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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Tech Support in Self-Storage: Protecting A New Achilles' Heel

By Teri Lanza Comments
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I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Everyone does these days, but my time could be deemed excessive. Not only does my livelihood depend on all-day computer use, but some of my favorite ways to blow off steam involve a computer or tablet: reading news and blogs, watching Make-Up Geek tutorials on YouTube, searching for random crap on eBay, watching "Ask a Mortician" interviews, previewing new music, searching for random crap on Etsy, watching movie trailers, managing online photo albums, searching for random crap on Artfire ... The list goes on.

In my defense, I am not a Twitterer, Facebooker, social-media maniac. While I see the value in these tools for some purposes, I prefer my cybersomnia to be more private. I'm also a voracious reader—of actual, physical books, not just the Kindle kind. I greatly value my face time with family and friends, and I do lots of active things around my computer coma. In short, I still eagerly (most of the time) engage with the real world, and I understand and accept the limited, fleeting nature of the digital realm, which can be yanked from you faster than a handbag at a Barneys sale. All it takes is one little technical glitch, and there you are, booted (no pun intended) from your cyberhome.

No doubt this loss of connection can feel devastating to a person who relies on the interwebz for emotional fulfillment. To me, it's just a major aggravation, particularly when it interferes with my ability to work. There's nothing like a ticking deadline and a contrary computer to put the mind at ease.

A few weeks ago, my husband purchased additional memory for my machine, a gift to make my virtual journeys faster and stress-free. After the installation, however, my computer took to seizing up at unexpected moments, blasting a blue screen in my face, and shutting down. There was no warning and no hope of recovery. All unsaved work and searches were lost. I was at my wit's end, playing Russian Roulette with my work and dreading interruptions to my Web wandering time. Thank goodness for technical support, or I might have had a meltdown.  

For all our dependence on technology, our real Achilles' heel is our inability to resolve technical problems without assistance. While nearly everyone knows how to use a computer or cell phone, few of us know how to properly maintain or fix one. And that spells trouble for individuals and businesses everywhere.

Once upon a time, computer use was a relatively minor part of a self-storage operator's job. Not so today. Now computer skills must be as much a part of a facility manager's resume as sales and customer-service experience. Today's operators use computers to communicate with customers, rent units, track performance, market the business and much, much more. All of your most critical operating info—pricing, customer data, inventory, unit status—is housed on a computer or cloud. Without technology, you could not effectively do your work.

Regardless of which self-storage management software you use, its effectiveness is limited by the health of your computer system and the knowledge of the people who use the program. If your machine isn't properly maintained, you have a weak network, or your employees are clueless as to the software's features and functions, you might as well be using the paper ledger system from days of old. Here's where tech support can help.

You should have support—even if you have to pay for it—for any technology tool you use, from your computer to your software to your video cameras and keypads. Support is what will save you when something goes wrong and business is interrupted or, worse, comes to a screeching halt because of a technical problem. Think about it ... What would you do if you suddenly had no access to your management program, or your facility's front gate wouldn't open, or your DVR went dead? How do you serve your self-storage customers under those circumstances?

Many of us take tech support for granted. We assume our purchases come with some support, but rarely do we read the fine print or truly understand what we're entitled to. As a self-storage operator, it's important that you know which if your equipment is covered, for how long, if there's a charge for support, when support is available and more. For insider tips and advice on the subject, read "Getting Technical Support for Your Self-Storage Management Software or Security System," recently written for Inside Self-Storage by David Essman, director of marketing for Sentinel Systems Corp.

Dealing with tech support isn't always a walk in the park. I'm sure we all have a story about a frustrating experience with a technical-support rep. But consider your alternative, which might well be business failure. Has tech support ever saved your self-storage operation? If so, please share your tale on the blog. How often do you use tech support? Does your tech support provider offer employee training as part of its package?

By the way, if you're an ISS magazine subscriber, be on the watch for your May 2012 issue, which focuses on all aspects of self-storage technology. You'll read about five technology-related initiatives you can implement now at a reasonable cost to improve your business, the latest and greatest in management software, security technology, self-serve technology, call-center technology and more.

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