I was once on a plane that was deplaned and scrapped just as we were about to take off. Yes, I said scrapped. Something had punctured the right wing of the plane in flight, and the hole was repaired with foam caulking, which was expanding and constricting in flight, causing more damage to the wing. Luckily a wary traveler noticed the bulging on the wing and was brave enough to stand up and demand an inspection. That plane had been in regular use with this shoddy repair for months before the day I walked onto it and directly back off.
Self storage customers think of their things as an extension of themselves. They are often storing belongings that have immense emotional and personal value to them. When a customer visits your storage facility, it’s critical to your success as a business owner that customers see you have kept up with facility maintenance. Just as you wouldn’t want to fly on a subpar airplane, you wouldn’t want to store your things at a subpar self-storage facility.
Self storage maintenance is much more complex than you’d assume as a layman or new self storage owner/operator. While maintenance for things like doors, hallways and roads around the facility are on everyone’s storage maintenance checklist or schedule, there are many other things to be maintained around a storage facility. Starting with the infrastructure that keeps your facility standing with the lights on, you must also carefully maintain equipment, facility furniture, plumbing, electrical, gates, security systems, your website or app…the list goes on and on.
And don’t forget about daily tasks like garbage disposal, cleaning and even landscaping. According to an article from Restoration Master Finder, “Depending on the location and severity of the storm, a small crack or hole within a foundation can turn into a flood disaster within minutes. In addition, any crevices or cracks within the pipes as well as malfunctioning water appliances can cause flooding even without rain.” That’s minutes - not hours, days or even years.
What the REITS already know, and what small business owners are just figuring out, is that technology is an important element when ensuring your facility makes money and keeps operating at the highest possible level. Forgetting or putting off maintenance tasks is a great way to rack up enormous bills in eventual repairs, and could result in facility closures and loss of customers - which means you won’t have the money to pay those huge bills.. Let’s explore 10 ways self storage facility owners and operators are using technology to automate storage maintenance tracking and scheduling, giving them more time to focus on tasks that are sure to boost their ROI.
Maintaining your self storage facility is vital to the ultimate success of your business. According to a fantastic article from Storganise entitled “The Ultimate Self Storage Maintenance Checklist For 2023,” a self storage maintenance checklist will;
Most self storage owners and operators keep a self storage maintenance checklist, where they track what facility maintenance is needed on the grounds. This could be in the form of a computer file, printed paper, whiteboard, chalkboard - there are a million ways owners track maintenance needs. This means there are a million ways vital information could get lost in the whirlwind of scheduling and general management of a storage facility. Using self storage property management software will help owners and operators streamline the entire storage maintenance process, leaving them free to focus on other ROI-boosting tasks at the storage facility.
Losing a good customer could be as easy as a good natured “Yes! I’ll get that taken care of!” only to forget the request before writing it down. Your best source of real-time information on your facility maintenance is your customer, who spends the most one-on-one time in their unit. Using technology to communicate with your customers about maintenance requests is a great way to offer fantastic customer service, and also stay on top of all customer requests. A property management system like ManageSpace will funnel maintenance requests directly from the owner to the system, where it is visible to all employees, with alerts for owners. Using this type of system means you know immediately when maintenance is needed, can reassure the customer, and schedule and track the maintenance tasks - all from your computer screen or phone.
Let’s say you have a single light out in a climate controlled unit and it needs to be replaced. The customer will be moving out in 1 month - how do you ensure that that single bulb is replaced before the next tenant moves in? It’s such a small yet important task, considering OSHA requirements, but so easy to forget with so many other management tasks on your plate! Technology comes to the rescue again, allowing you to schedule maintenance well before move-out and move-in dates, in addition to allerting you periodically to any units with upcoming maintenance scheduled.
