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Training Employees for Self-Storage Software Use

Management software is intended to streamline your business operations and improve customer service. If you can’t make your software do what you want it to do—and what it was made to do—your employees won’t be able to effectively or efficiently manage your site. However, training is crucial to effectively and fully apply software at your facility.

What Does Management Software Do?

To fully integrate management software into your day-to-day systems, an understanding of what the software does is essential. Management software should automate the major aspects of operating your site including accounts receivable (AR), client information, point-of-sale data and reporting. Good management software should be an account-based system, which makes it easy to lease multiple items to a single client and maintain all client and accounting information.

The software should manage documentation by generating invoices, receipts and letters. Having the programs automatically generate these letters and forms and send reports to selected recipients via e-mail frees up your time and decreases the chance of overlooking a customer.

Quality management software manages all aspects of accounts receivable by tracking balances, fees and payments. If the management software system is fully automated, it assesses all rents when due and late fees when past due; updates all rental rates at scheduled intervals; generates default letters and rate-increase notifications; creates a variety of user-selected reports; and reports which customer credit cards need to be charged, who is vacating and other customer-related information. Additionally, if the software is integrated with a credit card processor, it will automatically charge the customer’s credit card or process an automated clearing-house payment for debit card and check payments.

The software keeps track of client information, such as contact information and additional user data, and tracks automatic charges as they are incurred by customers. This allows you to more quickly and efficiently take care of your customers because the management software automatically lets you take one payment for all items from one simple payment screen. User-friendly management software allows you easy, point-and-click access to any screen in a client’s account.

What Does My Staff Need to Know?

At the most basic level, your staff needs to navigate through the software and know how to use the program features. When there is a line of people at the counter, you want employees who can find the functions quickly and accurately.

Some of the essential functions include entering new client accounts, renting and vacating units, determining balances and taking payments. A staff that understands how to operate software is more confident and efficient. Being able to do computer tasks quickly will go a long way toward increasing the professionalism of your facility and showing customers you’re concerned about their convenience and will place their needs first.

Higher-level staff will have additional job requirements. Depending on the size of your facility, your site manager may be responsible for many of the administrative tasks related to running the facility, such as generating reports and customer letters, and tracking and processing accounts receivable. Your manager may be required to run reports each night, file them correctly or ensure they are passed onto the owner.

Generating letters welcoming new customers or reminding a current tenant of an impending late payment helps maintain good relations as well as verify the address on file is correct. Sending letters in a timely manner keeps customers happy and can increase your receivables over the long term. Customers who are charged late fees become dissatisfied and are more likely to move to another location. Sometimes it only takes a reminder for them get their payment in on time and keep them from becoming disgruntled and relocating.

A manager who can perform numerous software tasks is extremely helpful to an owner. Training to learn these tasks can be through trial and error, letting managers wing it on their own, but the cost in time—especially when customers are waiting—is considerable. Investing in training upfront will pay huge dividends in improved employee efficiency, better customer service and satisfaction.

How Do I Train My Staff?

Various levels of training are available depending on the job tasks you need. Based on job duties, different members of your staff will have varying training needs. The company that developed the software will usually provide training on all levels.

One convenient option is online instruction. Software companies will typically set aside time for anyone who has purchased the software. Simply call the company and schedule training. A fee may or may not apply.

If you have only a few employees who require training, you can inquire about in-house training programs that are usually presented at the software company’s home base. Since this training requires more resources, a fee is usually involved. However, employees will benefit from discussions with others in the class who may have different experiences with the software.

For larger organizations, it might make better sense to have the software company come to you for training. Although it usually requires a fee, the benefit of onsite training is it can be tailored to your specific business needs.

What Will My Staff Learn in Class?

Programs can be customized to the employees in the class depending on your operational needs. Classes should be presented in an interactive session in which the trainer shows how the task or function is performed, provides an example, and then asks employees to demonstrate their understanding. Questions are welcome at any time during the training to ensure that particular issues are not overlooked and employees understand all material covered.

Basic-level training will provide an overview and instruction for performing day-to-day functions required at a facility, such as entering client information, renting units, vacating units and taking payments. For employees who will be primarily working the front desk, this training should be sufficient.

Intermediate training is appropriate for site managers. Depending on your manager’s prior experience with the software, intermediate training will provide the information presented in the basic course, plus instruction on facility/site reports, daily reports and accounts receivable (if required for your site). Here is a great example of how customization of the course can be used. Different facilities have different requirements of their managers—some will handle all of the administrative and AR tasks. Training can cover whichever intermediate tasks you require your managers to perform and at a speed that the manager can follow.

Advanced training covers in-depth accounting and reporting functions. This training is suitable for an owner, accountant or auditor who needs to understand the high-level reporting and financial capabilities of the software. Management software has many reports preprogrammed into the software that can be selected for automatic processing and printing daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Owners need to understand which reports are needed on a regular basis, and how to read and understand them.

Management software can also report daily totals for accounting purposes. A general ledger is usually built in so that accounts are accurately tracked as account receivables. This feature is customizable and can be transferred into your accounting program. Training how to customize the general ledger during initial setup of your software will go a long way toward ensuring accurate accounting of your facility’s finances.

Karen Goodfriend is the senior technical writer for PTI Integrated Systems, a Chamberlain Group company. PTI Integrated Systems is a developer and manufacturer delivering complete solutions for access control, security and site management to customers worldwide. For more information, call 800.331.6224; visit www.ptiaccess.com.

TAGS: Technology
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