Today’s self-storage management software makes it easier than ever to run a facility. We now have applications that allow us to document property and lock checks on our tablets and smartphones, manage customer accounts and payments, and legally conduct auctions. Our programs work in tandem with customer communication, security features and other add-ons, such as self-service kiosks, to make life easier for facility operators.
All these solutions work great—once you know how to use them. Sometimes you’re going to need a little help. That’s when good planning and technical support are critical.
Purchasing a management software for your storage business starts with comparing options and talking to sales representatives at different companies. Once you’ve chosen a package that’s right for you, what’s next?
That depends in part on how the software works. You may need to install applications on your work tablets and computers, or you may just have to log into a website. A representative may come out to set up the software for you, or you may receive instructions.
Whatever the case, before you buy, talk to your vendor about training. It’s fine to read manuals and do online tutorials, but having someone from the company teach a class—onsite or off—for you and your employees is a powerful way to get everyone up to speed. An orientation will teach you how to navigate the software and use its major functions, and where to get help when you’re stuck.
Most of the time, you shouldn’t need to contact your software provider. When you want to know how to do a specific function, such as sort tenants by payment due dates, first check your self-help resources. These include the software manual, the company’s online FAQs (frequently asked questions) and user forums. There’s a good chance you’ll find the answer you need in one of these places.
Many software companies also offer free online training videos. Set aside time for employees to view these and increase their expertise. Even if the company doesn’t provide its own videos, you may still be able to find some online created by other users of the software. Did you know 60 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute? It’s not all cats and comedy. You can learn a lot of practical stuff.
Competitive software companies constantly work to improve their applications. They patch security holes, make usability improvements, add new functionality and more. If you’re using a cloud-based solution, most of these improvements will appear on the back end. In other words, the company will update the software on its own servers, and you’ll immediately have access to the upgrades.
However, some updates might be on the front end, meaning on your company’s computers. Check for updates periodically, and set up your system to automatically download and install them whenever possible. If you have an in-house information-technology manager, let him decide the best way to handle this important task.
Software updates can save you time when you’re seeking answers or having trouble with a certain function. Often, the vendor will improve the product and eliminate the issue altogether. You just need to make the update on your end.
Accessing Technical Support
Even with the best training, you’re bound to eventually run into problems that require help from your software provider. The three most common types of technical support are e-mail, live chat and phone.
With e-mail support, you e-mail the company a question and wait for a response. Most software vendors will attempt to get back to you within one to two business days.
Some companies offer live-chat support during business hours. To access this resource, you’ll need to navigate to the chat page and provide the information requested. This might include your question, the name and location of your facility, your software version, and the other details. You then click on a button to initiate the conversation and wait for a technical-support representative.
E-mail and chat support are often free or somewhat inexpensive. Most companies will also offer free phone support for a limited time, typically one to three months following the purchase of the software. If you need it during that time, use it!
After the warranty period expires, consider your options. Software companies offer a variety of support packages that will cover a certain number of calls over a period of a year or two. They may also charge you per issue. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your employees stay educated on how to use the program. When possible, they should seek for answers in the manual or FAQs, or via e-mail or text chat.
When you call, use the support number the company provides on its website or in the manual. I once needed to call Microsoft for an issue and accidentally called a company claiming to be Microsoft that wanted to install software on my computer. Don’t let that happen to you!
The vendor may be able to resolve your problem quickly or it may take time. Sometimes, the issue will escalate to a specific representative. The problem may be one the company has never seen, and it may need to do testing on its end. You may even need to allow the vendor remote access to your computer systems. Be patient and work with the company. Having worked in technical support, I can tell you representatives work hard and want to resolve your problem.
Once you have a good facility-management software in place, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. Using clipboards for lock checks, rifling through filing cabinets and mismanaging auctions will become a thing of the past. There’ll be a learning curve, but your facility will run smoother and be more profitable before you know it.
Jon Fesmire is a copywriter at Storagefront.com where he writes articles for the company’s blog, “The Renter’s Bent.” In 2011, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Academy of Art University. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.