12 Ways to Automate Your Self-Storage Business
What does it mean to have an automated self-storage business?
Perhaps it is best to think of automation as a spectrum. On one end, you have a fully-automated unmanned storage facility. On the other end, you have a facility implementing a cloud-based self-storage management software for the first time.
Automation does not mean all of your employees will be replaced by algorithms and digital assistants. Instead, automation often means creating more efficient ways for customers to interact with the business. This frees up your employees to spend more time with those customers that prefer personal assistance when renting a self-storage units.
Automation is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can automate as little or as much of your storage business as it makes sense to do so. However, many operators discover that the more automation tools they implement, the greater the benefits they experience in regards to everything from operational efficiency to demand generation.
Below are several key components of an automated self-storage facility. You will find many synergies between them if implemented together, but even on their own, each of these tools can benefit the way your facility does business.
1. Offer online payments
Offering your tenants the ability to pay their rent online cuts down the amount of time your employees spend chasing down late payments. It also reduces wait times at your front desk because fewer customers need to pay in-person.
2. Enable Autopay
Whether by ACH or credit card, giving your customers the ability to enable autopay helps them avoid late or missed payments. It also cuts down the number of phone calls your employees have to make when rent isn’t on time.
3. Use digital documents
Implementing the use of digital rental agreements is becoming a widespread practice in the industry, and for good reason. Not only does it make it possible for customers to rent from you anytime of day or night, but it also makes the rental agreement accessible to all parties at any time or place.
4. Install a self-service kiosk
For unmanned facilities, a self-storage kiosk is a must-have. Storage kiosks can also augment busy staff or allow you to conduct business after hours. For whatever reason, many customers today show a preference with conducting transactions via a screen as opposed to face-to-face.
5. Create a website
Creating a responsive website where customers can browse available units, make a reservation and sign a lease is a form of automation that few operators have yet to embrace. As the consumer shift to digital continues, not having a website is a surefire way to send potential customers to your competitors’ corner of the world wide web.
6. Offer self-service reservations
Generating and following up with leads used to be a time-consuming and burdensome process for self-storage managers. Today, self-storage operators can leverage the power of multiple self-service reservation channels including paid search, organic search, map results and self-storage marketplaces like SpareFoot. Facilities that only take walk-in or call-in reservations are essentially turning away tenants who start their search for storage online.
7. Use a software based access control system
Access control is a critical component of any automated facility. With a software based cloud access control system, operators have the ability to craft unique tenant experiences. For example, such systems can be programmed to automatically text a gate code to new tenants as soon as their lease is signed online. If they forget to pay their rent and try to use their access code, you can automatically send a link for them to pay their bill to gain access and send them a new code.
8. Automate communication channels
There are many instances when you need to communicate to tenants, whether you are sending a mass update to all customers or you need to send a friendly payment reminder to a particular tenant. With the right management software, you can automate certain aspects of your communication needs. Such tools allow you to schedule emails or text messages in advance, or send messages under certain conditions (such as payment being overdue).
9. Use auto-generated data reports
An overlooked part of automation is the kind that takes place behind the scenes. Manually creating spreadsheets to analyze the state of your marketing, operations and financial situation is not the best use of your time. Smart management software analyzes and reports the data you want, when you need it in real time. This allows you to make more timely business decisions with confidence.
10. Apply variable rate management
Take the guesswork out of rate adjustments when you implement a variable rate management tool at your facility. When enabled, rate management tools can automatically adjust rates based on certain occupancy triggers or unit type selections at your facility. It can also be used to determine the best time to increase rates on existing tenants and by how much.
11. Install video cameras
If you are moving to an unmanned model, or even partially automated, an internet-connected video surveillance system is a must have. This allows you to keep eyes on your property, even when staff is not present.
12. Hire the right staff
Again, the goal of automation isn’t to remove the human element completely. In fact, it is essential to have a technologically-proficient staff in place to oversee the smooth operation of automation tools. Even with an unmanned facility, you will likely need some help behind the scenes.
Putting it all together
As the industry moves into the 21st century, some level of automation is inevitable. Ultimately, automation is about enabling your employees to do more. Automation works best when all the different pieces are working together in harmony. Storable makes it possible to add effective automation to your facility at your own pace. For more on access control, management software, payment processing and more, check out our products page.
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