Its a technological world, and Im a technological girl. I prefer online shopping to braving the mall. I love my laptop. Im addicted to my PDA, MP3 player and AIM. My phone is for text messaging, and I keep a blog. My keychain holds a USB memory key. I buy CDs only to rip them. All my photographs are digital. And when I go out with my single friends, its now an e-mail address I watch them slip to their promising prospects. E me, they say with a coy little smile.
Spend an hour in a coffee shop hotspot or waiting in an airport and its like being at a mechanized carnival. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the New Worldthe world of web, wireless and all manner of hi-tech wonders! Youll see hands-free devices send data through the air! Send pictures to your friends through your cell phone! Zap your business card to a colleague! And those of you with a stomach for astonishment can watch as multiple storage facilities conduct businessin real timefrom a central database via the Internet!
People are coming around on this technology thing. As one of this months writers deftly points out, you have no choice. Get on board or get out of the way, he says. In either case, the revolution is on. Dont feel like communicating via e-mail? Tough. Dont want to conduct business via the web? Too bad, baby. You may be a small facility, you may be a business that prides itself on personal touches. But if you fail to give customers the conveniences they cravei.e., online rental and payment options, e-invoices and self-serve kiosksdont be shocked when a PC dances on your bottom lines grave.
Even if you dont like it, developments in self-storage software and related technology are accomplishing wondrous things for operators in this industry. In the pages that follow, youll read about kiosks, call centers, online payment processing, centralized database solutions, wireless devices, future software features and more. A few years ago, the ISS Annual Software Issue (every May) focused solely on providers of management programs and how to choose between DOS and Windows. Our horizonsand yourshave been greatly expanded by a plethora of new-fangled products.
All that being said, I love to play devils advocate. Hi-tech tools are fantastic, but what about the importance of personal relationships? Can an e-mail convey the affability of a phone call? If tenants rent their units through a kiosk and pay their bills online, how will operators get to know them? How will they learn who their tenants are and what they store in their units? And what will all this automation mean for the position of on-site self-storage manager?
Good questions, all of them, and worthy of contemplation. Perhaps you should think about them over a caramel macchiato while viewing your management reports remotely from a Starbucks near you.
Have fun at the fair,
Teri L. Lanza