With over half of self storage owners and operators in the United States being small business owners, it’s early days for the types of technology that these types of owners need to compete with the REITs for streamlined operations and automated processes. Most owners actually prefer a boots-on-the-ground approach to their business. Statistically speaking, as new owners and operators of a first or second small business, many self storage facility owners want to have a birds eye view of their business - their livelihood and their legacy.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you must go the traditional route when it comes to managing your self storage business. In fact, being squarely in the “early days” means you (as an owner) have an opportunity to shape the future of self storage technology and property management software to the unique needs of the self storage industry as a whole. All that time you spent on-site communicating with customers, training staff and supervising the construction of your facility is the gold dust being used to fashion the skeletal framework of the future of self storage management. Let’s delve into the world of self storage property management software, and how you can use it to streamline and automate your self storage facility - no matter the size or location.
PMS or property management software, combines operations, management and accounting functions into a single, streamlined piece of software. You have likely heard of features like bluetooth activated gates or door locks - PMS software combines all the features at your facility into a single system of control. Think door locks, gates, security cameras, move-in and move-out notices, tenant communication and even collections. The ultimate goal of using software for property management at your self storage facility is to make your business easier to run.
Now that we understand what property management software is, we want to look at who uses it, to get a clear picture of its power. In their article “What is property management software,” Matellio outlines many different use cases for PMS, including;
Real Estate Companies & Investment Firms - these types of businesses use property management software to streamline and centralize management of many different facilities, often spread throughout the USA or even the globe. REITS always use enterprise-level PMS, but considering most self storage facility owners are small business owners, most PMS companies have also developed a small-business version of their software to meet this increasing demand.
Commercial Enterprises - Managers of a commercial enterprise (especially larger ones) use PMS systems to pull together a massive amount of data for reporting, which then informs most (if not all) of their future business and financial decisions. Business owners typically use property management software for everything from streamlining property maintenance and projecting ROI to calculating complex income and expense spreadsheets.
Retail - Retail businesses always use PMS to determine how to fill their available retail spaces, based on data. For example, it’s rare to see a shopping complex dominated by a grouping of similar vendors. Have you ever seen a strip mall with 3 CVS stores or 4 McDonalds? Self storage owners and operators can use these same functions to determine an optimal unit mix or facility location, in addition to using it to manage their retail stock like boxes, tape and storage materials.
Tenants - PMS is in use across the world to help manage tenant needs, requests and communication with their property managers and owners. Most HOAs have an app dedicated to renter communication, while most large facility owners use it to communicate with their business owning customers. Linking your software for property management with a tenant portal is the best way of ensuring quick and accurate communication with customers at a moment's notice, vastly improving the overall customer experience.
Property Owners & Managers - Self storage is in good company, with everything from student housing and luxury apartments to commercial buildings and short and long-term retail spaces like campsites or hotels using PMS to remotely manage their complex and ever-changing site.
There are endless reasons for why PMS technology is adopted almost universally - and the self storage industry is no different. Let’s look at a list of the top 10 ways PMS could help your self storage business go from small-time to the big-leagues overnight.
Property management software will automate the process of move-in, move-out and creating reservations by allowing customers to input their own data - ensuring all the vital details are correct and giving the customer a sense of ownership over the process. Deploying the right PMS software at a self storage facility means significantly less hassle with customer communication and documentation, as the software can be set up to share agreements, forms, facility rules and regulations and other vital rental information.
Choosing adaptable PMS software will vastly improve and speed up employee onboarding, by ensuring there is one place to go for all employee information, data, lists, policies, regulations and sometimes, even facility layout maps and maintenance lists. Some software, like ManageSpace, even allows you to tailor a 3D map of your facility to your exact layout, making employee onboarding a cinch.
PMS software can be used to automate the billing process, set up automatic payments, and communicate quickly with tenants regarding any billing issues that may arise. Your PMS software will often catch incorrect or inconsistent billing information in your system before it becomes an issue, flag non-payments immediately, and can be relied on to send out bills and notices automatically at a scheduled date or time.
Collections is a major cost for any self storage facility owner, but property management software can be set up to detect rejected or missing payments, flag potentially fraudulent accounts, and send out delinquency and collections notices immediately. For more information on the regulations, processes and procedures around collections, delinquency and even storage auctions, see our video HERE.
In order to maximize your marketing efforts and strategy, it’s important to know who your customers actually are, and what they value. For example, you can use a PMS system to see what past unit rental promotions achieved the highest rental rate or ROI, and deploy that same promotion - or perhaps which promotion fell flat or resulted in decreased revenue - and toss that promotion in the bin.
Storage facility security is moving into the realm of video and audio surveillance, automated gates, fences and even motion detection. Property management software can be linked up with your security technology to allow you to monitor your facility from off site, or alert you to any movement or suspicious activity on the site, 24/7. In short, you eliminate the need to head to your facility late at night to investigate a potential security threat. A PMS system will also record and store your security video for later use or reference if necessary. For more information on “Building a Fortress: A Guide to Self Storage Security” check out Storable’s website.
Self storage facilities must often contact renters for a large number of reasons. New owners once had to send out hundreds or even thousands of letters informing customers of a change in ownership, updated security features or any upcoming maintenance or upgrades that customers should be aware of. A dynamic pricing strategy relies on PMS systems to automatically send out notices of price changes to tenants, reducing the overall burden on owners and managers.
Incorporating the right PMS software into your facility means you have the option of other software integrations like call centers, accounting or even your on-site rental kiosk. For example, linking accounting or bookkeeping software with your PMS system will allow your tech to automatically track your finances and create reports, which you will then use to better manage your site. Rentcubo published a great article about the potential pitfalls of choosing the wrong self storage PMS. Make sure you choose the right software here, as choosing the wrong one could result in vendor lock-in. For more on vendor lock-in, check out our video HERE!
One of the most important elements of running a self storage business is document management, CRM and reporting. A property management software system legally and morally ensures that every customer has access to all vital information, while documenting that information and all other information into reports and CRM systems. Having this power at your fingertips will come in handy when you will inevitably need to provide documentation of anything from a lease start-date to a record of collections activities.
PMS is a fantastic tool to ensure that all employees are experts on the set-up and layout of your facility, in addition to any upcoming tasks, changes or noteworthy events on your property. You can rely on property management software to streamline everything from scheduled or requested maintenance to facility tours and an immediate birds eye view of your entire property.
As a self storage owner or operator, how well you know your property and business could be the determining factor in your eventual success or failure. Property management software is perhaps the most powerful tool you have at your disposal, to ensure your future success! For more information on how you can get started with PMS, or to reach out with questions or suggestions on the next era of self storage technology and PMS development, visit our ManageSpace community - and let us help you set up for self storage domination!
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