The right self-storage management software gives you the tools to compete in a growing industry. It can help with processing payments, completing lease agreements and navigating the lien process. That said, it only makes your job easier if it runs smoothly. For this technology to do everything you expect it to do, you need to know how to use it and what to do when problems occur.
Sometimes, management software will encounter errors you can fix yourself; other times you’ll need to reach out to your vendor’s tech support. Let’s explore what you can do to make sure your program runs efficiently, what you should do when it doesn’t, and how to ensure tech support identifies and fixes any problems you can’t resolve on your own.
The Right Program
It all starts with choosing the right product. Management software should be user-friendly and improve your workflow. To avoid feeling like you committed to a program that doesn’t work for your facility, it’s important to address the unique needs of your business before you invest. Ask yourself the following:
- How large is your facility?
- How high is your tenant turnover?
- What’s your average occupancy rate?
- Do most of your tenants pay with a credit card or prefer cash or checks?
- Do you often find yourself involved in the lien process?
- Is your facility open 24 hours a day, resulting in the occasional tech problem after midnight?
- Are you OK with solving tech problems via e-mail and online chat, or do you prefer the phone?
Knowing the answers will help you choose the right software for your self-storage operation.
The next step to heading off problems is to thoroughly understand your software. Think about your own learning style and that of your staff. Some vendors offer in-person training, while others provide it remotely. A few might just stick you with a handbook and leave you to your own devices. This is an important consideration when choosing a program.
Everyone on staff should know how to use the technology at your storage facility. You don’t want to have only one tech-savvy employee and then encounter some unsolvable issue with the software if that person is absent.
After you purchase the software, the provider should do an orientation, either in person or via webinar. An in-person introduction will likely be more engaging, but a live webinar will still allow employees to ask questions. A pre-recorded webinar, while generally not as impactful, will allow employees to view in the information on their own schedule.
Regardless of how the orientation takes place, take notes and encourage your staff to do the same. Ask the provider for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation if it’s available. When new employees come on board, devote ample time to this training. You want everyone to have the same abilities when it comes to using the software.
Training should be an ongoing process. You want your staff to stay sharp, especially when it comes to interacting with the technology that’s so integral to your business. Accomplishing this is as simple as having a handbook available. Consider creating your own simplified version with frequently asked questions and answers. This will be a sort of cheat-sheet to moving tenants out, transferring units and managing leases within the system. This will be a first line of defense when it comes to answering common questions about the software.
Before you contact tech support, make sure the issue you’re facing isn’t the result of an incomplete update. Some software updates occur automatically, while others are manual. Check for them regularly.
Opt in for e-mail newsletters or other communication from your provider. Follow your vendor on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to stay informed on updates, new technology and bugs that are being fixed. Regularly check your provider’s website, as it may have an area where it reports known outages.
You can also reach out the self-storage community for help. Check industry forums and touch base with your network of colleagues. Perhaps someone you know is experiencing the same issue. Even better, maybe they’ve experienced that issue in the past and know how to solve it. If you or your facility has a Facebook or Twitter account, this may be a useful way to connect with other professionals with the same software.
Depending on your program, tech support may only be available to you for a certain amount of time. Be aware of this. Some providers also allow you to purchase a tech-support plan. If this is an option, it’s worth the investment, no matter how confident you are in your own technological prowess.
If tech support is available, check your manual or software provider’s website so you know who to contact and how. Support may be available by phone during certain hours and via live chat or e-mail during others. There may even be an emergency number or e-mail for major issues that occur after office hours. (Keep in mind a true emergency constitutes a software glitch that prevents you or your employees from doing business.) Print this information and post it somewhere so everyone knows who to contact as well as when and how.
Helping Tech Support Help You
If you’ve exhausted all your own resources, it’s time to call tech support. To solve your problem faster, be ready with information about your business and the error. This should include any account numbers, screenshots of error messages, or anything else that could be of use. Be at your computer, ready to walk tech support through the problem. If there’s someone on staff who’s more familiar with the issue than you, have that person take the lead.
Be patient when addressing issues with your self-storage management software, especially when dealing with tech support. At the same time, expect good customer service. After all, this product and service costs you money. Like the self-storage itself, management software is a booming and competitive industry. Customer service is the cornerstone of any growing business, and just as your customers expect it from you, you should expect it from tech support.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows customers to custom search and compare thousands of self-storage facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.