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Prioritizing Your Self-Storage Technology Needs: A Few Key Places to Focus Your Efforts

Everyone is talking about the importance of adopting technology in self-storage facility operation, but unless you’re already on the cutting edge, it can be tough to know where to focus your energy and money. This article will help you prioritize, addressing tools and enhancements that make good places to start.

Stephen Sandecki

June 22, 2022

6 Min Read
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Historically, self-storage has lagged behind other industries in terms of technology adoption. Part of the reason for this is the tools most often used by facility operators in the past were complex and expensive, making them difficult to justify. So, while consumers have been able to install Bluetooth technology and high-performance security systems in their homes for the last 15 years, for example, self-storage businesses are only now enjoying similar options.

Recently, there’s been an upsurge in consumer demand for automated self-storage systems, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. As an operator, you may feel pressured to quicken your pace and explore technology options. It can be difficult to know where you should invest your time, energy and money. My goal with this article is to help you prioritize your needs. Let’s examine some areas on which you may want to focus your efforts.

Your Website

With the majority of self-storage rentals originating online, every facility operator needs a high-performing website to succeed. It has become the lifeblood of any operation. In addition to generating sales leads, it determines how many potential customers ultimately become paying tenants. Simply put, a strong website is designed to convert visitors into renters.

Every decision you make regarding your website should stem from that fact. That means looking at your data to understand what it takes to convert a user. Invest time into researching and mapping the customer journey. Too often, operators get preoccupied with having a website that looks nice at the expense of the user experience. If you make assumptions about what visitors want and need, you’ll miss valuable sales opportunities.

When it comes to your website, appearance will never trump functionality. When you create one that operates efficiently and prioritizes user flow, it’ll automatically support other critical priorities. For example, Google’s Core Web Vital (CWVs) measure factors like server speed, load speed, visual consistency and stability to assess user interaction with your site. Well-written and structured copy will aid these performance metrics because it helps move users toward conversion in a smooth, intuitive way.

Another consideration is Google’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These ensure your website is fully accessible for all customers including those using assistive technology such as screen readers. When a business fails to comply, the consequences can be costly. Last year, 2,895 lawsuits were filed in federal courts alleging that websites were inaccessible or unable to function with assistive technologies, according to the legal website ADATitleIII.com.

In determining search rankings, Google assesses your website’s content, WCAG compliance and CWV performance. If you’re doing a good job for your customers, your website will be prioritized in rankings and reach more people. If it doesn’t meet consumer needs, your ranking will fall, and you’ll be less likely to convert the users who manage to visit. Again, your self-storage website should be designed as a lead-conversion engine. This results in more rentals and revenue.

Your Customer Communication

Investing in your self-storage facility’s online presence will expand your sales leads, but that’s only half the battle. While some customers rent online, others still prefer a conversation to close the deal. This is where a call center can be valuable, as it integrates technology with human interaction. It helps customer-facing staff identify user needs, share appropriate information, manage customer relationships and analyze consumer behavior. However, it also relies on good salespeople.

Your self-storage business might employ fantastic communication technology, but if the people using it don’t engage customers effectively, they won’t make sales. Similarly, even a great salesperson working in a poorly equipped call center or backed by an underperforming website won’t be able to rent storage units. Without the right tools, success is a challenge.

A highly functional call center is a harmonization of humans and technology. As self-storage operators, we need to invest in both.

Your Onsite Rental Experience

Travelers today can book a flight, check in at the airport and board the plane with minimal or no human interaction. Airports are rapidly deploying self-service technologies to improve the passenger experience and eliminate inefficiencies. The future of self-storage is touchless, too.

To get there, we need to look at consumer habits. While customers favor self-service experiences, the trends we see in tourism and leisure teach us that they also appreciate familiarity. Large hotel chains and fast-food joints are reassuring because patrons know what to expect from them. By comparison, every self-storage facility is different. Customers have to navigate extensive variables, from how to enter to the property and find their unit to how to unlock their unit door. As the industry expands into self-service adoption, operators need to streamline the on-the-ground experience, so users know what to expect.

For example, consider the use of self-storage kiosks. At one property my company manages in Bonita Springs, Florida, the kiosk became so popular that the location transitioned to a fully automated model. More and more operators are embracing this kind of automation, and yet we need more information to ensure we’re properly leveraging the technology. User flow is the key to designing a system that works for people, regardless of their technical comfort and proficiency.

This is why kiosks should be designed to prioritize simplicity and speed. Whatever our intentions regarding facility automation, it takes humans to identify the minimum barrier to entry and determine what’s needed to get a customer from point A to point B. Once that question is answered, enhancements can make the rental process progressively simpler and faster.

Keeping your technology simple always nets the greatest return. Investment is essential, but it’s critical to continually assess if it’s meeting customer needs. Without constant evaluation and improvement, it can actually do more harm than good.

Your Evolution as a Company

To evolve, self-storage businesses need to strategically leverage technology in concert with a strong workforce. For example, my company is piloting a proprietary system that helps streamline operation all the way from lead acquisition to business intelligence, which will help us improve revenue. We built it step by step, starting with an investment in our website. An increase in leads led to more incoming calls, so our next move was to build a better call-center experience. We then focused on our revenue-management platform to ensure we optimized our income and offered the right promotions and rates to achieve our budgetary goals.

In coming years, this system will help us expand more aggressively and give us the ability to be nimble in a dynamic environment. This is because the platform has been built around one constant: the customer.

Rather than fall into the trap of investing in technology for technology’s sake, be thoughtful in how it can enhance the customer experience and grow profits. Though it can help you scale, it needs a solid foundation and business strategy to succeed. It must also be deployed in a way that takes advantage of your human talent and allows you to get better at meeting the needs of those you serve. When new technology empowers employees to provide the best experience possible for customers, everyone wins.

Stephen Sandecki is chief marketing and technology officer for Winter Garden, Florida-based Store Space Self Storage, which owns, manages or has purchase agreements for more than 80 facilities in 20 states. He has more than 15 years of self-storage experience focusing on strategic digital marketing, technology innovation and the development of proprietary software. To reach him, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Stephen Sandecki

Chief Marketing Officer, Store Space Self Storage

Stephen Sandecki has been in the self-storage industry for more than 15 years, focusing on digital marketing, technology and Web development. He’s the chief marketing officer at Store Space Self Storage. To reach him, call 702.753.4780; e-mail [email protected].

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