Ready for another top ten list? If you’re interested in how automated technology tools can save your business time and money, this curated list is perfect for you. Researching your technology options can be daunting, so I pulled together our best and brightest blog posts to consolidate all of our information on automated technology in one place. Check out real client stories, consumer stats, market research, tips from the renter’s perspective, and more in this post!
If you’re a reader of Mini-Storage Messenger magazine, you might have caught this article in the December 2016 issue. If you missed it, fear not - we’ve published it online where it can live forever. Check out this post to find out the six trends we predicted for 2017 and how your facility can capture the zeitgeist of the year.
Going paperless used to be about going green, but now it’s about much more than that. Your customers expect your business to be digitally savvy and paperless. Nowadays your customers expect nearly everything to be accessible from their smartphone. The more they can do from their phone, the easier renting a storage unit will be for them. People can already do almost everything from their smartphones, like send certified emails, make bank transfers, pay their apartment rent, make mortgage or student loan payments, view bank statements and invoices, or scan and upload their receipts into pdfs.
Cloud storage is expected to become even more popular in 2017. Big storage apps like Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive recently came out with new, free storage plans and budget paid plans. More of your customers are going to be using digital storage for their files, and your business should follow suit.
If you don’t have time to read this, I’ll sum it up for you in one word: convenience. Today’s modern self storage consumer prefers using online self service tools over making a phone call. In fact, over 70% of surveyed consumers said they expect company websites to offer self service tools. These stats offer a powerful look into the experience of the self storage customer. Self service tools like online move-ins, online bill pay, auto pay, and online knowledge bases (like a FAQ page or storage tips page) allow customers to do it themselves in a faster and more convenient way than traditional methods.
This morning I was buttering a slice of banana bread when suddenly I realized I forgot to pick up a Christmas gift for my father-in-law with only three days until Christmas. Cue instant panic over my otherwise relaxing breakfast.
I immediately opened up the Target app on my iPhone and started looking for something. Since I was so late to the game, shipping wasn’t an option, so I only looked at items available for purchase online and pickup in-store. I found something perfect for him - a book for Bourbon lovers - that was available for pickup in the Target nearby the storEDGE office. I completed the purchase online while waiting for my Keurig to brew my coffee to go. I swung by Target on my commute to the office and picked up the book, which was ready and waiting for me. Crisis averted. ‘Twas truly a Christmas miracle.
What does my over-dramatic Christmas shopping story have to do with self storage tenants? It’s all about self-service technology, the umbrella term for online tools like autopay, e-sign, online Rental Center™, and login portals for account management. Consumers expect online convenience, regardless of industry. Because of self-service convenience, I was able to easily fix my Christmas shopping mistake. I did some quick research and found exactly what I needed, all without ever leaving my kitchen.
Part-time wine connoisseur. Part-time storage owner. Full-time dad. Check out how owner Mike Castleman conducted his own case study on the value of a manager at his Addison, Texas facility, and how he uses automated technology tools to manage multiple self storage businesses in this client spotlight.
Castleman’s second facility, Addison Airport Self Storage, offers 37,710 square feet of storage with 279 units. Addison, Texas is a suburb of Dallas, and the facility sits in close proximity to a general aviation airport. When Castleman bought the facility, it had a live-on-site manager and office hours. Castleman decided to conduct his own case study to see if he could transform Addison into an unmanned facility like Flower Mound.
“I structured my time to be in the office at the Addison facility every day for thirty days. I was trying to figure out how valuable having an on-site manager was for this facility. During that thirty day period, only one person walked in off the street who had not called in ahead of time or visited the website first. In every case except one, someone interacted with the website or made a phone call before they came in.”
“I walked away from that experience with the decision that I could save money on resources, overhead, time, everything, by making Addison completely unmanned. I walked away with even more determination around my business model. The unmanned facilities were saving a ton of overhead and it didn’t change my engagement factor with the customer at all.”
Look around you: if you’re in a public place, chances are nearly everyone around you is on their smartphone. Smartphones are where most online transactions take place - in 2015, smartphone search traffic officially surpassed desktop, making smartphones the premier place for web surfing. If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you’re officially missing out on the majority of people who are looking for storage online. Time to go mobile!
From searching to renting to moving out, you can provide technology that makes your customers’ experience easier every step of the way. Some ideas include:
Your office doesn’t need to be open 24/7 to provide round-the-clock service to your customers. In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers keep their phones within reach 24/7. By implementing technology like those listed above, you make it easier for your leads to choose your business over the competition.
