"From a business standpoint, we believe self-storage operators can rent more units if they are open for business longer than their competitors," says Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech. "[Kiosks] extend business hours (not office hours), reduce payroll costs and offer a more cost-efficient plan to support a self-storage facility."
Martin uses kiosks to reduce payroll costs and increase customer convenience. "Having self-service kiosks at all of our stores makes it convenient for our customers to pay their accounts or rent units 24 hours a day," she says. "It takes less time to rent through a kiosk than it does going into the store, and the receipt and lease are e-mailed to the customers. We should always think about how we can make the process easier and more efficient for our customers, and the answer is through technology."
Similarly, automated locks provide convenience and save time for operators and tenants. The fairly new technology eliminates the need for operators to place and remove manager's locks on empty units and overlocks on delinquent units—both necessary but time-consuming tasks. The INSOMNIAC ILock is a wireless, battery-operated, individual unit-locking system that can be controlled from the manager's office. In the event a tenant has not paid rent and has an overlocked unit, the tenant will regain access to the unit once a payment is received. This gives tenants greater ability to access units outside of office hours.
In addition, the units remain locked even when the exterior lock is cut, which provides added security. "The added protection is a competitive advantage, and like gate-access control, cameras and alarms, the locking system provides an amenity that could justify higher rental rates," Chiti says.
While tech tools help facilities operate more efficiently and smoothly, often times the most important aspect of technology comes down to the customers, who want more convenience and greater options. "By providing our customers with these types of tools, we're effectively increasing the chance that a customer will complete their transaction online and bypass our competitors in favor of leasing their storage unit from [us]," McLaughlin says.
Chiti adds: "Using technology to accommodate fast-moving consumers with on-the-fly service is how self-storage businesses are winning more market share and incremental dollars. Technology specific to self-storage is simply a means to stay competitive today and moving forward into the future."