If you’ve ever been to one of the largest Self Storage Trade Shows in the United States, organized by the Self Storage Association in Las Vegas, Nevada, you’d be surprised by the level of excitement from the attendees. Having traveled various trade show circuits in the USA, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, I can confidently say that the self-storage industry has the most relatable, enthusiastic owners and operators of any group I’ve spoken to.
Of the many owners milling around the MGM Grand, most that I interacted with were owners of a single facility with plans to expand, upgrade and or purchase/build more self storage facilities. Owners visit these shows in hopes of coming across that all important nugget of technology that will allow them to accomplish their goals - while continuing to manage their existing facility into prosperity. We know there is a ton of information out there to wade through, so we’ve pulled together the 8 great self storage solutions that owners and operators are using to streamline and automate storage management, freeing them up to focus on the upgrades, expansions or new properties, and lowering operating costs. Spoiler alert: Technology is the key!
There are typically three options when deciding how to manage your self storage facility.
Onsite Management - either you or an employee are on site daily, with a more hands-on approach to management. While this option offers a more personal touch and keeps you up to date on facility operations, it is time consuming and expensive to hire, onboard, train and manage your on-site manager. If you choose to do this yourself or with a spouse or partner, consider how much time this cuts out of your day - time better spent on high-level planning for your future facility.
Remote Management - adopting the right technology will allow you to manage your site remotely through your computer. This option frees up more of your time and lets you hire fewer employees, but will require an upfront investment of time and money to get it up and running.
Third-Party Management - choosing a third party management company to run your storage facility is a great option to free up your time, but is certainly the most costly management option out there.
Customer experience is one of the most powerful tools in your self-storage management arsenal - great customer service often means return business, while bad customer service is proven to result in higher tenant turnover and will certainly push down your occupancy rates.
Customer service goes well beyond in-person interactions with customers. With technology running our daily lives, customers feel very comfortable interacting through a website or application - giving us a great opportunity to provide excellent customer service by making vital information available to customers 24/7. StorageFront’s article on 10 Questions to Ask Before Renting a Storage Unit is a great place to start thinking about customer service and how technology can provide it. Let’s look at a few of the questions, and how a great customer service system could answer these questions before they even come up!
As a self storage manager, your customers will be your most valuable asset when it comes to how you can be better. Consider creating a webpage to display positive customer feedback and reviews, or periodically invite customers to complete surveys on their experiences. Running an email marketing campaign is a great way to solicit feedback from customers.
Marketing is the vehicle with which your customers find your business. Understanding and adopting a great SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is the best way to ensure customers find your website on their own. For more about how to create a SEO strategy and how to think about the Google algorithm, click here. By ensuring that the back-end of your website is communicating effectively with search engines, you are putting your site higher on the search results list for customers looking for your product. Doing something as simple as ensuring your Google Business Profile has the correct address and phone number will go a long way toward attracting more customers!
One great way to upset customers is saying you have units available that aren’t available. If a customer needs a 10x10, they are unlikely to settle for 2 5x10’s or the far more expensive 10x15. Upselling packing and moving materials is a great way to make more money, but what happens if you forget to restock and the customer needs those boxes now? A great way to ensure you don’t end up in either of these situations is to track your unit and stock inventory using storage asset management technology.
One of the biggest areas of loss for self storage owners is delinquencies and rent collection. Many owners (and all the REITS) are adopting technology to automate the billing, communication and collections processes. With the right technology, you can allow customers to set up automatic payments, send out bills with all the details customers love to read, and build a clear and easy to follow electronic footprint of all customer communications.
The most important aspect of customer satisfaction is the security you provide for their things. Customers like to know that access to the facility is controlled using technology like automatic gates, bluetooth door locks and secure buildings - but they don’t want to get locked-out by the same tech. With the right technology, customers have remote access to their things, can access security footage of their unit, or even get immediate access to the facility gate when they've forgotten the gate code.
Scheduling maintenance and repair can be a complex process. It’s important to use technology to track all maintenance requests, prioritize tasks that need to be completed immediately, parse out all others, and create reminders of scheduled maintenance for empty units. Without technology to track and schedule maintenance, immediate issues like leaks or flooding might be forgotten until it's too late, or otherwise profitable units could sit empty while maintenance is delayed by incorrect scheduling.
We are not the REITS. We as independent self storage owners, managers and operators, don’t have unlimited budgets or offices full of highly-paid analysts. What we do have is technology - and with the right self storage solutions, you can essentially set-and-forget your day to day management tasks and deliver a high level of customer satisfaction at the same time! For more information on how you can use technology to see your space differently, visit our ManageSpace Community, where self storage owners like you can connect, share and learn!
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