Teaching Self-Storage Managers to Use and Appreciate Facility-Management Software
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Shaina Cossairt|
|Posted on: 03/24/2010|
For a self-storage owner, the decision to hire a new facility manager is the first step of a time-consuming process that involves placing ads, reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. Once a person has been chosen, the arduous task of training him to operate your facility begins. This is where quality management software stops wasting your time and starts saving it.
When evaluating self-storage software, the best way to start is by looking at the help tools your software provides. Even the most basic package should include help files pertinent to whatever screen you’re viewing.
For example, if your manager is attempting to take a payment, he should be able to click a help button and see relevant topics based on that screen. If he needs to link two units together, he should have access to a feature that will walk him through the process. More sophisticated software may even include video training throughout the program. This is a great tool that simplifies any operational procedure.
Though help menus and videos are useful when performing tasks that are new, what’s more important is the intuitiveness of the program. The layout should be simple and easy to understand for even the less computer-savvy manager. Think about the most common tasks a typical manager performs throughout the day—tenant move-ins and move-outs and taking payments. How difficult are those functions in your software? If your new manager can’t process a payment in just a few mouse clicks, you need to step back and evaluate your program.
Some software packages include a feature most owners find invaluable when training new managers. It may go by a different name depending on the product, but most programs have what’s referred to as “training mode.” In this mode, managers can practice move-ins, take payments, run reports, make bank deposits, or practice other tasks relevant to the running of a facility.
The training aspect of the program uses the same interface and features as the program itself, but using a “dummy” set of tenants for training purposes. Once the training mode is closed by one user, the data is reset and ready to go for the next training session. This feature alone can save countless hours in frustration for you and your new manager.
As an owner, you’ll have access to every feature and function in your software, but do you really want your manager to have free reign too? Perhaps he doesn’t need access to certain reports or functions. Before you begin training, understand how your software restricts different levels of users. Except for the most basic programs, all software should offer some form of setup that allows you to pick the features or functions a user can access. Higher-end software will allow you to use and set up templates for various positions, such as manager, relief manager or area manager.
Unfortunately, even with the best user-access restrictions, new managers (and even seasoned pros) make mistakes. Your software should include built-in error correction and auditing, as well as interactive warning screens that help prevent managers from making mistakes in the first place. Intuitive error correction allows the manager to easily fix mistakes without involving the owner. Auditing controls allow an owner to keep his eye on changes to ensure everything stays on the up and up.
Train your managers on the importance of getting the right information for each tenant. This can be facilitated by using required fields within your software. You determine which fields are necessary for legal purposes, reports, marketing comparisons, etc., and then the manager must gather this information when he performs a move-in or he will not be able to complete the process.
The accuracy of information becomes especially important when your facility accepts credit cards. Most software vendors integrate with credit card processors, which determine the rate based on the info provided from the software, such as matching ZIP code, billing address, etc. Because of this, it’s critical that managers enter as much information as possible and ensure it’s correct.
Speaking of credit cards, train your new manager on how to encourage tenants to use your facility’s online functions. Enabling tenants to review transaction history or make payments online is priceless. Your manager should be educating every customer on how to make payments via the Web. Depending on your software package, prospects may also be able to reserve or rent units directly through your website.
All of these features improve the customer’s perception of your facility, allow your manager to focus on customer service and property upkeep, and facilitate the collection of revenue. Train your manager well on using this exceptional tool and he, in turn, will train your tenants to use it.
During your training sessions with the manager, remember to discuss the gate system. Once the move-in occurs, the gate system is typically the only interaction a tenant has with your facility. The perfect scenario is to have tightly integrated access system and management software. This allows you to have a real-time, two-way integration between systems that display all gate activity directly in the management software.
This means your new manager only has one place to look and is less likely to miss potential problems like tailgating or other issues at the gate. It also allows him to run integrated gate reports directly from the management software. Remember, anything you can do to streamline your operation will pay for itself when it comes time to train and retain new employees.
Demonstrate how the software is meant to make a manager’s life easier. Tasks that once took hours or even days can easily be done in minutes or automatically overnight, freeing the manager to focus on improved customer service and tasks around the property. By convincing the manager that the software directly benefits him as well as the facility, you’ll have greater success with the program.