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4 Ways Self-Storage Managers Can Use Technology to Improve Their Business

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By Rick Beal

Technology in the self-storage industry should be viewed as a strategy, and part of this strategy is shifting the way we think about its use. I’m a huge proponent of the practical application, which often falls on the facility manager’s shoulders. Let’s talk about four ways frontline staff can use tech tools to benefit their facility and aid in the company’s success.

1. Communicate

In the iconic song “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice sings, “All right, stop! Collaborate and listen.” Not only is this an unforgettable lyric, it’s some pretty sound managerial advice. When the lines of communication are open and flowing in both directions, a real sense of teamwork and trust is built. I’ll be the first to admit that, at times, I’m not on my A-game when it comes to communication. I get busy or caught up in projects. Before I know it, it’s been two or three weeks, and I haven’t completed an employee evaluation that was scheduled for the month, or I’ve put another task on the back burner. Sound familiar?

There are now many technology tools to help us better communicate. One of my favorites is a program called Slack, which has free and paid versions. The program can be installed on each employee’s computer or smartphone. During the work day, you can send messages to specific people or across “channels.” It’s the channels I find extremely helpful. They’re like mini chat rooms that can be categorized by subject. This way you can collaborate on projects easily and efficiently at different times and locations. Anything typed within the channel is saved and can be referenced later. If you have a large company, more people are able to share their ideas and data, collaborate on processes, and build a true team to complete a project.

For a self-storage manager, this would be a great tool to try on a store level. It’s free and helps the flow of workplace communication. As the industry workforce becomes younger, programs like Slack will be more popular. From my experience working with various companies, it’s been a useful staff-communication tool, helping employees with projects, meetings, training, brainstorming and more. By the way, it’s really fun to use!

2. Automate

Five years ago, my company had a policy to call each of its past-due customers on the second and ninth days of delinquency. Completing the daily task list was a journey of monumental proportions, but we did this mainly because the software we were using didn’t allow us to e-mail tenants directly from the program. Fortunately, I figured out a copy-and-paste method that took our task time down tremendously. We’ve since switched to a new management software, so now we simply press a button to send e-mails.

The moral of the story: As a manager, look at the systems you’re using and see how you can make tasks easier by automating them. Don’t let your preconceived notions cloud your judgment about what will or won’t work. Ask other managers what they do. Post a question on the Self-Storage Talk online community. Or you can even e-mail me! I would love to answer your questions about trying new things.

All of your delinquency processes, with some exceptions per customer requests and law, should be automated. If you’re still sending out anything in the mail, other than auction notices, consider automation for that as well.

One thing I like to send to customers is an automated “welcome” e-mail about four days after they rent. Thank them for their business, the trust they’ve placed in you, and let them know you’re passionate about providing an excellent customer experience. Invite them to call or stop into the office if they have any questions or concerns during their stay. This is also a great time to ask them to write an online review, so include the link in your e-mail. After a customer moves out, send a similar message, thanking him for being your tenant. Your operating software should let you do all of this automatically.

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