask themselves: Should I go mobile?
Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are in almost every household now, but offices and workplaces have been less swift to adopt them. Many bosses and managers view them as a distraction. Owners and investors don’t want to spend the money. Employees, on the other hand, use them regardless, sometimes for work, sometimes not.
The self storage industry is one in which an explosion of mobile technology seems unlikely. It’s not fast paced or long distance. The owner and manager can take care of almost everything they need right there onsite. There’s no obvious reason to push for more mobile technology when a desktop computer seems to do just fine.
That’s not the whole story, however. In this post, I will look at the benefits, as well as the potential drawbacks, of mobile technology and the features it can offer your storage facility.
The Benefits of Mobile Technology in Self Storage
This should be a no brainer. The more mobile your communication devices, the better your communication will be. Let’s take a quick look at the different people you’ll be able to communicate more easily with:
• Other employees. Owners can call or email managers no matter where they are. When managers make use of mobile technology, they can respond even when they’re not in the office.
• Potential tenants. There’s no reason to miss a lead just because you’re out spraying down your facility’s doors. With a mobile device, you can call, text, or email a potential tenant and avoid missing out on more revenue.
• Current tenants. Customer service is just as important. Mobile devices will allow you to respond to questions and complaints quickly, defusing the situation before impatience potentially makes the tenant even angrier.
Think of all the reasons a manager might leave the office: to give a tour, to clean up, to water plants. So on and so forth. Now think of all the unhappy tenants and interested leads your manager won’t be able to work with if he or she is out of the office away from the phone. Increased communication could mean increased revenue if you reel in more leads and tackle complaints more quickly.
In addition to improving communication, mobile technology also gives you access to a host of apps, programs, and features that are designed to maximize convenience and flexibility. You’ll no longer be tied to a desktop. Owners can examine reports from home (or anywhere else). Managers can check off tasks in their management software as they perform them throughout the facility – there’s no need to take up extra time upon returning to the office.
Mobile technology will allow you to take full advantage of cloud-based software – i.e. programs that store your information on a secure remote server, allowing you to access it from anywhere, not just your office computer. You can move a tenant in on your software at the exact time you move them in physically. Or you can have a customer sign a contract as he finishes touring your facility. Or if you take a phone call while out in the field, you can immediately enter information into your lead-tracking program without worrying about writing it down or forgetting.
The possibilities are nearly endless. Whether you want to keep a closer watch on the facility while on vacation or you let your manager keep things flexible with a tablet in the office, mobile technology offers a great resource to increase the convenience and mobility of your software.
When you carry your computer everywhere with you – which is essentially what you do when you keep a smartphone or tablet on your person – you’re never out of the loop. You can easily check all the latest industry news and local events.
Best of all is how easy it is to stay tuned-in with your social media marketing. Whether you’re the manager or owner, a mobile device can send you notifications when someone comments on a post, allowing you to respond in a timely fashion. According to Constant Contact, 73% of small businesses are already using mobile technology to conduct social media marketing, and there’s no reason self storage can’t make the same changes.
If you restrict your manager to checking social media on the office computer at certain times during the day, he or she might miss out on some great opportunities to respond to customer comments. Or worse – a negative comment will sit for hours or even days with no response. A mobile device will make it easier to stay on top of your social media. You can even install social media management and analytics tools on your phone or tablet to go the extra mile.
Potential Drawbacks to Mobile Technology
Nothing is perfect, however, and even something as convenient as mobile technology has its drawbacks.
The biggest obstacle to overcome is cost. Prices for tablets vary from just a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000. You’ll probably want to see some solid evidence that the benefits will outweigh the costs before making that kind of decision.
Smartphones aren’t cheap either, but employees are more likely (and more willing) to use their own phones for work purposes. This could save you money, but it might also limit the control you have over how and when they use their phones. If you’re one for strict rules and timeframes, you might think about providing your employees with work smartphones.
Mobile devices distracting employees is one of the biggest reasons many business owners oppose the use of mobile technology. While this is largely unfounded – a report in the Telegraph says that productivity has increased 84% since the 1970s, much of which is due to increases in mobile technology – it’s up to the owner to make the call. You know your employees and whether smartphones and tablets will help them finish their duties quicker.
On the other hand, if you have an employee you can’t trust to use a smartphone appropriately, you might want to find a new employee.
Getting Started with Mobile Technology
Let’s say you decide to make the leap and go mobile. What now? A lack of knowledge about your options can stop you in your tracks. There are so many tablets (and even more smartphones) out there that choosing the right one might seem nearly impossible.
Sarah Teczar of Business Bee recommends four tablets for small businesses:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 ($499)
- Google Nexus 10 ($399)
- Apple iPad Mini ($329)
- Microsoft Surface Pro ($899)
Check out her article to learn more about each of these tablets. You might find you need to expand your research if none of these quite fit your needs, but don’t overwhelm yourself at the very beginning of your search with hundreds of options.
Once you’ve acquired your tablet or other mobile device, you’ll have to figure out what apps and programs will best improve your business. BuildMyBiz compiled a great list of mobile apps that perform a wide variety of functions. I won’t list all the apps here, but here are some of the types of programs you can find:
• Credit card processing
• Expense report management
• Information management and sharing
• Location-based social media
• Payroll processing
• Social media management
• Time tracking
• Travel management
This list is far from exclusive. If you’ve never looked into the capabilities of modern mobile apps, you might be surprised by the seemingly endless range of things you can do with them. As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.”
Mobile technology is a business investment like any other. A smart owner should weigh the costs and benefits and decide, based on actual numbers and research, whether it’s the right choice for his or her business. Don’t simply dismiss it blindly, assuming it’s a waste of time and money. It could just make your business even better.