In a perfect world, the average person would only have to be shown how to do something once to become a master. Unfortunately, bridging the gap between initial experience and retention is trickier than that, particularly when it comes to new technology. Statistics suggest that within an hour, a person will forget more than 50 percent of the information presented to him. Within a day, that number jumps to 70 percent and continues on a gradual climb.
This can be problematic for self-storage operators trying to evolve with the help of new tech tools, some of which can be difficult to implement and understand. The challenge is how to ensure staff retain their training experiences and apply what’s learned. To increase your chances for success, I suggest using a wide variety of early training options, followed up with ongoing touchpoints to assist with retention.
Whether you’re moving to new systems as a company or training a new hire, initial training exercises are very similar. It’s a good idea to start with your management software because it touches on all major functions of a self-storage operation and helps facilitate standard procedures and guidelines.
Regardless of which software you’ve chosen, it should be able to handle certain basic tasks, and employees should be able to quickly learn the functions used most frequently. Some packages even include to-do lists to help staff keep track of common actions, such as overlocking units or checking units for cleanliness after move-out, to ensure no important steps are missed. These seemingly simple lists can prove to be invaluable for any new employees getting acclimated to their responsibilities. Whether provided internally or from your software provider, the initial orientation should leave your team with a firm grasp of their roles and how the software can assist with regular tasks.
Following are some additional tech tools commonly used in self-storage today. Each will require some training but can also help reduce the overall learning curve, staff costs and even your company’s carbon footprint.
Customer-facing displays. Point-of-sale (POS) displays, whether portable tablets or fixed monitors, can be a great tool for onsite management and help improve the customer experience. A POS display adds a layer of transparency and interaction for the tenant. It also allows him to input his own information, minimizing data-collection errors. In addition, digitally signed contracts and receipts help eliminate paper waste and costs.
Kiosks. Self-serve kiosks have been a welcome addition to self-storage for a long time, but recent advancements in capabilities are nothing short of amazing. When integrated into your management software, a kiosk can ensure you never miss a potential rental. Some models even come with two-way video and features like voice assist to help answer a stunning array of questions from customers while digitally recording all transactions. Since these testaments to modern technology drastically cut down on management intervention, employees are free to focus on other important tasks.
Barcode scanners. If you sell merchandise at your facility, a barcode scanner can be a simple yet powerful addition. It takes only minutes to master a hand-held scanner for reading barcodes, and employees won’t have to worry about gaining familiarity with an entire inventory of merchandise and pricing. Inexpensive and user-friendly, a barcode scanner can minimize human error and ensure inventory is fully accounted for.
Once your new technology systems are operational and initial training complete, you’ll want to make sure staff can retain as much working knowledge as possible and stay up to date on the latest developments. Here are a few suggestions to help continue their education:
Stay social. Employee training is really a team sport, and subscribing to relevant social media accounts, such as your state association’s Facebook page or your favorite industry publication’s Twitter feed can keep you aware of relevant developments. Your technology vendors are also great sources for information, as their social media accounts usually include tips on using their products, information on new-feature releases and other content that directly pertains to the tools you’re already using. Other resources, like the Self-Storage Talk online forum, encourage professionals to discuss issues, share insight and collaborate on problem-solving.
Try sandbox/dummy training. Most software providers will have demos or dummy databases your team can use for training purposes. This can be extremely helpful in learning while allowing them to try new things without the risk of harming live tenant accounts. If you aren’t 100 percent sure how to set up something like a future rate change, this is the perfect environment in which to test it.
Don’t unsubscribe from everything. If you’re like me, you might try to keep your e-mail inbox as neat and clean as possible, which can be difficult considering the landslide of spam messages. Though it may be tempting to unsubscribe from mailings, many industry entities use e-mail for disseminating information you won’t find elsewhere, including educational whitepapers, press releases and newsletters. If there’s even a remote possibility you’d want information from a source, hold off on unsubscribing.
Attend industry events. You can’t talk about training without mentioning self-storage industry conferences and tradeshows. Whether you prefer the more personal and relatable nature of a state event or the seemingly endless array of educational and networking opportunities provided by a national expo, the self-storage industry offers numerous opportunities throughout the year to train, educate and gather information.
Even once you and your staff complete your training and feel confident in the use of technology, self-storage customers inevitably will find ways to keep you on your toes. It isn’t unusual to get lost from time to time. If you or an employee need help, your options are to access the provider’s self-help resources or contact technical support.
If you have a customer waiting for an answer, you may want to skip the self-help process and jump right to contacting support. Most support teams can be contacted by phone, e-mail, text or online chat. The latter will usually be the fastest way to get the answer you need and should always be considered in a pressing situation.
However, if a matter isn’t urgent, consider going the self-help route. This approach won’t only help you learn and retain information, it’ll get you accustomed to finding answers quickly. Most technology suppliers offer a wealth of user information in a variety of formats. Examples include:
- Printed and digital manuals
- Online knowledgebase
- Instructional videos
By following the above steps, self-storage operators can enhance their efforts to create a well-informed, engaged and knowledgeable staff while maximizing information retention and giving their business a competitive edge. Proper use and leverage of tech tools require training, but it needn’t be as tricky as it sometimes seems.
Kevin Kerr is the marketing manager for Storage Commander Software, a Temecula, Calif.-based supplier of cloud-based management software for self-storage operations. To reach him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.storagecommander.com.