By Eddie Myers
Ask any self-storage operator what he thinks his customers want from a facility and, chances are, you’ll get a fairly predictable set of answers: rock-solid security, a clean and safe environment, storage options, fair prices, top-notch service. You could add a lot more items to this list. One you might not immediately think of is payment flexibility. Kudos to you if you did!
The methods and technologies consumers use to pay for services is crucial to business operation. Would you buy a car at a dealership where credit wasn’t available? Would you use a cell-phone provider that mandated you only pay cash at the office downtown? Of course not. Consumers have more choices than ever, especially when it comes to self-storage. The payment options you provide can be the deciding factor as to whether a customer uses your facility or finds one that can meet his payment needs.
So how does the savvy self-storage operator offer payment flexibility? It starts with selecting a payment-processing partner or point-of-sale software system that offers robust technology and a suite of payment products covering the latest, most convenient methods. Here are a few of the payments options your business should provide.
Certainly something of a no-brainer, recurring payments are a virtual necessity in the self-storage business. A significant portion of your customers will rent a unit, then place payments on “autopilot.” Offering this service gives you the capability to securely collect credit card data and have the same amount charged to that account on a regular, predictable schedule moving forward. Naturally, the benefit to facility operators is the convenience of recording the information once, and then simply collecting automatic payments.
Automatic Credit Card Updates
Recurring payments reduces staff workload, right? Usually. That is, as long as the credit card information remains current so the transaction hits the proper account and collects the money. However, if that credit card info changes at any time, due to expiration, loss or theft, for instance, your office has a bigger headache. The payment will not process, and you’re forced to contact the customer to collect or update the data.
If you’ve ever had to track down a customer (and who hasn’t?), you know the time and the effort involved. It’s not uncommon for tenants to be overseas or between situations. Facility operators should seek a service that tracks and updates credit card data that has changed, so payments continue uninterrupted. Between lost revenue and the staff time required to locate customers, the potential expense of not using this type of service is staggering.
Mobile payments are the next great wave in the constantly evolving payments-technology arena. In a setting like a self-storage facility, which can be spread out and where customers aren’t always right in the office, there’s an undeniable need to take payments via a mobile device. This untethers your staff from the front office and lets you accept payments from the customer no matter where he might be.
When vetting mobile payments, select a service with encryption and advanced security features. Furthermore, you should be able to conduct card-present (swiped) as well as card-not-present (hand-keyed) transactions.
Automatic Clearing House (ACH)
Credit cards aren’t the only form of electronic payment. Many customers prefer to pay by check. Automatic Clearing House, or ACH, gives you the ability to collect checking information by phone, e-mail or a secure portal, and transfer funds by directly debiting a customer’s bank account.
Offering payment flexibility and actively promoting it increases your chances to retain long-term accounts and attract new business. Self-storage is an intensely competitive industry and, all things being equal, letting a customer pay the way he wants may be enough to tip the scales in your favor.
Eddie Myers is president and chief operating officer of PayPros, a payments-technology developer that has established integrations with the top self-storage software packages. Offering secure, PCI-compliant payment-processing solutions through its Innovo payment platform, PayPros serves more than 7,000 self-storage facilities throughout North America. For more information, call 800.513.2579, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; visit www.paypros.com/selfstorage .