The self storage industry is pretty divided over the idea of unmanned facilities. Some owners are raving about the cost benefits and convenience of running unmanned facilities, while some owners and managers are concerned about security and the lack of customer service at unmanned facilities. If you’re interested in this topic, check out this blog post to find out if you believe any of these common myths about unmanned facilities.
Myth: They have more security issues than manned facilities.
Because break-ins, vandalism, and theft are more likely to happen at night when facilities are closed and managers have left for the day, unmanned facilities face similar security challenges as more traditional properties. Like a manned facility, location and security are vital to the security of an unmanned facility.
Unmanned facility owners can curb illegal activity by installing security monitoring equipment throughout the facility, keeping the facility well-lit at night, utilizing gates and electronic access technology, keeping empty units locked, and carefully monitoring the crime and illegal activity in the area. Extra security measures should be put in place if the area is prone to criminal behavior, such as establishing routines with city police officers.
You’ve seen other owners and managers talking about them online and you’re curious about getting a facility map for your storage business. But where to start? Should you contact the contractor who built your facility? Or hire a CAD designer? You could, but it will cost big bucks, and a static map won’t show your unit status, occupancy, or tenant information. Enter software-integrated facility maps. Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about facility maps in this post.
So you’ve heard the buzz lately about interactive facility maps. Maybe you’ve even seen people walk through their self storage facility carrying around an iPad and tapping away. The digital facility map has come a long way since the era of Windows ‘97. Having a modern, interactive map can do a lot for your business.
5 benefits of an interactive facility map:
Whether you’re thinking about getting into the industry or you’re currently in the middle of your latest construction project, this post will help you through it. With everything from population growth and green energy ideas to facility management options and market research tools, this post has (almost) everything a new self storage build site needs to consider.
So, you’ve determined that the need for more storage in your area is prevalent. Does that mean moving your construction timeline along and meeting city guidelines and codes will be easy? Probably not.
Zac Zeune of Kram It Self Storage said in early 2014 that, despite his market of Grove City, Ohio claiming they wanted new businesses coming into the area, he felt as though he had to bend over backwards for the city (and a small village next to it) just to get permission to build his facility.
While each experience will be unique depending on the area’s building codes, this fact is something important to consider (and prepare for) as you get started. For instance, you may not want to promise a particular opening date, especially early on in the construction stages. You may also want to be fairly open to many different construction and location options so that city guidelines don’t throw a wrench in your plans.
Wait, fully automated? What does that even mean? If you’ve never read about 10 Federal Storage’s unique facility, check out this post. Their innovative facility design and the groundbreaking technology they utilize (i.e., electronic door locks and kiosks) are in stark contrast to traditional storage facilities. Check out this post to learn more about 10 Federal and how their fully automated facility works!
10 Federal’s Graham Storage facility is extremely unique. The facility utilizes the latest and greatest in self storage technology, including electronic door lock systems from Janus International, PTI Security Systems access controls, kiosks from Advanced Kiosks, and the full storEDGE package: a marketing website with Advanced Rental Center™ and facility management software.
Regarding the announcement, Austin Jones, Director of Sales at storEDGE, said:
"10 Federal has been instrumental in working with us to develop the most integrated management software in the industry. Their vision and openness to new ways of doing business have allowed us to think outside the box. We are thrilled knowing we’ve had a small part in their success." storEDGE Director of Sales
Ready to walk a mile in your renter’s shoes? Check out this post to walk through online move-ins from a renter’s perspective, and find out how you can simplify the process for everyone involved. Plus, there’s a Bob Marley reference. Win-win-win!
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.
This post is an oldie but a goodie. While technology is constantly adapting and improving, the main goals of technology (make things more convenient for you and your renters) stay generally the same. Find out what the big three things are that your technology should be doing (and more) in this blog post.
The technology being developed for the self storage market is constantly growing and changing, offering you more opportunities than ever before to make your customers’ experience better. Your facility’s implementation of this technology can make or break the success of your business, boosting or hindering your company’s visibility and your ability to give your customers what they expect and need.
Your technology is already providing services to your customers, but is that technology doing everything it can to increase traffic and promote growth? Whether it’s simplifying the move-in and rental process or allowing payments to be made from home, new developments are continually making your tools more effective. Staying educated on how best to use these tools is important to making a splash in your market.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: Top 10 Best Blog Posts for New Self Storage Owners and Operators, How to Manage Facility Reviews: 10 of the Best Resources to Bookmark, or Top 10 Unforgettable Self-Storage Moments in TV and Film.