With kiosks being used in every market—on the streets as guides, in airports, hotels, retail stores, banks, restaurant chains and many other places—self-service alternatives are no longer a “nice to have” option for most businesses. For a lot of consumers, they’re the preferred option for engaging with a company, even at a self-storage facility!
According to “The Real Self-Service Economy” by Steven Van Belleghem, 40 percent of consumers prefer self-service to human contact, and 70 percent expect a company to offer a self-service option. This trend is particularly relevant to younger generations that already account for nearly one-third of self-storage consumers. As greater numbers of Millennial and Generation Z customers seek our product, they’ll continue to drive this requirement.
“Born with devices in their hands, Millennials and Generation Zs view the world as a highly connected ecosystem,” writes customer-service expert Shep Hyken in the article, “The Future of Service and How to Amaze Millennials and Generation Z.” This is what he has to say about how these consumers are changing the future of service:
Millennials and Generation Z expect companies to be available at any channel of their choice at any time. These generations are looking for instant information and instant service connection. They are not going to be the ones who sit on hold on the telephone. They would probably not even make a phone call in the first place. So, companies need to offer service options that are instantaneous. In that sense, easy and intuitive self-service solutions can make a good fit.
While several strategies can and should play a role in providing easy, accessible self-storage—online rental options, live chat, Web-based applications and others—no self-service option offers a one-stop, full-service alternative for the industry like a kiosk. A kiosk offers all the features and functionality of a person (without the need to talk to one), while providing greater convenience, a better overall experience, and a drastic reduction in costs and risk.
An Extension of Your Office and Staff
Kiosks have been an integral part of self-storage operation for the last 16 years. From manned to unmanned, rural to urban and every facility in between, many have enjoyed success with self-service. Statistics from my company show that in the last two and half years alone, our kiosk models have captured 605,000 payment transactions amounting to $65 million; 19,466 reservations amounting to $2.1 million; and 88,000 new rentals amounting to $9 million in new revenue. When implemented properly, a kiosk acts as an extension of your office and staff to offer proven value in the way of increased revenue and customer satisfaction.
Kiosks also free up time so you can address the many challenges of day-to-day facility operation. A manager’s job is a busy one, and his attention can be pulled in many directions. He’s responsible for helping customers, renting units, checking locks, cleaning and maintaining the property, making bank deposits, managing auctions, collecting past-due rent, marketing, and much more. With a kiosk in place, these things can be accomplished without negatively impacting new sales that walk in the door. Staff become more effective and their hours can be repurposed to most effectively serve customers and the organization.
Kiosks are a true alternative to a live person, providing customers with a full rental experience. They can:
- Integrate with facility-management software to provide real-time updates on unit pricing and availability
- Accept payments 24/7 and automatically apply them within your management software
- Allow tenants to select a unit and see where it’s located on a site map
- Allow customers to sign and receive a copy of a lease
- Sell tenant insurance and locks
- Accept credit card, cash and check payments
- Grant tenants immediate access to your facility per your security and gate policies
- Capture a digital recording of each transaction
- Photograph the customer and take a copy of his driver’s license for comparison
- Offer two-way live customer support
- Serve bilingual customers
Each step of the kiosk rental process is designed to safeguard your facility against risk, aiming to avoid human error, dodge bad checks, dissuade renters with corrupt intentions, and more. These safeguards can be used even with a customer who desires more personal service. It’s simply a question of the manager walking him through the kiosk process. He’ll be there to assist, but the customer will still enter his own information, use the digital captures, etc.
There are a variety of kiosk models to meet the unique needs of your self-storage facility. When evaluating which is the right fit, consider the physical needs and limitations of your space, your budget, and the features, functionality and customization options that are important to your operation. Model options include standalone, pedestal-mount, wall-mount and through-the-wall. You can also choose from tablet and countertop models. Other options to consider include indoor vs. outdoor and PC vs. cloud-based.
When it comes to choosing features and functionality, consider whether you want the following:
- Lock dispenser
- Credit card reader
- Bill acceptor
- Automated clearinghouse capture
- PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance
- Digital signature capture
- Driver’s license scanner
- Small or full-size printer
- E-mailed receipts
- Built-in digital camera
- Tenant-insurance sales
- Integration with management software
- Live customer support
- Electronic lease
- Built-in security and gate policies
- Facility maps and unique features
- Unit size, availability and special promotions in real time
- Branded external wrap
In general, kiosks range from $1,500 for smaller, countertop express-payment stations, to robust, full-featured models at $18,500.
Do the Math
Kiosks continue to play an invaluable role in optimizing self-storage operation. These payment and rental stations give customers the freedom to conduct transactions at any time of day, even when the manager is busy or the facility is closed.
Monitoring after-hours transactions has given us unique insight to consumer behavior. My company conducted a study of kiosk use from January 2017 to April 2019. It showed that 45 percent of customers chose to rent a storage outside of normal office hours and 51 percent chose to make payments after hours. Even when the office is open, 55 percent of move-ins and 49 percent of payments occur at the kiosk.
Consider the revenue you could be leaving on the table without a kiosk. Let’s say three customers per month rent outside your office hours and your average customer lifetime value is $1,100. That’s $39,600 in incremental revenue you would have missed.
Also, with the cost of employees on the rise, implementing a self-service solution makes more sense than ever. When kiosks first came on the market in 2004, hourly wages were 25 percent to 50 percent lower. Today, the average wage for an entry-level, non-technical customer-service representative is $17 per hour, according to Glassdoor, a job and recruiting website.
Consider supplementing your staff with a kiosk, even if it’s just part-time or after hours when facility traffic doesn’t justify an onsite person. It would easily pay for itself in approximately 35 weeks (multiply $17 per hour by 25 hours per week by 35 weeks, for a total of $14,875). This doesn’t even consider what you would save on staff payroll taxes, training costs, etc.
Kiosks offer many advantages for self-storage operators, from reduced operational costs and risk to enhanced revenue and overall customer experience. Kiosks act as a competitive differentiator, giving you a marketing and brand advantage. They allow you to interact with customers in the way they desire and cater to those who prefer to engage with technology rather than a person. They also remove discomfort for late-payers, who can now avoid paying in person.
Today’s kiosks are technological marvels designed with the latest in hardware and cloud-based software for enhanced data security and reliability, and a transformed touchscreen and intuitive user experience. They can withstand frequent use while retaining an elegant, modern feel, and serve as an enhancement to your brand and facility. Set up is generally simple, straightforward and supported by a live onboarding team to ensure you’re getting your technology up and running and serving customers as soon as possible.
Bill Hoffman is senior vice president of sales and marketing for OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based provider of self-storage kiosks, call-center services and other technology. He has more than 20 years of strategic sales, marketing, channel and customer-service experience with a focus on team-building and CRM (customer relationship management) strategies. For more information, call 800.481.7459; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.opentechalliance.com.