There’s been a significant shift in the way self-storage operators are leveraging technology, and for good reason. Thanks to advances that allow people to do things like open a hotel room with a virtual key and pay for groceries with a mobile app, consumers now expect greater convenience from the businesses they frequent, particularly contactless options. The storage industry has pivoted to deliver, and operators now know that technology allows them to function and perform better than ever.
Tenants simply demand more from a self-storage transaction these days, and outdated facilities will find it increasingly difficult to compete. One item on which customers are always very focused is site security. They want a worry-free experience when it comes to their belongings. To help you meet these expectations and keep pace with competition, let’s examine some of the key components that have been recently enhanced by technology.
Every self-storage facility needs a fence around its perimeter and a way to control and monitor who comes and goes from the property at all times. Access control is the No. 1 way to increase site security. A modern gate will deter criminal activity and help capture leads if any malicious incidents do occur.
When choosing a gate, pick one that’s easy for tenants to use. With traditional keypads and controllers becoming antiquated, Bluetooth-enabled, smart keypads now allow customers to open the gate with their smartphone. Some mobile apps even have a one-touch access feature that sends the user a single notification at the gate and then proceeds to unlock all entry points as the tenant approaches to create a completely hands-free experience.
As the facility operator, you can even take past-due payments at the gate or communicate directly with tenants who are trying to enter. Not only are these abilities convenient, they give you better control and understanding of your property.
They also give site managers more freedom. If someone is having difficulty entering the facility, a staff member can help them from anywhere on or off site by opening the gate from their own app or web portal.
Traditional self-storage unit locks have long had their challenges. Some can be snapped off with a pair of bolt-cutters, and it’s pretty common for tenants to lose or forget their key. Bluetooth technology has been a game-changer for unit access because customers no longer have to remember their key or a code. They can also rest easy knowing their unit is more secure.
Smart locks give site managers increased visibility into who’s accessing a unit and when, while digital keys enable tenants to share access to their unit quickly and easily. These keys can be revoked at any time, and all activity is tracked during the key-sharing period to ensure a secure process. You can even set a key to be shared for 24 hours and then expire.
Another perk to smart locks is wayfinding. For first-time renters, shared-key users or tenants who don’t visit their self-storage facility very often, finding a unit can be overwhelming in a sea of lookalike doors. The smart-lock app can help users find their space with the click of a button. When the tool is activated, the lock will flash and beep for a brief time to help the customer find their door.
Some smart locks are equipped with a thermal motion sensor that can detect any activity inside the unit when it’s in a locked position. This means managers will know immediately if someone is sleeping inside a space or trying to break in.
Having a smart lock on every self-storage unit door also allows you to automate procedures like lock checks and overlocking. If a tenant is late on a payment, the unit will automatically overlock until the invoice is paid and then automatically release to allow access. This helps improve operational efficiency, as managers don’t have to physically perform these tasks and can view the status of all units from within a mobile app or online portal.
Each year, new security cameras seem to become smaller and more advanced. The expectation now is for this technology to integrate with modern security systems and feature high resolution and unlimited storage. As a result, many self-storage operators have turned to cloud-based video surveillance.
The latest systems allow you to toss aside bulky equipment and onsite data storage. This increases video reliability and safety because the data is now stored in the cloud. You can view recorded footage from anywhere at any time via an app or web portal, plus you can view any monitor in real time. Two-way audio can also be a desired feature, as it lets you communicate with people at your facility if you aren’t physically present.
A brightly lit self-storage facility is important for making tenants feel safe and enhancing the video footage captured on security cameras. Significant improvements in recent years have changed the industry standard. Today, operators can invest in LED or smart lights that are designed to minimize heat, energy use and expense.
Other advantages to modern systems include the ability to control lights individually or as a group, motion activation, and even notifications that can be sent if there’s a security incident. Smart lighting also gives time back to site managers since it allows them to be less occupied with facility maintenance and upkeep.
No Going Back
The rapid evolution in technology has changed the self-storage industry forever. Savvy facility operators will use advancements to woo customers and differentiate themselves from competitors.
With consumers demanding a more convenience and security, technology is the best way to meet and exceed their expectations. Leveraging the latest and greatest components will allow you to acquire new tenants and retain them for the long haul.
Will DeBord is the director of product and customer experience for the Nokē Smart Entry division at Janus International Group, a global supplier of doors, hallways and new technology for the self-storage industry. To reach him, call 770.637.7249; email [email protected].