By Sam Celaya
Your self-storage facility is your livelihood. To be successful, it needs to operate with maximum efficiency and minimal hassle. Management software plays an integral part in achieving this goal.
There are a number of satisfactory options available when it comes to self-storage management software, but the key is finding the program that best meets your specific needs. To begin, ask yourself why youre in the market for software. Are you building a new facility, transitioning from pen and paper, or just looking to reduce your software expense? Are you looking for more intricate features such as revenue management, financial reporting or systems interfacing?
The answers will steer you toward the management-software platform thats right for your business. Below is a summary of the criteria to evaluate when shopping for self-storage software.
If youre building a new facility, youve already made a significant investment in your business, so keeping additional startup costs to a minimum is important. While price shouldnt be the sole factor when evaluating management software, it does play a big role in your decision.
In addition to the initial price of the software program, operators must consider the long-term costs. One of the first concerns for many self-storage operators is whether the software will require a long-term commitment or contract. Purchasing requirements will vary, so cover this topic in the initial conversation with the software vendor.
You also need to consider any hardware requirements. For example, Web-based software has few hardware requirements because your data is stored with your software vendor. PC-based systems, on the other hand, may require certain hardware and could include future upgrades. Also, ask if software updates are free or fee-based. Find out if tech support is included in this fee, and what hours its available. The long-term cost and fees will play a major role in calculating the return on investment of your management software.
Ease of Use and Access
Training managers how to use the new management software is another key consideration. The program of choice should be easy to learn and master, with a user interface thats intuitive and simple to navigate. Many software providers offer training with their products, so check with the vendors to see whats available.
Also allow managers time to learn the new program. Dont expect to purchase the software on the 25th of the month and be ready to unroll it on the first. Instead, allow your managers a few weeks for training and practice. This will minimize mistakes and stress on behalf of your staff.
Exposure and Visibility
Many self-storage operators are increasing their online advertising while decreasing their investment in traditional marketing methods. Like all other industries that serve customers in a dynamic and demanding market, self-storage should be accommodating to the ever-changing ways consumers search for services and products.
Management software should support real-time access to a facilitys call center and Internet marketing, reservations and payments. Experienced call-center agents with real-time information can take payments, rent units, give driving directions and sell specials to customers. Offering the ability for customers to make reservations online or via a call center keeps them from going to the competition while also providing superior customer service.
Flexibility and Scalability
Your self-storage management software should be flexible and scalable. Operators are constantly seeking ways to enhance the customer experience while boosting the bottom line. This is only possible if the software has that business mentality built in. Your management program should be structured in a way that provides the ability to develop and implement business rules at any time.
The software should also enable you to manage rental rates, gate and security access details, move-in and move-out rules, invoicing and billing details, and marketing-related information. This allows you to be more proactive than reactive to changing customer demand.
In addition, management software should be scalable to add additional revenue streams. These may include retail sales, mobile operations, additional buildings or units, tenant insurance, use of a call center or kiosk, online payments, and mailing services. Many operators who have multiple facilities desire software with the ability to manage and monitor their locations remotely. This allows them to view the daily details of their operations and remain influential in the business.
While many software programs offer an abundance of useful reports and functionality, you should research the programs in the market before jumping to a new platform. Determine your facilitys needs, and then talk to the various software vendors to uncover which program will meet your requirements. Your objective is to choose software that will help you reach and maintain your operational goals.
Sam Celaya is the director of the eMove Storage Affiliate Network and has worked within the self-storage industry for 17 years. eMove Inc. offers WebSelfStorage Management Software, a Web-based platform for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 866.693.6683; visit www.emove.com/storageaffiliate .