The self-storage technology landscape is quickly changing. To maximize business efficiency and profitability, it’s imperative that facility operators know about the many tools available. Likely, you’re already using some. If you aren’t, you may be leaving money on the table.
It pays to not only stay informed regarding industry technology but to closely examine your operation for level of performance and possible enhancements. A good way to gauge whether your business is reaching its potential is to order a technology evaluation performed by an impartial third party. Though this service is relatively new to self-storage, it’s similar to a financial or operational audit. It’s intended to analyze your technology use, define your business needs and goals, and identify the products and services required to meet them.
To succeed in today’s competitive self-storage market, you need to be constantly improving. A third-party tech evaluation will provide insight to deficiencies that can be minimized or eliminated by tweaking your processes or implementing new tools. It’ll give you a better understanding of the scope of your operation and market position. If used properly, it’ll help you boost efficiency, profit and facility value. Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved.
An effective technology evaluation begins with mapping out the tools you’re already using in your self-storage operation. You’ll measure this against your goals to determine what new tech may be needed. Here are some areas on which to focus:
Security. Strong security is the backbone of a self-storage business, and tools of the trade have come a long way! In many cases, new technology can take your game to the next level. Customers actively interact with components such as access gates and smart locks, and feel comforted by things like video cameras and monitoring, so an upgrade can make sense. It can also help you charge a rental premium.
Revenue management. You may already be using tools that help in this area, but to maximize income, you need to make sure they’re optimized and used correctly. Today’s technology, including software, offers support for dynamic and value pricing, rate increases, auction procedures, and more.
Marketing. It’s critical to use marketing technology in today’s crowded self-storage marketplace. Your map should consider your facility website as well as:
- Paid ad campaigns
- Process for requesting and posting Google reviews
- Google My Business (GMB) listing
- Referrals program
- Competition analysis
- Tracking of return on investment
Focusing on the way technology weaves throughout your self-storage operation and ties everything together helps ensure your site runs smoothly. Other areas that can be impacted by tech tools include:
- Communication between ownership and management
- Communication with tenants and prospects
- Staff training and evaluation
- Customer-relationship management, including sales follow-up
- Move-in procedures
- The overlock process
- Ancillary sales (retail product, tenant insurance, etc.)
As you map all these things for your third-party technology evaluator, you’re really identifying the customer journey and the main touchpoints of sales interaction, from getting a prospect’s attention with marketing to maximizing revenue during the tenant lifetime. Overall, this is a great exercise to help you see how well you’re using technology to improve efficiency.
Three Phases of Evaluation
One of the nice things about having an unbiased technology evaluation of your self-storage business is it doesn’t even have to be in person. You can use a conferencing platform like Zoom to engage with your outsourced professional. Typically, the process happens in three phases.
Discovery. When you map all the areas in which you’re using technology, you’re engaging in the discovery process. This’ll help you get from where you are to where you want to be.
Goal-setting. Once discovery is complete, you’ll review the findings, measure performance and set new goals. For example, let’s say your main concern is how to leverage technology to run a self-storage site remotely from 800 miles away. As you work through a series of questions, you’ll identify the challenges this goal presents and examine potential solutions.
Game plan and implementation. The final step is to create a game plan and timeline for execution. In the example I just mentioned, solutions might include a call-center setup, installation of cloud-based gate access, website optimization for converting online rentals, leveraging your GMB listing, and fine-tuning your property-management software.
Performing a technology evaluation is a bit like running a health-screening diagnostic on your self-storage business. Though the industry has tried-and-true principles to follow, the tools and systems used to achieve success can differ from location to location. There should never be a one-size-fits-all approach. Having an outside third party complete this specialized assessment helps expose your blind spots.
Doing things a certain way because that’s “just the way it’s always been” or operating with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is a recipe for disaster. Believe me—potential revenue that’s been hiding for years can often be uncovered during the discovery process and realized with some simple tech systems and tools.
Finding a Partner
So, you now know that performing a self-storage technology evaluation will help you understand how your facility is performing and identify products and services that can optimize your operation. The industry experts who can help with this are those who also serve as operational consultants or site auditors.
Look for a professional who has years of industry experience and doesn’t work for a specific technology vendor. You’ll be best served by a provider who’s impartial and can help find the best fit for your needs.
In addition, look for someone who wants to do more than just help you formulate a game plan. Ask about the full breadth of their offerings. Ideally, they should help you beyond the evaluation to implement any new technology systems and tools you choose to incorporate into your business. Once you execute, I’m confident you’ll better your performance over and over again!
Jim Ross is founder of 3 Mile Storage, a self-storage management and training platform. He’s a frequent speaker at industry events, virtual-summit host, podcaster, author of “3 Mile Storage” and creator of “The Ultimate Self Storage Playbook.” His company offers fully automated, unattended self-storage management solutions. For more information, call 801.381.3298; email [email protected].