Are you straining to find ways to make more money? Looking to offer a higher standard of service and increase your site’s efficiency? Stop struggling and take charge of your self-storage business. It’s time to implement an online payment and management system.
Keeping up with the mind of the consumer is one of the challenges that will continually face any industry. As information technology advances and everything turns into an automated process, we have to ask, “What’s next?” The Internet has really opened the door to what is possible for self-storage owners and customers. This article examines the need for online services in the industry and outlines things to look for when making the decision to implement them.
The Need for a Web Interface
Over the years, there’s been a significant change in the consumer mindset, and it has to do with the availability of information. We’ve seen firsthand how things can change when customers are given instant information or response. Texting and e-mail are so popular because they’re immediate but don’t require parties to be directly available at the time of the conversation. If there’s a way for consumers to access what they need on their own time without involving someone else, they’re drawn to it.
We’ve all seen the increase in online purchases. Why wait to take advantage of e-commerce? Changing your business model to accommodate some form of instant access for customers and yourself should be your next step. Smart companies have realized that the faster they can get information to the consumer, the happier the customer is. Advances in technology that allow for virtually everything to be done with a mobile handset point to this fact. Whether you believe it or not, the future is “instant information,” and the Internet is the current medium.
One common concern is that online systems are not safe or secure. This is a myth that spreads across all forms of technology, and it comes from a lack of understanding of the system itself. The self-storage industry’s premium software providers would not be in business if their products were not secure. They recognize that security is the foundation and build their systems accordingly. There is no tolerance in today’s market for products that don’t live up to high security standards.
Some self-storage owners don’t believe customers will use an online payment system if they offer it. But if the facility owner is willing to put faith in a Web solution, why shouldn’t customers feel the same? The effectiveness of an online payment system has a great deal to do with how you set it up and present it to customers. If you don’t mention it to new tenants or on your voicemail, how are people going to hear about it?
It’s up to you to make sure tenants know the online payment system is there to make their lives easier. The great thing about it is, in their eyes, you are taking steps to make your facility better for them. What they don’t know is you’re also improving your bottom line by increasing your client base and decreasing the likelihood of delinquencies.
Offering an easier way for customers to pay will make them happier and decrease delinquencies. It will also create flexibility for your business and increase site productivity and efficiency by decreasing man hours needed to manage the facility.
On the revenue side, how many times have you wished you could make adjustments to your rental rates to accommodate changes in occupancy, but don’t have a way to analyze those rates accurately from a single location? Today’s most advanced online management software gives you instant access to all of your operational information. Embracing a Web solution is the way to take control of your business and make it the best it can be.
Online Solution: Web-Based vs. Web-Enabled
The partner you choose to provide your new solution is critical, so consider your options carefully. The industry’s software providers are approaching online payments and management in two ways.
The first uses centralized data that can be accessed from any computer with Internet access. I’ll refer to this as a Web-based system. In this system, your data is stored for a monthly fee on a server away from your facility. You do not have a hard copy of your data but access it via the Web. On the positive side, you never have to worry about backing up or storing data; on the other hand, if your Internet connection is slow or down, so is your business.
The other type of system is a Web-enabled system. In this case, the software provider uses copies of local data from each site, synchronizing that data automatically. Using this format, the data resides at both the corporate office and at the individual storage site, giving you control of the information at all times. With this system, there are no hosting fees, and you are not affected by the speed or accessibility of the Internet.
When weighing your online options, consider where your data will reside and how you will access it. Ask the provider where your data will be stored and what fees are involved.
You also want to make sure your online solution has all of the features you want. The system should create less work for you, not more. At a minimum, the solution should allow customers to rent or reserve units, make payments and view their transaction history instantly. They should be able see available units in real time, and you should see updated activity in real time.
Choose your Web software based on what makes you comfortable. You have to feel good about the product before you can offer it to customers. Pick software that is easy to understand and gives you information quickly and effortlessly. This will translate into faster customer service and happy managers.
Consider tech support and the longevity of the software provider. These are important issues to address when upgrading to an online solution. A reputable company should readily provide you with references. Self-storage experience is also paramount.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to make the wrong software choice; the decision-making process is filled with pitfalls. In particular, it can be difficult to look past the high price of today’s advanced software, but consider how much your business is worth―and how much more it’s worth with the right online solution. Make an investment in software. It’s the backbone of your day-to-day business.
We have a clear path to the future as the Web opens ways for business owners to maximize their time and resources. If you’re not using some form of online system, it’s time to make a change. Find a company that is on the leading edge of technology and understands your business. The companies creating innovative products will take your self-storage operation to the next level.
Sean Cargo is a self-storage consultant and senior account representative for QuikStor Security and Software in Van Nuys, Calif. He specializes in using the latest technology to maximize site profitability and efficiency. To reach him, call 800.321.1987, ext. 228; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.quikstor.com.