Just about every industry is embracing automation on some level. In self-storage, this technology brings a wealth of benefits, from freeing up staff to focus on more critical responsibilities to providing a better customer experience. The following guidance should help you identify your own opportunities and how to incorporate new tools into your operation.

Mason Levy

March 28, 2024

5 Min Read

As a self-storage operator, are you leveraging automation to elevate the customer experience and increase team productivity? When it comes to getting more done in less time and delivering standardized business interactions that exceed user expectations, this technology is a must-have. However, researching and adopting specific solutions can certainly feel overwhelming.

The good news is you don’t have to completely revamp your technology stack overnight. Instead, I encourage you to simply identify a handful of your internal operational processes that could be automated. Once you integrate a few, you’ll quickly realize the immense benefits. Let’s explore how to identify areas of opportunity for your self-storage business and get started.

Opportunities Abound

A successful self-storage operation has the ability to evolve with customer expectations. Automation facilitates this. When you automate routine and administrative tasks, you can significantly reduce human error, enhance efficiency and free up valuable time to focus on strategic business growth and tenant relationships.

Like CRM (customer-relationship management) and communications platforms powered by artificial intelligence (AI), automation enables your business to maintain continuous engagement with prospects and tenants. From follow-ups on sales inquiries to reminders about late payments, it ensures you’re able to maximize every interaction with customers, which can lead to improved conversion rates and retention.

Self-storage operations of all sizes are finding ways to leverage automation in their workflow. Here are just a few examples:

  • Automated billing to streamline tenant payments, reduce paperwork and minimize errors

  • Automated communication to keep customers well-informed about their units and accounts as well as facility updates

  • Digital systems that enable customers to rent units and manage accounts, providing the convenience and the flexibility they’ve come to expect

  • AI-enhanced security systems that offer advanced monitoring and real-time incident detection

  • Access-control systems that allow tenants to enter a facility at any time and open their unit with their phone

When implemented effectively, tools like these can promote transparency and improve overall service quality and customer satisfaction.

Steps to Take

Adopting any new technology can seem daunting, but with the right approach, most challenges can be solved. Once you’ve identified places where automation can improve your self-storage business, it’s time to identify and implement specific tools. The following steps will help you get started.

Identify gaps. The first step is to conduct a detailed assessment of your self-storage operation to determine where automation can make the most significant and positive impact. Use a process-mapping tool to visualize current workflows and pinpoint inefficiencies. Identify tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming or prone to human error. These are prime targets for technology application.

Choose the right products. Next, tool selection is critical. Thoroughly evaluate potential products, considering your self-storage facility’s specific needs, goals and budget. Consider how each of them might support the customer experience you’re attempting to create. Here are some important factors:

  • Functionality: This should align with your specific needs, addressing pain points and streamlining key processes.

  • Scalability: Your chosen products should be able to adapt to the growth and evolving requirements of your operation.

  • Ease of use: The user interface and overall experience should be intuitive and straightforward for staff and tenants.

  • Integration capabilities: A product should integrate seamlessly with existing systems, such as property-management software and access control.

  • Vendor support: Being essential for smooth implementation and ongoing maintenance, it’s important that this be reliable.

Train staff. Providing comprehensive staff training and support is crucial for a smooth transition and effective utilization. A well-trained team won’t only embrace your new automation tools and incorporate them into their daily tasks, they’ll maximize the potential benefits.

To significantly reduce the learning curve, your technology-training program should provide a product overview, so users can familiarize themselves with the features and functionalities. User-friendly software interfaces, interactive tutorials and hands-on exercises will ensure staff can confidently navigate the platforms and apply them effectively. Finally, equip your team with the knowledge and resources to troubleshoot common issues and conduct routine maintenance.

Evaluate and adjust as needed. Post-implementation, continuous evaluation of your new technology is essential. This involves regularly assessing performance of your self-storage automation tools, identifying areas for improvement and adjusting optimize effectiveness.

To begin, track key metrics such as system use, task-completion rates and feedback to gauge the impact of automation on your staff and customers. Gather insights from these groups to identify potential issues and enhancements, then continuously refine your automation strategies. This ensures your technology remains aligned with the evolving needs of your self-storage business.

Potential Challenges

One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of automation in the self-storage industry is the perceived high initial investment. However, when considered against the backdrop of long-term savings, efficiency gains and potential revenue growth, the return on investment is often substantial. It’s also worth noting that the increased adoption of AI has led to an overall decrease in costs, making the technology more accessible every day.

There’s also a concern that automation might lead to impersonal customer experiences; however, when implemented thoughtfully, it can actually enable more personalized interactions by leveraging tenant data to provide tailored services. For example, chatbots can gather tenant preferences and needs to create recommendations and support.

While adopting automation does come with challenges, self-storage operators should be open to the possibilities. Consider tasks that can be automated, then seek products that’ll benefit your business, staff and tenants.

Mason Levy is the CEO and founder of Swivl, which offers an automation platform for the self-storage industry. With a focus on human-centered design and lean methodologies, he’s successfully led three startups, driving customer engagement through human-first automation. Since 2019, his main goal has been to democratize self-storage operations by developing artificial-intelligence models and workflows that benefit operators of all sizes. To reach him, call 706.662.0487 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mason Levy

Mason Levy is the CEO and founder of Swivl, which offers an automation platform for the self-storage industry. With a focus on human-centered design and lean methodologies, he’s successfully led three startups, driving customer engagement through human-first automation. Since 2019, his main goal has been to democratize self-storage operations by developing artificial-intelligence models and workflows that benefit operators of all sizes. To reach him, call 706.662.0487 or email [email protected].

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