It’s important for a self-storage operators to invest in facility-management software that enables greater business efficiency and profitability, but sifting through the many products on today’s market can be overwhelming. This article helps you understand common and advanced features, third party integrations, and how to weigh your options.

Christian Thurgood

February 17, 2024

5 Min Read

For self-storage operators to keep up in today’s fast-paced, cutthroat environment, it’s important to leverage management software that makes your facility more efficient and profitable. However, sifting through all the products on the market can be overwhelming. Below is basic advice to help you start your journey. We’ll look at software types and common features, new functionality emerging within the industry, and third-party integrations to consider. I’ll also walk you through criteria for weighing the options, so you can determine which software will best fit your business needs.

Software Types and Common Features

Most of today’s self-storage software programs are web-based. This means the information is stored in the cloud instead of locally on a computer. One of the biggest advantages of these products is they can be accessed on almost any device from anywhere as long as you’re connected to the internet.

In contrast, a desktop application is installed directly on your machine and can usually only be accessed via that one device. This used to be the norm in the self-storage industry but is much less common now.

Following are the most prevalent functions of today’s self-storage management software. These are necessary no matter which platform you choose because they allow you to perform core business tasks such as renting units and collecting money, which are the lifeblood of an operation.

  • Access-control connectivity

  • Inventory management

  • Online rentals

  • Online payments and autopay

  • Automatic late notices

  • Sales of ancillary products and services

  • Robust financial reporting

A current hot topic within the self-storage industry is fluid rate management, which is the ability to change street prices based on unit availability and competitor pricing. Many of today’s software programs also allow you to adjust rents for existing tenants based on similar criteria and other trends. Some have the ability to do all of this for you automatically based on parameters you set. This can save quite a bit of time and ensures optimal profitability based on market conditions.

New Features

Self-storage software suppliers are constantly adding new features to provide a better experience for facility operators and their tenants. For example, a recent innovation is contactless rentals that allow a customer to move in without the help of a manager. They can rent online, e-sign a lease agreement, and then receive move-in instructions and a gate access code via text or email.

Of course, not everyone pays their bill on time or keeps their account current. When a self-storage tenant becomes past-due, there are software systems that can manage the entire collections process for you. They identify delinquent tenants, then deny gate access or lock them out of their unit. Some will even send delinquency notices via text and email, and place automated collections calls.

There are many more options available today, but not all of them are necessary for every self-storage facility. Just because a software program issues a new feature doesn’t mean you need to implement it right away, either. When vetting products, discern which have the most functions you can use right away while considering future scalability.

Third-Party Integrations

These days, self-storage management software is most effective when combined with additional products and services that help provide a complete customer experience. However, not all platforms integrate with all third-party options. Each software provider has their preferred partners. That said, when choosing a program, consider whether you’ll be using any of the following:

  • Automatic gates

  • Smart locks

  • Call center

  • Security cameras or alarms

  • Self-serve kiosk

Also, will you be selling any ancillaries such as retail merchandise, truck rentals, or tenant insurance or protection programs? It’s helpful to know which products and vendors you use or intend to use for the above, as those decisions can dictate which management software will work best. For example, if you plan to hire a call center, it’s wise to check whether it has a formal integration with the platform you’re considering or agents will need to access your system using a manager login, which isn’t the most secure approach.

Weighing Your Options

When comparing self-storage software solutions, do your homework. Conduct research and ask questions that are relevant to your operation. This requires more effort up front but will save you time and energy down the road.

One of the biggest mistakes self-storage operators make when looking for a facility-management software is being easily lured by flashy new features, which can be expensive and unnecessary. When evaluating your options, consider facility size, location, client demographics, site traffic and budget. A site in New York City will have different requirements than a small-town property in Southern Utah.

It’s important to understand your target market and what your customers will be most comfortable with when interacting with your business. A self-storage software feature might seem cool, but if the user experience is complicated or clunky, it could result in poor tenant experience. Instead, opt for those that make your life easier as the facility operator and enhance customer engagement.

Everything you purchase should go through a cost-benefit analysis. You can only charge so much for a self-storage unit based on your market, so finding a software that fits your budget is critical. Ask yourself, “What problem am I solving, and how will this allow me to be more efficient and profitable?” If the product you’re considering can’t deliver on at least one of those, it might not be worth the cost.

Purchasing a new self-storage software system should not be taken lightly. If you’re switching from an existing program, the task be can particularly difficult and time-consuming because of the data that must be transferred and the integrations that must be set up. Ultimately, you’ll be much happier in the long run if you take the time to match the right solution to your current needs and future goals.

Christian Thurgood is a partner with Zion Call Management, which provides call-center services to the self-storage industry. For the last eight-plus years, he and his team have helped thousands of self-storage operators run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. He was previously a partner with management-software provider Easy Storage Solutions. To reach him, call 801.425.7979; email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Christian Thurgood

Christian Thurgood is a partner with Zion Call Management, which provides call-center services to the self-storage industry. For the last eight-plus years, he and his team have helped thousands of self-storage operators run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. He was previously a partner with management-software provider Easy Storage Solutions. To reach him, call 801.425.7979; email [email protected].

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