In today’s technology-driven economy, the most valuable resource is data. Across industries, leaders are increasingly recognizing it as a business asset and scrambling to maximize its value to their organizations.
The self-storage industry is ideally positioned to reap big benefits from data. Operations of all shapes and sizes generate massive amount of information every day—particularly from their security systems—which they can use to improve top- and bottom-line business performance. But unlocking the value of this data can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to begin. By understanding the sources of data available in your operation and learning how to convert it into useful insights, you can lay the groundwork for more informed decision-making and better business outcomes.
Why Data Matters
In the past, business data was captured manually across a few limited sources. Technology simply multiplies the amount of data available and allows you to more easily identify actionable insights from the information you collect. Given the growing importance of technology in self-storage, the expanded use of data holds the potential to benefit your operation in several important ways:
- Better decision-making: Knowledge really is power. The data-based insights that emerge from operational activities allow you to make decisions based on real-world facts rather than intuition or gut instinct.
- Improved processes: Data captured from access-control systems and other security devices often shine a light on vulnerabilities and process inefficiencies. You gain visibility to opportunities for improvements, resulting in better business performance and tenant experience.
- Tenant behaviors: Data gives you a window into tenant behavior and preferences. Using information captured from your access-control system, you enjoy a better understanding of your customers and how they interact with your business.
Data-based insights are rapidly becoming table stakes in self-storage. As more operators leverage data to make smarter decisions, improve processes and create better tenant experiences, those that fail to optimize data use are at a significant disadvantage.
Sources of Security Data
A typical self-storage operation has many sources of security data. The implementation of advanced technology and the growing popularity of smart-connected facilities have exponentially increased the amount of information available. Some of the most common sources include:
Access-control systems. First-rate access-control software aggregates data points captured from keypads, door alarms, electronic smart locks and other hardware devices. The best solutions create customizable reports that highlight opportunities to improve your operation.
For example, every time tenants enter and exit the facility or change locations by building or floor, they create data. The system automatically feeds it into the software, where it can be analyzed and used to produce insights about traffic, tenant behavior and other activities. With this information, you can make operational changes that lead to cost savings and additional revenue opportunities.
Security video. Most self-storage operations feature multiple types of security cameras, all of which generate data. While pinhole cameras can capture images at keypads and access points, surveillance systems and smart cameras are used to monitor an entire facility, creating a video record of incidents and events.
Video data is critical for identifying security vulnerabilities and behavioral patterns. Camera systems enabled by artificial intelligence allow you to drill down even more to see things like when and how often individuals or vehicles enter specific area. This allows you to adjust staffing levels for improved security and cost efficiencies.
Internet of Things (IoT) platform. This combines data from various devices and services in an easy-to-digest format. But unlike traditional monitoring devices, IoT devices in a smart-connected network can create automated responses to insights, making it possible to react to incidents and events in real time.
For example, suppose the data shows that a delinquent tenant is more likely to visit the facility in the middle of the day. Rather than unsuccessfully trying to connect with the person by phone or e-mail, the network can staff the facility during that time and notify a team member when the tenant attempts to access the facility. The employee can then meet the customer at the gate and encourage him to pay his outstanding balance.
Once captured, the data created by these sources can be used in a number of ways. Ideally, you should have the ability to import the data from other sources as well, such as your property-management system, to gain a deeper understanding of your facility and tenants.
Turning Data Into Actionable Insights
Data is only valuable when it leads to understanding that improves your operation. Although your business captures mountains of data on a daily basis, you need to determine how to use it in a practical, results-focused way. There are countless insights to be gained from security data in self-storage. Here are several essential applications to help you get started:
- Site activity by day of week and time of day: Site traffic and facility-staffing levels go hand-in-hand. By using access-control data to identify ebbs and flows in traffic, you can adjust employee schedules to avoid over or understaffing based on time of day or day of the week.
- Frequent site visitors: The people who visit your facility most frequently are likely loyal tenants and candidates for upselling. Using real-time data points captured by your access-control system, you can reward them with discounts, gift cards, thank-you notes or offers for additional services.
- Loitering reports: These show the length of time specific individuals spend on site. If you discover that certain tenants are spending inordinate amounts of time in their units, especially after hours, it could indicate they’re living or working in their unit, or performing other prohibited activities.
- Health-check reports: System maintenance is a time-consuming but vital activity for facility operators. Health-check reports constantly analyze security-system devices to identify malfunctions or maintenance issues. So, if you’re having connectivity issues or recurring issues with problematic devices, you can intervene before a critical failure occurs and your customer experience is impacted.
Growth-conscious self-storage operators recognize the value of data and constantly look for new ways to leverage it as a driver of business improvement. With the help of sophisticated technologies designed for this industry, operations of all sizes can take advantage of data-based insights. As you expand the use of data, there are several things to consider:
Make sure the data you collect is relevant and actionable. The most obvious data points may or may not offer the most value to your business. Useful ones must be relevant to your operational goals. They must also be actionable. If you can’t act on a data-based insight or metric, why bother to analyze the data in the first place?
Evaluate data and metrics in a timely manner. Old data has limited value. While some insights (e.g., incident reports) should be reviewed immediately, other data-based reports (e.g., after-hours visit logs, loitering reports, etc.) can be reviewed weekly or even bi-weekly. To reduce the potential for stale data, consider implementing a cloud-based solution that offers real-time insights and anytime, anywhere access.
Limit the number of metrics you analyze. Analysis paralysis is real. If you don’t limit the number of metrics you analyze, the sheer volume of data collected can easily overwhelm you. Start by identifying the areas in which insights can provide the most value to your operation. From day one, you need to understand what you’re measuring, why you’re measuring it, and what actions you’ll take based on what the data generates.
Finally, continue to look for new ways to capture and analyze data. For example, access-control data may uncover patterns that allow you to reduce churn by identifying when tenants are about to move out. Or maybe the data will show that walk-ins are less likely to use mobile access-control features, creating an opportunity to educate those customers about the value of your operation’s mobile-access app.
Going forward, data insights will separate winners and losers in self-storage. To stay ahead of the curve, go the extra mile and select security systems that not only enable required security activities but provide the data insights you need to grow your business.
Chadwick Macferran is director of marketing at PTI Security Systems, a global provider of access-control technology solutions for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.523.9504; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.ptisecurity.com.