SAM (Simplified Automated Manager)

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Internet-based technology can give a storage facility a dramatic advantage over its competition. Tucson, Ariz.-based Online Self Storage Inc. is an Internet-development and marketing company focused on providing e-commerce solutions to the self-storage industry. It launched its first self-storage Internet transaction-processing application in 2000 and now has more than 400 facilities using its products.

This year, Online unveils another exciting aid to the industry— a self-service kiosk designed to allow customers almost unlimited access and convenience. Known as SAM (Simplified Automated Manager), the kiosk allows customers to assist themselves through the self-storage process and makes a manager’s job more productive. Online partnered with CTS (Consolidated Technology & Solutions) Group and Hi-Tech Smart Systems Inc. to develop the kiosk software.

SAM allows customers to walk up to a storage facility after hours and access its services just as they would use an ATM. Placed outside a facility, the walk-up kiosk lets tenants process transactions and view their account information. A customer can even pay a past-due account and regain access to the facility. The system accepts credit cards, e-checks and direct debit for payment. SAM will even help prospects conduct a new rental. When the transaction is complete, the kiosk provides the customer a rental agreement, gate-access code and receipt. His information is automatically saved to the property-management database, and the whole rental process takes about five minutes.

The kiosks can assist owners in managing a remote facility with data tied to a larger one or manage a small, standalone facility without a manager. They can be used to expand a facility’s hours of operation, or help reduce personnel costs. With the addition of SAM to a facility’s property management database, managers can be more productive. They have more time to focus on marketing the facility to local businesses and customers, or focus on improving overall operations.

Each kiosk comes complete with property-management software and Internet integration to a facility’s e-commerce database. It has an attractive, easy-to-use interface with either a vandal-resistant, built-in keyboard and trackball or optional touch screen. Powered by an Intel Pentium computer, the kiosk is equipped with a magnetic card reader, laser printer, 15-inch LCD screen and a battery backup.

SAM is 60.1 inches tall by 22.6 inches wide by 20 inches deep, and weighs 165 pounds, allowing it to be easily installed in a small space. The units are internally air-conditioned and heated, and are delivered with all cables and wires. A service door at the rear of the unit allows easy access for the manager. A maintenance and support agreement is included.

“CTS Group will be introducing a new version of the kiosk that is weatherproof and requires minimal facility construction at this month’s Inside Self-Storage Expo in Las Vegas,” says Online’s president, Rick McGee. McGee has 18 years of experience in starting and growing companies in the software-development field. His specialty involves strategic set-up, sales and marketing. Online Self Storage is McGee’s latest development and, in three years, the company’s annual revenue has grown 100 percent.

The company’s Internet transaction-processing applications allow a self-storage owner to link his website with Online’s server and engage in e-commerce without having to write or purchase his own software. Online processes nearly 10,000 transactions monthly, 80 percent of which are payments and 20 percent new rentals, according to McGee. Other services offered include a website design, hosting and maintenance service, and Call MAXimizer, a call-center service designed to answer overflow and after-hours calls and extend a facility’s customer service capabilities.

“Online is very excited to be working with CTS Group to provide an additional source of customer service and extend the transaction processing capabilities of a facility to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in a secure, user-friendly environment,” McGee says. “Owners of selfstorage facilities can now improve their bottom lines while providing more customer service by leveraging the capabilities of SAM.” For more information, call 877.301.4635; visit www.onlineselfstorage.com.

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