To compete in today’s economic environment, many self-storage operators are turning to technology to lure customers to their facilities and provide superior service once they sign on the dotted line.
Industry studies show the increasing usage of technology in facilities of all ages. Self-storage operators are employing the Internet for marketing, rental payments and online reservations. Facilities are benefiting from computer-management software, surveillance cameras accessible over the Internet, and digital video recorders.
One emerging item in their technical arsenal is the self-service kiosk. When looking for ways to increase profitability and enhance customer service, more storage owners are turning to kiosks, including many of the largest names in the industry such as U-Store-It, Simply Self Storage and Extra Space Storage.
Self-storage kiosks enable prospects to rent storage units 24 hours a day even if the manager is not available. A potential customer can take a virtual tour of the facility, select a unit, purchase a lock, pay for the unit, print out a rental agreement, and even sign up for tenant insurance. Existing tenants can use the kiosk—which interacts in real-time with a facility’s management software—to make payments and changes to update their accounts.
Lease Up Faster
Some operators are discovering that kiosks can unlock new revenue streams and even free financing funds. John Leslie, owner of Kentucky Avenue Self-Storage in Indianapolis, Ind., says his kiosk helped him accelerate the timetable of his development, resulting in more favorable financing. The kiosk helped to escalate the lease-up rate of his new facility. Leslie was able to convert a construction loan to permanent financing faster, freeing money for the second phase of his project.
Leslie attributes the kiosk he installed last year with the rental of 72 units out of the facility’s 235. As a result, his facility achieved more than 92 percent occupancy after only one year of operation.
"What that has allowed us to do is to start phase two about a year ahead of schedule," he says. "We were hoping to start phase two in 2009 and we’re actually starting it now. We have 72 additional leases that the kiosk has done. It’s incredible."