In early 2018, I began managing three self-storage facilities from a single management office. For the previous two years, I’d been operating a single location. It was definitely an adjustment. The volume of calls and customer visits was sometimes overwhelming, and I felt tied to the rental office. If I tried to visit one of the satellite locations to conduct walk-throughs or clean units, I’d often get called back for customers who wanted to rent or pay. I found myself having to perform routine maintenance tasks before and after office hours.
Later that year, when my dad and I attended the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, we met with a vendor that offered keypads and mobile applications. I was skeptical at first, but after watching a demo, I realized how much flexibility an app could provide by handling many customer issues. It might actually allow me to leave the office once in a while, so I was 100 percent on board. In addition to switching our keypads, we had the company build a customer-facing app for all three facilities.
Our customers can now use the app to make payments, open the facility gate, report issues and even rent units. Now I instruct just about every new tenant to download the app to their phone at move-in and make the first monthly payment through their device. Once they do that, they usually continue to pay that way until move-out. This drastically reduces the number of people calling in payments or stopping by the office to settle their bill.
Tenants can also use the app to submit a move-out notice, letting us know the day they’ll be vacating. This, too, eliminates unnecessary office visits and phone calls, which has allowed me to devote more attention to potential customers and focus on projects at all three facilities.
As a facility manager, I know some of my colleagues might be intimidated to implement a mobile app into their workflow or feel apprehensive that it’ll take their place. Honestly, in my experience, the app has been like having a right-hand man who allows me to do my job more thoroughly and efficiently, while providing a better overall customer experience.
Our customers love the app, which reflects well on the company. Since the outset of COVID-19, they’ve appreciated having the touchless features. They can open the gate right from their phone, without having to get out of their car or use the keypad. The app helped automate a lot of our day-to-day processes before the pandemic, so once stay-at-home orders came, working remotely was pretty seamless.
Automated functions are the wave of the future, and staying on top of the curve will help better position your self storage operation for success. As a Millennial, I “appsolutely” embrace technology and will continue to do so in the future!
Eric Case is the facility manager at Byron Self Storage in Byron, Ga. His father owns Flying Storage Group, which operates 12 facilities in Georgia and Alabama. As part of his duties, Eric is the go-to guy for any tech-related questions and oversees the facilities’ websites, social media, advertising and online presence. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.