Facility Communications Systems

June 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Facility Communications Systems

Facility Communications Systems

The fastest, easiest route to value-added service and security

By Lance Comstock

Oneof the most effective ways to move your self-storage facility into a class ofits own is the installation of a state-of-the-art communications system. Yes,the quality of the security system you select is critical. Of course, thelocation and general appearance of the property plays a major role in attractingcustomers. However important these basic considerations may be, they representonly the nuts and bolts of your operation. The key to leaping ahead of thecompetition is to offer an added dimension of service--which is exactly the edgea communications system can provide.

What do we mean by a facility communications system? These systems combineintercom and paging capability with the option to provide a musical backgroundof your choice. Relatively new to the self-storage industry, a communicationssystem is based on proven, state-of-the-art technology. Once you have purchaseda system from a reputable supplier with installation expertise, the benefits areimmediate.

Literally overnight, your storage facility transforms from an isolated,silent labyrinth of corridors into a more comfortable, welcoming and accessibleplace of business. Customer assistance is now available at the touch of a buttonshould a problem arise. Important messages can be transmitted in a heartbeat.Let's take a close look at customer advantages as well as the new tools forsales and marketing.

Intercom Convenience

Imagine one of your customers entering your facility on a Saturday morning,already burdened with a long errand list and frustrating time constraints.Perhaps the location is Miami in August--or maybe Minneapolis in January.Spending one more minute than absolutely necessary at the storage unit is thelast thing on his mind. Although this customer has never encountered troublewith the lock in the past, it happens to freeze up inexplicably. After jigglingkey and lock to the point he is seeing red, he finally crawls back into his carand drives to the office for help. Can you anticipate the mental and emotionalstate of this customer as he walks through your door?

Most customers will never require office assistance or reassurance thatsomeone is readily available, but every customer can appreciate the level ofcourtesy an intercom system provides. Should a problem or question arise, theoffice personnel are as close as the push of a button. "We are here foryou" becomes more than an empty promise or a catch phrase in salesliterature. If need be, the manager can hop on his golf cart and greet thecustomer face to face to resolve any issues. Conversely, the facility personnelhave an opportunity to convey messages to visiting customers over the sameintercom.

Paging Capability

In a world where cell phones and pagers are as commonplace as wallets andcombs, the value we place on being "accessible" is beyond debate.Being able to receive personal messages during a visit to the facility will beespecially valuable to busy customers who make regular trips to their unit.Whether they forget to bring their cell phone or just don't own one, with apaging system, their family, friends and associates still have an open line ofcommunication.

Similar to the paging/telephone system in a large airport, the facilitypaging capability works in concert with the intercom. Should a call come intothe office for a visiting customer, the manager already knows whether he isstill on the premises. A facility-wide page can request a specific customer tointercom the office immediately. This approach makes it possible for theoriginal caller to remain "on hold" for a quick answer to an urgentquestion.

As you can see by these examples, the ability to page customers also includesfacility-wide messaging. Have you ever called a business that promoted itsimage, products or services in a recorded message that played while you werewaiting to speak to a representative? The concept is very similar but even morepositive. Visiting customers are a "captive audience" for yourmessages, but they are free to continue their activity without experiencing theannoyance of being "on hold."

Musical Background

Along with paging capability comes one of the most appealing features of afacility communications system--the ability to fill the air with soothing music.The value of music as a calming, uplifting influence has been so definitivelyproven that silence seldom prevails in public areas where an atmosphere ofwarmth and comfort is important. In fact, our culture is so accustomed to thelulling affect of background music that we are not always consciously aware ofit playing. Still, we respond emotionally.

By their very nature, self-storage facilities are not high-trafficproperties. In spite of the confidence encouraged by sophisticated securitymeasures, many customers--especially women--feel uncomfortable with the isolatedaspects of visiting their storage unit. Being able to listen to a constant flowof music or human voices can diminish the sensation of being alone, much the waya radio or television provides a streaming background of song or chatter to ahouse. Knowing assistance is available at the touch of an intercom button addsyet another layer of subliminal reassurance.

Sales and Marketing Advantages

Studies have shown customers remain at their storage units an average of 20minutes per visit. Perhaps you are offering a special incentive for customerswho refer new business to your facility over the next 60 days. Maybe you areintroducing a service like the sale of packing materials in the office. Theopportunity is open to create messages that enhance your image, extendappreciation to your customers, amuse and entertain, promote your business,offer helpful hints or storage tips, convey important announcements--or all ofthe above.

From the moment you introduce a potential customer to your facility, theadded convenience and courtesy of your communications system can serve as astrong selling point. Any direct mailings, posters, signage and advertisingmaterials can highlight these customer-oriented benefits and run circles aroundyour competition.

Universal Application

Communications systems can provide value-added service to any mini-storagefacility, from sprawling single-story properties to multistory structures withlong hallways and elevators. The system itself and every feature can be totallystreamlined around your exact needs:

  • Number of intercoms and intercom placement.

  • Selection and source of music, including CDs, radio or tapes.

  • Type and the frequency of paging messages.

According to John P. White, marketing director for PTI Access Control Systemsin Scottsdale, Ariz., the facility communications system is a relatively recentinnovation on the self-storage scene, but gaining rapidly in popularity. PTIusually bundles its new communications system with its security systems."We wanted to make this product readily accessible to as many facilities aspossible. When the goal is enhancing the overall appeal of a mini-storagefacility, adding a communications system is one of the simplest and mostcost-effective solutions on today's market," he says.

Lance Comstock is the CEO of Preferred Technology Inc. (PTI) and PTIEast, with offices in Scottsdale, Ariz., Baltimore, the United Kingdom andAustralia. PTI has specialized in self-storage security for more than 22 years.For more information, call 800.331.6224; www.ptiaccess.com.

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