Selecting the right management software for a portable-storage operation can be a daunting task if you dont know where to start. Portable (or mobile) storage adds new features and value for tenants that your management software must be able to accommodate to ensure you capture the most leads, track revenue and grow profit.
Development in the fairly new portable-storage industry prompted management software to undergo substantial enhancements and adapt to the needs of industry owners and operators. By definition, portable storage is not confined to one location, and operators face daily logistical challenges that require fully integrated, robust software programs to best navigate routes, add convenience for customers and provide real-time tracking information. Below are the top five features portable-storage management software should include for the best impact on profit and facility operation.
Smarter Logistics to Plan and Track Operations
Tracking is one of the most important aspects of portable storage. Operators need to be able to easily identify and track tenant information, locate containers and plot destinations. Up-to-date reporting is a must-have to manage and track every units last recorded delivery location. Look for a product that embeds mapping software (like MapPoint or PC*Miler) into its architecture, combining pickups and deliveries to create the most ideal routes in secondsand then printing directions for you.
Portable storage contains multiple moving parts, and losing sight of one aspect can cause a domino effect of disruption to daily operation. Everything must be managed from a central point to keep the business organized. Some logistical concerns include truck dispatching, delivery scheduling and reservation management. Tracking units is hard because customers often order more than one and may have multiple delivery addresses. Good software can coordinate these diverse variables, maintain organization, keep operators from losing units and cut labor costs.
Easily Customizable Business Rules
Not all portable-storage operations are the same, even within the same franchise. Make sure your software provider offers forms, tools and rules you can adjust to fit your business model. Features like postal-code-based taxation, mileage-based transportation charges, promotions, marketing and payment plans give portable-storage owners full control of their business.
Built-in form editors allow operators to create, define and customize rental agreements, warehouse orders, delivery tickets and more. A lengthy list of merge fields keeps managers from writing information by hand and makes printing, storing and electronically sending forms to customers easy and efficient.
A central location for data not only keeps the business running smoothly but provides owners and operators a single access point to update rules and procedures across a single or multiple locations. Software that centralizes data gives real-time access and lets users manage all operations from anywhere. Having access to real-time reporting data via mobile devices lets you make faster decisions.
Easy-to-Use Reservations, Scheduling and Dispatching Tools
While logistics are an integral part of portable-storage operations, tools that streamline everyday scheduling tasks helps them run smoothly. Industry-specific software can walk users through the reservation process. An easy-to-use workflow lets you track changes throughout your delivery procedures and archive records. The software architecture written between scheduling tools and embedded logistical features gives operators peace of mind to know a customers rental experience is effortless.
Better Integrations and Services
Portable-storage management software should give you the best choice from industry-leading technology partners to increase profit in all areas of your business. The freedom to choose from partners can bring lower credit card and processing fees, more leads with the most popular listing services, the most profitable tenant-insurance providers and more.
Adding ACH (Automatic Clearing House) or bank debiting provides an alternative to credit card billing to reduce and even eliminate costly credit card fees in some cases. Be sure to ask if your software provider has undergone the most rigorous data-security tests available, like Payment Card Industry certification and Service Organization Controls Report certification, to safeguard your customer data.
Software providers should be able to integrate with cutting-edge features like SMS text messaging to alert past-due accounts and integrated mailing services to improve collection rates. Incorporating SMS text messaging can increase your collection rates by 1 percent or more. Ask your software provider if it has a robust API (Application Programming Interface) it shares with technology partners to ensure the best, most fully integrated features with your management software.
Linking your management software to your call center allows you to control shared information like availability, specials and pricing. Let a call center quote, reserve and sell units in real time for you from anywhere. Call centers can also see the status of all operations and help out when managers are busy or stores have closed for the day.
Free Website Integrations to Build Your Online Storefront
Most storage prospects decide to choose your facility based on your websites ease of navigation, account-management features and overall design. Industry software should match customer expectations throughout the entire rental experience by seamlessly integrating with your website for free. Give customers control with online payment options, and capture leads with reservations and move-ins from your website.
Consumers rely heavily on mobile searches when they look for storage, so make sure your software provider can offer you an online-reservation and account-management portal that is smartphone compatible at no additional charge. Following an online reservation or move-in, websites can follow-up with customers by automatically sending e-mail confirmations and scheduled follow-ups for facility managers.
Again, portable-storage operators should be able to update online pricing from their management software rather than manually inputting information into multiple locations. Built-in revenue-management parameters can be set to override any offered specials to appear online as occupancy reaches higher levels.
Selecting Your Software
Management software for any portable-storage operation can and should include the features discussed above. These businesses include more to oversee than their conventional self-storage counterparts, so owners and operators demand results and performance from their software as well as integration with other platforms. Those that opt out of one or many of the items above undercut their stores ability to provide prospects, tenants and staff and more of the features they have come to expect.
Differences in portable-storage management software lie in speed, reliability and cost. Online-inquiry and account-management tools bring in added revenue, providing convenience for tenants and allowing you to capture every Web lead. Portable-storage operators who opt for these features in their software often gain advantages over those who don't.
Markus Hecker is the chief operating officer of SMD Software Inc. (SiteLink), which provides property-management software for self-storage and portable-storage operations. Mr. Hecker has been with SMD since the company's inception in 1996 and is instrumental in product development and sales. He is intimately familiar with storage operations, having established lasting relationships with owners and managers of single- and multi-store operations. SiteLink now has more than 10,000 users worldwide. For more information, e-mail [email protected].com; visit www.smdsoftware.com .