"Operators should be aware of whether or not the processor is integrated with [their] operating software," says Jason Marsh, marketing manager for SBOA Merchant Services, which provides debit and credit card as well as check and ACH-processing services for self-storage. "If they are not integrated, chances are you will need a third-party integrator to make your software and your processor communicate, adding extra steps and additional costs."
Rates and additional fees are an important consideration when choosing a payment-processing company, which can end up being a large expense if not explored beforehand. Tony Maskell, account executive for StorageRentPayment, an online payment solution that offers credit card and e-check acceptance for property-management companies, says the rate should be flat and fixed to reduce additional surprise costs. "The bottom line is always the rate," he says.
While the rate is important, it's also critical to work with a company that provides a detailed financial analysis. "Request a complete, transparent analysis of your merchant statement that includes any fees involved, and if you have to pay extra for services," says Jennifer Nguyen, director of partner growth for PayPros, a payment-technology company that offers payment solutions to the self-storage industry. "You may think you are getting the best rates, but when you do the math, you may actually be paying more."
Self-storage management company Universal Storage Group outsources its payment-processing services for the 50 facilities it manages to better keep track of fees and save time, according to Allan Dixon, the company’s director of information technology. The company Universal employs is part of a virtual terminal that allows it to accept payments online and offers speedy returns.
"I would stick with a virtual terminal, a resonated credit card processing platform, so that even if you're not interested in doing online payments at this particular time, in the future, you'll already be on a platform that's ready to go," Dixon says.
Hand Over the Tool Bag
A huge portion of facility operations is dedicated to maintenance and property upkeep. In today's competitive market, having a clean and well-kept facility can be the differentiating factor between you and the operator down the street. When time is limited, necessary tasks may not get the attention they deserve and could put a facility at risk of losing tenants and encountering safety concerns. For these reasons, sometimes the best option is to hire a company to take care of the nitty-gritty and important maintenance tasks.
Self-storage maintenance companies can perform a variety of jobs, from small, routine tasks such as spring repair for self-storage doors to large-scale renovations. While many routine chores could be handled by facility staff, it's important to make sure they’re completed safely and correctly. "Many times there is troubleshooting involved in determining what is actually wrong, so you want a qualified person doing that troubleshooting," says James Fawcett, president of Accent Building Restoration Inc. (ABR), which offers property and building services including cosmetic construction, painting and maintenance.
When shopping for a company to perform maintenance work, make sure the business is licensed by the state, bonded and has liability insurance, Fawcett advises. Also, pay attention to pricing and look for companies who can provide those numbers upfront. "Ask for references, and call those references—you would be surprised at what people are willing to share," Fawcett says.
Management Services: Letting Go of Daily Operation
For owners and operators who are not interested in handling day-to-day facility operation, a third-party management company could be the solution. The majority of self-storage management companies offers a full range of services including staffing and training, marketing, maintenance and payment processing, and some even offer have call-center services.