It never fails. You’re having a slow day at your self-storage facility, and then BAM! Back-to-back tenants. What’s worse is if your management software decides to act up. We’ve all been there. Now you have people waiting on you, and you’re not able to get things done.
Management software is the backbone of a storage operation. You rely on it day in and day out to manage the most important business functions. You count on it to work properly, quickly and accurately. But what happens when you have a question or a problem? Where do you turn for solutions? Your vendor’s technical support is there to help. Learn how to make the most of this valuable resource.
How Do I?
At my company, “How do I” questions account for approximately 82 percent of all software-support cases, and the most common resolution is customer education. Software is so fully featured these days that it’s hard to know where to find everything. The general day-to-day stuff like taking payments and move-ins/move-outs are easy, but what if you need to do something less common? For example, you might wonder:
- How do I send a mass e-mail to all tenants in Building A?
- How do I customize a lease agreement to include our company logo?
- How do I change the wording on our receipts?
- How do I transfer a tenant to another unit?
In these cases, you just need guidance to get things done so you can move on with your day. Technical support can help. If your question relates to something the software doesn’t yet do, your query becomes a feature request.
“How do I” questions are sometimes the result of a user error. Common issues are payment taken for the wrong amount, payment taken for cash instead of credit card, accidentally moving out the tenant, etc. In these cases, the facility manager made a mistake and needs help fixing it. This is where support technicians should take extra care to ensure they’re only providing instructions for corrections to which the manager should have access. For example, if the employee is requesting help with changing paid-to dates but doesn’t have permission for that feature, support staff is required to direct him to a supervisor or owner who does have authorization.
Dealing With Bugs
Bugs happen with even the best software programs. You may have accidentally discovered that every time you hit CTRL+Y, the tenant account you’re working on gets a $10 credit when he shouldn’t. Perhaps you figured out that if you give a refund for the security deposit and take a payment for the outstanding balance on the same move-out, your receipt balance is incorrect. It’s important that all such glitches be reported to the software company for fixing.
Some calls made to technical support are actually not related to your management software at all. Here are some things your vendor can’t help with:
- Internet not working
- Printer not detected
- Phone lines down
- Installing or uninstalling an anti-virus program
- Third-party integration (for example, an access-control issue if that software is from a different company)
Before You Call
Before you call support, it’s critical to arm yourself with as many details about your question or problem as possible. The quickest way for a support tech to address your issue is if you can cleary and accurately explain what’s happening on your end. Some questions the agent might ask include:
- When did this start?
- How often does it happen?
- Is this happening for all tenants or only a specific tenant?
- What are the steps to recreate it?
- Did anything change on the computer (new anti-virus, new PC, etc)?
- Have you tried anything to fix it?
Often, being able to recreate or visualize the issue is key to resolving a support ticket quickly. With cloud software, providing the unit number and some screenshots can allow support to look at the issue before you even speak, which can lead to a quicker resolution. If there’s a question about an amount or total on a report, circling it and sending the report along with your support request could help identify the issue before you even get on the phone.
Also, check the shared knowledge base or any support forums to which you have access. Most software providers have some form of online resource or help desk where you can find answers to commonly asked questions. Often, just checking these places can solve your problem before you ever have to reach out to support. Typically, these types of resources are free and available any time of day, regardless of time zone.
If you’ve checked the knowledge base and didn’t find your answer, it helps to let support know that. Not only is it appreciated that you tried to resolve the issue, it helps them identify areas of their resource that can be improved.
Ways to Get Help
Most software vendors offers several ways to assist with tech problems. Some might be free while others have a fee.
- Phone: Depending on the severity or urgency of your issue, a phone call to your software company may be the best first step. For other issues or questions, consider e-mail as a better method.
- E-mail: This is a great way to contact tech support because it allows you to easily attach reports, screenshots or anything else you feel might be important for the technician to have.
- Chat: If your vendor offers online chat, take advantage of it. Often, simple questions can be quickly answered. More complex queries might require a support ticket. In either case, the real-time interaction allows you to reach out and get the process started right away.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Now that you’ve initiated contact with your software company, what should you expect? Most customers feel every issue they report is a top priority because it affects their day. The vendor’s goal is to get to each and every ticket as quickly as possible.
During times with heavy call volume, support tickets must be prioritized based on severity. It’s important to realize that many storage facilities operate on a first-of-the-month schedule. This means all rental invoices are due on the first, and any tenant with auto-pay processes on the first. Because of this, management-software companies are often the busiest on the first few days of the month. This is when questions about auto-pay, credit card transactions, etc., occur most frequently.
Prevent Future Problems
Once the support department has successfully resolved your support ticket, there are several steps you can take to prevent future problems.
Write down the issue and solution. Keep it handy on a document; maybe even print it out and put it in a binder. If the issue occurs again, you can easily look up the solution and attempt to resolve it. At the very least, you’ll have more details to provide the support team about when it happened before and how it was resolved. This may help them find a better, more permanent solution if the issue has been recurring.
Avoid performing windows or other software updates during your busy time. If you’re a first-of-the-month facility, that isn’t a great time to change things. Work with your IT department to execute necessary updates toward the middle of the month whenever possible.
Ask your software company for a list of programs and services that need to be running for its program to work effectively. This way, you’re better prepared to troubleshoot. Is your gate not getting information from the software? Maybe the gate interface isn’t running. Credit cards declining or erroring out? Is the Internet working?
Self-storage operators hope they never to have to talk to their software technical-support team. When you purchase or sign up for software, support is usually the last thing on your mind. It’s a new product; it should just work. But there are many reasons why you might need support, and most vendors have online resources available 24/7.
When you do reach out, being prepared with some basic information will ensure you get help as quickly as possible. The goal is for you to be happy with your software and walk away from any tech-support call with more information and confidence in how your software works.
April Lee works in sales and marketing for QuikStor Security & Software, a provider of security and software solutions for the self-storage industry. She’s been with the company since 2008, working on various capacities including accounting and technical support. Her experience managing a 27-acre storage and parking facility helped give her hands-on storage experience, a foundation she draws on daily. For more information, call 800.321.1987; visit www.quikstor.com.