The Modern Storage Employee

Ray McRae Comments
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Technological advancements have changed the employment scene in the self-storage industry. The tools we use to conduct business are constantly evolving, requiring us to hire individuals with varied skill sets.

When was the last time you had to hire someone to run your self-storage business? If your facility is on the cutting edge of technology, then the most qualified candidate most likely would have to be familiar with utilizing a modern PC.

The good news is home ownership of personal computers is at its highest level in the history of mankind. However, just because a prospective hire has personal computer skills doesn’t mean he can operate the specific software programs used at your facility. You’ll have to provide training.

For example, you may require your employees to use word processing, spreadsheets, and other programs that incorporate graphics and clip art to produce marketing materials. If your business uses these tools, give your staff the education needed to properly wield them.

Danger Alert

The Internet has transformed the way we live. Today, we use the Internet to take payments, reserve space, advertise, look up information and share data. Self-storage operators can even connect to the facility’s camera surveillance system over the Internet to have a look around. With all these advantages, there also comes danger.

The threat of viruses, worms, hackers, identity theft and fraud can make your business vulnerable to attack. Policies should be put into place and strictly followed. The modern self-storage employee should clearly understand what is and isn’t acceptable.

For instance, you don’t want your employee surfing the net all day while in the office, do you? Then a policy must be communicated to your staff, and a system created to monitor compliance. Likewise, identity theft and fraud is running rampant, partly due to advances in technology. Safeguarding information is vitally important, and the people that handle this information—your managers—are the gatekeepers.

Kiosks

The kiosk is the latest trend in the self-storage industry. The kiosk is capable of renting a space, taking a payment, dispensing a lock, taking a fingerprint, scanning a driver’s license, selling insurance and issuing a lease, while integrating with your accounting software. The kiosk can be monitored 24 hours a day over the Internet and empowers the self-storage operator to provide remote customer service through a call center or other support system.

The kiosk has and will change the way a self-storage facility is operated. Employees can use this new tool as an assistant if they’re busy showing a unit, for example.

The self-storage employee’s role will become greatly expanded when the kiosk is incorporated with call-center support and upgraded security such as electronic locks on each unit. Right now, operators are figuring out how to run multiple facilities utilizing these technologies tied into a centralized system. The concept is similar to a hub on a wheel; the outlying facilities are the spokes.

In this new era of self storage, the self-storage employment landscape is multifaceted. Frontline workers must multitask and be responsible for multiple locations. The role of facility manager will evolve to resemble an asset manager. Next, support staff members must be capable of keeping tools operational. They will need the ability to plan, organize and control the centralized system to give frontline employees the resources they need to do their job.

Looking back at the tools we used 25 years ago and pondering the ones we use today, one common thread remains: people. Successful businesses know the secret to their success are the people that make up the organization, for without them, they simply would not exist. 

Raymond E. McRae is the vice president and director of operations for Mesa, Ariz.-based Storage Solutions, which conducts feasibility studies, third-party management, market surveys, consulting, auditing, acquisitions and development for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 480.844.3900; visit www.storage-solutions.org

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