As a self storage facility owner, you will occasionally have units that need extensive maintenance, sometimes invisible. For example, a climate controlled unit has poor air flow or a unit floods during hard rains. These units simply can't be rented before the maintenance is done, and a simple mistake could result in a customers things being lost or irreparably damaged. Technology is a great way to entirely block off a unit until the required maintenance is complete, and simultaneously ensure that the unit is not mistakenly rented before it’s repaired, resulting in potential damage to the customer’s items.
Imagine a customer arriving at their new unit to find it dirty, poorly maintained or in the process of receiving maintenance. At this point, the fact that you scheduled the repairs or intended to complete them doesn’t matter to the customer - they are simply upset that you weren’t ready for them to move into the space they paid for. Tracking facility maintenance start and end dates is a crucial part of maintaining excellent customer service and a smoothly flowing facility. Additionally, you will see immediately if a customer unit won’t be ready in time (God forbid!) and can shift them to a different (ideally better) unit before they arrive.
Maintenance costs can quickly get out of hand when you aren’t tracking them effectively. For example, a door spring replacement might result in replacement of the whole door, if the door is found to be faulty during inspection. It’s important to both get the expensive work done in a timely manner, and to track it to ensure you aren’t being swindled. Using technology to track self storage maintenance costs will ensure you have a clear understanding of how much you are spending on maintenance for each unit, and how that fits into your immediate financial plan.
Units should always be cleaned immediately after a move-out for several reasons. First, new customers want to see clean units ready for move-in when they visit your facility. Secondly, any items left behind must be removed before the unit can be rented again. Finally, it’s important to clean units immediately to ensure that nothing noxious, dangerous or anything that can attract pests is off your site - this is just smart business to ensure that other units are not damaged by abandoned items. Cleaning should be scheduled on the move-out day, a task that technology can help you automate, ensuring no unit is left dirty or empty - which means more money right?
This could be important when dealing with accidents at your facility or a discrepancy with a vendor that could be headed for legal action. Using technology to keep a clear record of all facility maintenance could save your business in the event of an accident on your site. If you can prove you completed all scheduled and required maintenance and followed all safety guidelines, you are far less likely to be sued by a customer after an accident. In the same vein, if a vendor has done work for you and you find the work sub-par or the vendor is attempting to charge more than expected, you can easily go back to your electronic communication to confirm if you have a leg to stand on before going to court.
Big maintenance tasks are important to track, but most of what self storage facility owners focus on is day-to-day maintenance like cleaning, organizing and restocking. An electronic maintenance checklist ensures that all tasks are completed daily, and that you can see the checklist in real-time through your computer as your employees check off tasks (or slack off tasks). This will ensure that your high standards are maintained, even if you are not on site to supervise. For more information on daily maintenance tasks, check out this great ISS article onSelf-Storage Facility Maintenance: Creating a To-Do List, Plus Some Money- and Time-Saving Tips.
Scheduling seasonal facility maintenance is important for self storage facility owners and operators, as it must be completed regularly but only at certain times of each year. For example, repairs for climate controlled units are typically done in fall and spring, while repairs to water run-off areas or leaks should be done in the driest seasons. Using technology to schedule and stay on top of seasonal maintenance means you can schedule-it-and-forget-it until you are alerted that the maintenance season of choice is approaching, and to all scheduled tasks and associated notes.
Last but certainly not least, automation and technology means that you will save time and ensure that all communication about maintenance is clear and uniform to all employees and vendors. For example, approaching an employee and giving them a list of tasks, or even a few complex tasks, means it will take time to explain what you want done and how you want it done. While technology certainly won’t negate the need to communicate face-to-face, an electronic checklist is a great place to type out all your instructions to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Automating your self storage maintenance tasks using technology is a proven way to make more money, and de-stress your daily life as a self storage facility owner or operator. The more streamlined and easy to access you make your facility, the more customer and staff retention you will see in the long run, in addition to the added ROI that comes with that type of loyalty.
For more information on ways technology can help you automate the management of your storage facility maintenance and general management, visit the ManageSpace Community, where we are working together to build the technology that will allow us to see and manage our space differently!
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