It’s a technological world, and I’m a technological girl. I prefer online shopping to braving the mall. I love my laptop. I’m addicted to my PDA, MP3 player and AIM. My phone is for text messaging, and I keep a blog. My keychain holds a USB memory key. I buy CDs only to “rip” them. All my photographs are digital. And when I go out with my single friends, it’s now an e-mail address I watch them slip to their promising prospects. “E me,” they say with a coy little smile.
Spend an hour in a coffee shop hotspot or waiting in an airport and it’s like being at a mechanized carnival. “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the New World—the world of web, wireless and all manner of hi-tech wonders! You’ll see hands-free devices send data through the air! Send pictures to your friends through your cell phone! Zap your business card to a colleague! And those of you with a stomach for astonishment can watch as multiple storage facilities conduct business—in real time—from a central database via the Internet!”
People are coming around on this technology thing. As one of this month’s writers deftly points out, you have no choice. Get on board or get out of the way, he says. In either case, the revolution is on. Don’t feel like communicating via e-mail? Tough. Don’t want to conduct business via the web? Too bad, baby. You may be a small facility, you may be a business that prides itself on personal touches. But if you fail to give customers the conveniences they crave—i.e., online rental and payment options, e-invoices and self-serve kiosks—don’t be shocked when a PC dances on your bottom line’s grave.
Even if you don’t like it, developments in self-storage software and related technology are accomplishing wondrous things for operators in this industry. In the pages that follow, you’ll read about kiosks, call centers, online payment processing, centralized database solutions, wireless devices, future software features and more. A few years ago, the ISS Annual Software Issue (every May) focused solely on providers of management programs and how to choose between DOS and Windows. Our horizons—and yours—have been greatly expanded by a plethora of new-fangled products.
All that being said, I love to play devil’s advocate. Hi-tech tools are fantastic, but what about the importance of personal relationships? Can an e-mail convey the affability of a phone call? If tenants rent their units through a kiosk and pay their bills online, how will operators get to know them? How will they learn who their tenants are and what they store in their units? And what will all this automation mean for the position of on-site self-storage manager?
Good questions, all of them, and worthy of contemplation. Perhaps you should think about them over a caramel macchiato while viewing your management reports remotely from a Starbucks near you.
Have fun at the fair,
Teri L. Lanza