Working With Other Programs
With the need to be compatible with additional operating systems, providers and programs, software has become more sophisticated. For example, some operators have linked their operation to an accounting package, such as QuickBooks. Without an interface to the management software, entries would need to be made twice.
Another system with which your management software may interact is a kiosk. Its function is to take payments and process new rentals at an unattended location. The management software will communicate any new information to the gate software, such as a new move-in code or a late customer who’s settling debt. (Beware that a vacancy seal or overlock may still need to be removed from a unit in this scenario.) Most management software now has an interface to kiosks.
In some cases, because of distance, the communication from the management computer to the gate-control module will be reliant on an Internet service providing a static IP address. Web-based software or one that uses features enabled through the Internet may specify which service provider you choose. The ability to take online payments and reservations directly through the management program and to e-mail notices and letters will be dependent on a provider with a proven track record. Consult your software provider for advice when making this choice.
Guidelines for Processing Credit Cards
Credit-card processing through management software can greatly automate the sales process, from swiping the card and getting the authorization, to depositing the funds in a facility’s bank account. Automatic renewals may also be completed.
New credit-card industry guidelines, which took effect in July 2010, established much stricter handling of credit-card information. Software providers had to scramble to make their programs compliant with these guidelines. To ensure you’re in accordance, consult your management-software representative before making a decision on a provider for credit-card processing. Ask him to recommend a processor, which will eliminate your risk and help you be compliant.
Do Your Homework
One way to eliminate some of the compatibility legwork is to choose a company whose products can handle more of your facility functions needed at your facility. For example, look for a vendor that provides management as well as gate-access software and products. Similarly, choosing management-software provider that hosts its own online payments and reservations can strike the need to seek a third party. If you plan on using a call center, ask your software representative which centers can interface with his company’s products.
The moral of the story is to do your homework. Work with the representatives of the various companies as consultants. Beware of those who say they can do everything, or those who are inflexible. Most of the time, you can accomplish the operation you desire―though it may not be accomplished exactly in the way you thought. If you do this up front, you will have a smooth-running, well-oiled operation for years to come.
John Fogg has been in the self-storage business for 25 years. He is the general manager of Sentinel Systems Corp., a Lakewood, Colo.-based manufacturer of property-management software and security-access systems, individual door alarms, wireless door alarms, camera packages and more. For more information, call 800.456.9955, ext. ext. 405; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; visit www.sentinelsystems.com .