Awash in Tech Tools, Self-Storage Operators Streamline and Offer Greater Customer Convenience

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By Rachel Adams

Technology is like the ocean: Only a small portion has been explored, with vast amounts still waiting to be discovered. Advancements in technology are like waves, crashing into the beach and bringing trinkets for all.

Self-storage operators everywhere, pack your bags! We're going to the beach. Or rather, we’re going to explore the waves of technology crashing into self-storage businesses, washing ashore the industry’s top tech tools that can help you run a more efficient and safer facility while attracting convenience-conscious consumers.

Phone-Tech Tools Expand Operations

A phone is one piece of technology that's easy to handle. That is, until you're faced with the decision to greet a walk-in customer or answer an incoming phone call. In a scenario like this, self-storage operators are turning those calls over to call-reporting centers. In the event an employee cannot take an incoming call, the call center can.

A call-center representative will assist customers just as a facility manager would by answering questions, taking payments and renting units. "Our calls are answered more efficiently and, in most cases, faster than they can be answered at each individual store," says Margaret Martin, executive vice president for the Pegasus Group, a real estate development and management company operating 60 facilities under the Central Self Storage brand.  The company uses a full-service call center by OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based provider of self-storage rental solutions and technology.

Call centers can also help operators measure the effectiveness of advertising and sales reps by tracking call statistics and recordings. "It helps [operators] understand what advertising sources are working and allows them to judge our effectiveness as sales people as well as the effectiveness of their staff,” says Tron Jordheim, director of PhoneSmart, a call center and offsite sales force serving the self-storage industry and other property-management fields.

Other phone-service companies such as CallPotential provide software for call tracking, lead management and employee evaluations. The company's tool links phone interactions to renter inquiries, prospective renters and delinquent accounts to manage leads, advertising and employee performance. "By automating and assisting the manager with systems, their job is simplified," says Phil Murphy, president of CallPotential. "Higher quality interactions and rental revenue result almost immediately."

Brett Henry, president of California-based Trojan Storage, has been able to expand his company’s portfolio from one facility to 10 in just a few years by using technology such as call-tracking software. "We expanded our 10th property this month, and I now rely exclusively on existing technology to supervise our growing staff," he says. "Today's technology allows me to supervise our properties with far less offsite staff compared to what was required 10 years ago to manage the same size portfolio."

An integrated phone-payment system, or pay-by-phone system, is another service operators are using to decrease fraud, generate revenue and improve a facility's customer-service model. Pay-by-phone is an integrated voice-response system that allows tenants to make secure payments over the phone, when it's convenient for them, through a voice-prompted teller.

"Pay-by-phone processing is a critical piece of a site's payment strategy," says Michael Roberts, vice president of business development for XPS Solutions, a provider of telephone sales and customer-service support to the self-storage industry. "Fraud claims are on the rise in self-storage, largely due to the poor business practices being used to collect payment information over the telephone. With an integrated pay-by-phone solution, you eliminate 100 percent of the risk of fraud."

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