When it comes to choosing management software for your self-storage operation, it’s important to make an informed, strategic decision. After all, the right product should make day-to-day tasks easier to complete or even automate, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the business. The features of today’s programs include automatic lead capture, autopay, e-sign, system integrations and much more, all of which create a more seamless experience for staff and customers.
The challenge for facility owners lies in choosing the right software product for their specific needs. There are many options available. Let’s run through some key considerations that’ll help you make a smart purchase decision.
Whether you’ve operated self-storage facility for many years or you’re just opening or buying your first site, you need a suitable software program. Yes, you can run your business on “pen and paper,” but today’s software options are too advantageous to pass up, especially when your competitors are likely using a robust system.
If you’re using an older program, it may be time for a change. First, consider how old the software is and how often it gets updated. There are a number of legacy solutions still on the market, but they don’t all receive regular updates. In fact, the frequency of updates is arguably one of the most important features to consider when choosing a system. Second, do you find yourself manually completing tasks your software should be able to handle? If so, it’s time to upgrade.
If you’re ready to make a change, do it before your existing software begins to struggle or stops working altogether. It takes time to implement new software into a business. It’s best to switch as soon as you realize your current solution no longer meets your needs.
There are plenty of software features that should be considered “table stakes,” or what self-storage operators should expect at a minimum. These include things like customer-relationship management (CRM), task management, pricing and discounting, reporting, and communication tools. If the program you’re considering lacks these basic features, look elsewhere.
In addition to the above staples, there are other must-haves. For example, your system should integrate tightly with other systems, such as access and security. This is critical. The more your various operational systems can communicate with each other, the more seamless your operation will be.
Technology has been changing at break-neck speed, especially over the last decade. Throw in a global pandemic like the coronavirus, and you can barely recognize the world we live in today compared to just six months ago. Over the past several months, the ability to operate in a contact-free environment has kept self-storage staff and customers safe while allowing facilities to operate successfully.
With that in mind, any software features that enable you to offer fully integrated, contactless move-ins is vital. These include touch-free payment acceptance, which is often overlooked when operators think about software. The right payment feature yields a more seamless experience for both the operator and customer and makes it easier to resolve issues when they do occur. Integration with third-party processors is complex, and problems are costly. A good payment solution gives you more control and, ultimately, more security. This is particularly important in an increasingly digital world, in which fraud and bad actors are common.
Finding the Right Fit
No two self-storage businesses are the same, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all software solution on the market. Determining which program is right for your business largely depends on the size and scope of your operation, as well as the maturity and adoption of the platform itself. You need to consider how well-established the software is and how many operators are using it. The more established it is, the stronger it likely is, too. If a solution is being used by a lot of operators, there’s a good chance it’s fulfilling the needs of those businesses, which should give you confidence that it’s a viable option.
For single-facility operators, it’s best to find a simple solution that’s easy to use and keeps all of your data and functionality in one place. That, along with the mainstay features we discussed above, are more than enough to help you streamline your business.
For larger operations with multiple facilities, a more robust, feature-rich software is in order. These companies have significantly more units and customers to manage, which requires a solution that’ll scale to their demands. Enterprise operations should look closely at the controls and capabilities a software provides at the corporate level. Many on the market don’t scale well.
Choosing the Right Vendor
Your vendor is as important as the software itself. You can have the best program in the world, but if the provider doesn't follow it up with care and customer service, that oh-so-great solution may not be worthwhile. It’s important that you both approach your relationship as a partnership. After all, the better your business performs, the stronger theirs will be. Strive to find that “we’re in this together” vibe from the supplier you choose.
Also, look for a company that can grow with your business and its evolving needs. Examine each supplier’s full portfolio of products and envision how they could complement each other over time. Even if you’re looking for only one product right now, understanding the advantages you could get when you’re ready for more can be really important down the road.
Trace Hughes is a senior copywriter at Storable, a supplier of cloud-based access control, management software, marketing, payment processing, website development and other services for the self-storage industry. He has nearly a decade of marketing and communications experience, having worked with several advertising agencies prior to joining Storable. He believes clear, compelling communication is the cornerstone to any successful business. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit https://www.storable.com.