By Jon Fesmire
While some self-storage operators may fear new technology, it should actually make their lives easier. Let’s explore how mobile-based tools like the Internet, smartphones, cloud services and the right software are making the day-to-day job of running a self-storage business simpler than ever before.
Facility manager George works for a self-storage company that’s using outdated technology. When he starts work each morning, he goes to the office to check his tasks for the day. He has a notebook full of reminders, a few Post-It notes from a co-worker and a handful of voicemail messages. The messages are from potential tenants, so he calls and asks them to come into the office to sign up; but only one is willing, and another has already rented a unit online from a different company.
With his clipboard, George walks the facility and checks locks. He finds a dented roll-up door and writes notes about it. When he gets back to the office, he calls maintenance and waits on hold to report the problem. He then checks voicemail again to see if there are any new leads.
Next, he enters his property-inspection information into a spreadsheet and e-mails it to his district manager. Between writing notes, waiting on hold and typing data, he’s already spent half his day.
George uses paper forms and notes, and has to relay information to his district manager via phone, fax or e-mail. If there’s property damage, he has no photographic evidence to help him explain it. He tries to stay organized, but almost every day, something slips through the cracks, potentially leading to an angry customer or unfinished task. The good news for George and all self-storage operators is new technology makes all these tasks faster and easier to manage. It even makes processes and information more reliable and accessible.
Technology has evolved at lightning speed in the past decade. Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007, and since then, mobile technology, apps and WiFi speeds have greatly improved. The general public has gained access to cloud computing and storage. Essentially, the stage has been set for mobile facility management.
Managing Your Facility With Mobile Technology
Now let’s take a look at what George’s work life could be like if he had the right tools. Let’s say he works for a company that keeps up with the latest technology trends to ensure the business runs as smoothly as possible.
George gets up in the morning and logs onto a cloud-based facility-management system on his smartphone that lets him know what new tasks he has for the day. He has one voicemail from a prospective renter. He had received two messages from the system regarding potential renters last night, so he called and instructed them in how to rent a unit online. He noticed before bed that one had already rented. Thanks to mobile technology and a website that’s able to rent units at any time of day, George hasn’t lost any potential sales.
George sees he’s expecting a big delivery of storage supplies that must be signed for by a facility employee. He calls a part-time manager, Jenny, and asks if she can cover him in the office so he can work elsewhere on the property.
Once on site, George immediately goes out to do his facility walk-through. Using his phone, he inputs the data for each unit and scans lock codes. Finding one dented door, he creates a task for maintenance, and the system sends a text and e-mail to the maintenance staff. As George walks back to the main office, he indicates via his smartphone that the lock check is complete. A message is automatically generated and sent to the district manager.
George gets back to the office at about 10 a.m. and calls the prospective tenant whose voicemail he listened to that morning. The customer would rather come into the office than rent online, and George sets an appointment.
Done with this work several hours earlier than in the past, George sits at his computer and checks the management system. He sees Jenny received several important calls and resolved them. He can listen to the recorded calls and read Jenny’s notes. Having wrapped up several tasks, George can now turn his focus to other responsibilities, such as marketing or sales.
Software is an important part of any mobile-technology solution, and there are several self-storage programs that can help operators create a better-organized system. Each platform has its own benefits and features. Here are a few prominent ones to consider.
- eTracker LLC offers a property-management system based on tasks. When something needs to be done, the user—usually a facility or district manager or maintenance person—creates an assignment. Using a smartphone, they can even include images. Each task and photo is time-stamped, which helps with responsibility and transparency.
- storEDGE cloud-based technology includes management software, marketing websites and online move-in capabilities. Managers use the software to monitor and handle important tasks. They can even listen to and record phone calls. Tenants can rent units, make payments and manage their accounts. storEDGE will handle the initial website setup and continue to optimize its search engine optimization.
- Self Storage Manager by E-SoftSys handles lock checks, payments and more all from a browser. It’s easy to use on a computer, smartphone or tablet.
- Easy Storage Solutions focuses on management software for small- to mid-sized self-storage facilities. It streamlines billing, payment processing and more. With it, you receive an integrated website.
- If you find it time-consuming to keep up with the rental rates of other self-storage facilities in your area, consider using StorTrack, which focuses on competitive pricing data within a market. Since customers can compare prices online before deciding on a solution, this will help you make your rates as attractive as possible.
- SiteLink is known for its facility-management software. It supports the call-center and billing side by including accounting integration, call reporting, credit card processing, financial reporting and more.
- Storage Commander from Empower Software handles online payments and reservations, and includes features such as digital check-scanning, signature capture and even fingerprint recognition.
In short, there are many software companies that simplify your self-storage business with mobile solutions. You can simplify your auctions, credit card processing, lock checks and more. Embrace the new technology, and your business will flow smoother than ever.
Jon Fesmire is a copywriter at Storagefront.com and writes articles for the company’s blog, “The Renter’s Bent.” In 2011, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Academy of Art University.