Self-storage operators are increasingly adopting technology to better meet the needs of their customers and improve facility efficiency, which is smart, because consumers now expect more options and better value from every business transaction. People enjoy modern conveniences in their everyday life, and they expect them to extend into every experience, including renting and using a self-storage unit.
This is especially true when it comes to access control. Your potential and existing tenants expect your facility to be secure, but they also want it to be fast and easy to enter. The solution is technology, which can meet their expectations while helping you as the facility operator manage who comes and goes, where, and when. Self-storage facilities that offer state-of-the-art access control are attracting more renters than competitors who don’t.
First Line of Defense
Believe it or not, there are still self-storage operations that rely on a manager to manually open the gate in the morning and lock it up at night. But there are now much better ways to handle access control, ways that save money and reduce the potential for human error.
An automated facility gate and keypad are a great place to start. The keypad is wired to the gate motor and allows access by completing a contact when the correct code is entered. Corresponding software keeps a log of entries, including failed attempts. With a second keypad on the egress side of the gate, you can also record exit times to get an accurate picture of your tenants’ time on site.
The front access gate and keypad are your self-storage facility’s first line of defense against unauthorized access, whether by non-customers or delinquent tenants. When used in conjunction with compatible property-management software, they can lock out late payers automatically, denying access and requiring a manager’s intervention to override.
Keypads can also be used to control access in other places, such as the management office, restroom or climate-controlled buildings. You can use them to limit access to specific floors or areas, depending on where a customer’s unit is located. They’re also handy for controlling who can enter the supply shed, company storage unit or any other place that should be limited to facility staff.
Keypads come in many styles and offer a wide range of features. Some have numbers to be punched, while others allow you to swipe or wave a card or key fob. Some even come with a mobile app that lets a tenant use their phone to open the gate. It may even be possible to add one of these newer methods to an older system, depending on the manufacturer and model.
There are varying levels of security, depending on the system. An individual access card with no keycode is often the most secure. While many tenants may be willing to give out their code to a friend, relinquishing their only access card isn’t something most will do. Keypads with mobile access yield additional security over a keycode alone.
Technology often comes with unforeseen benefits, and such is the case with self-storage access control. Yes, it increases security and convenience, but it also accomplishes a whole lot more.
Capturing data. Accurate reporting on how often tenants visit your property, when they enter and leave the premises, and how long they stay can help you gain valuable insight to customer behavior and make operational adjustments to better serve their needs. Having a record of entries and exits can also help you spot anomalies and stop trouble before it starts. In a crime situation, it can serve as a valuable supplement to your security-camera footage, too.
Reducing staff effort and lost revenue. Updating your access control is a smart investment that can garner positive returns, sometimes immediately. For example, by automating facility access to restrict the movement of delinquent tenants, your managers don’t need to “keep a lookout,” and you don’t have to worry that these customers will empty their space surreptitiously and leave you stuck with unpaid rent and fees.
Minimizing human error. Failure to lock the gate at night or unlock it in the morning creates risk and hassle. Even with the best of intentions and solid procedures in place, mistakes can happen when tasks are managed by human intervention. Access-control technology can automate processes and reduce the possibility of errors.
Longer access hours. Automated access control allows you to offer property access outside of regular business hours, which some tenants truly appreciate and may even be willing to pay for. Your keypad system can even allow you to customize access for specific users. For example, many facilities allow police officers, firefighters and active-duty military to enter the property at any time.
One of the fears self-storage operators have about adopting access-control technology is whether staff and customers will be able to master all the features and enjoy all the benefits. The good news is modern solutions are relatively easy to learn, and most manufacturers offer onboarding assistance with how-to instruction manuals in written or video format. These serve as excellent training tools and can be referred back to whenever necessary.
Ask your access-control provider what kind of support is included with your purchase and if ongoing support is offered after installation. It’s likely they provide at least one plan if not multiple levels of service. Once facility staff has been trained, it’s a matter of educating tenants on any new policies and procedures they must follow to access the facility and their unit.
It’s also common for self-storage operators to wonder how often they should upgrade or replace their access-control devices. This is a valid concern, especially for facilities that have used the same tools for decades. If you upgrade this year, will you have to change out your devices in another five?
Depending on the simplicity of the system and the materials of which they’re made, some self-storage access-control products can last for decades. However, as with most technology, functionality and effectiveness can degrade over time. A good rule of thumb is to ask your manufacturer about an upgrade if your equipment is more than 10 years old or functionality seems to be in decline. A discontinuation of the model you’re using (or even the entire brand) is also a signal that a future upgrade will likely be necessary.
Impact on Revenue
The transition to any technology requires an initial investment, but if you make the right purchases, they’ll pay for themselves in time in the form of increased revenue. The upfront costs of upgrading a self-storage gate system or switching to a new keypad can prevent a lot of owners from acting, but that’s shortsighted. The point is to improve the business so it’ll attract new tenants and reduce your reliance on human labor. Automated access control is a great way to expand your profit margin and reduce operating costs in the long term.
Prices range widely, up to more than $5,000 for a full keypad system. Investigate options to see what best fits your budget. In addition, many providers now offer “hardware as a subscription” services, essentially allowing you to rent equipment for a monthly fee to reduce your upfront costs.
Installing access-control technology at your self-storage property’s primary entry points, such as the gate, management office and buildings, will help you meet the demands of a new generation of tenants while enhancing security and improving operational efficiency. By leveraging automated gates and keypads, you can drive business growth while providing the security and convenience customers increasingly demand.
Sarah McDougall is a business development consultant for QuikStor Security & Software, which provides management software, access keypads, wireless alarms, video surveillance, website design and digital marketing to the self-storage industry. Using her background in marketing and graphic design, she collaborates with clients to develop and execute digital-marketing strategies that help their businesses grow. For more information, call 800.321.1987, email [email protected].