There have been some classic games through the years whose names apply metaphorically to the business environment—like Concentration and Aggravation—but the name of the game for self-storage operators and other businesses nowadays is a literal one called Integration. I remain convinced that systems integration—which applies to everything from building infrastructure to customer relations—is the biggest game-changer for operators moving forward.
Technology, of course, is at the center of this because it enables myriad disparate systems to talk and function together, but meeting customer expectations is the motivational driver. As competition tightens, self-storage operators can’t afford to fall behind if they expect to optimize revenue and command premium rental rates. The cliché that you have to spend money to make money has never been more applicable, since investment in the technological tools that make integration possible is what’s required to improve operational efficiencies and conveniences for owners, managers and customers.
One of the interesting things to come out of moving the ISS Store to a new platform, has been the expectation from some customers that if they have a login on one ISS platform, it should automatically work on another, whether it’s the primary website, expo registration, the store or our online forum. Though we enjoy the convenience of single sign-on at the enterprise level through a private corporate network, this isn’t so for external customers for many reasons, including security risk. Never say never, though!
The takeaway is that as certain conveniences become commonplace in everyday lives, it creates expectations for all types of interactions. For example, it’s become easy to create a login on numerous websites and platforms by simply clicking a button to apply the same login for Google or Facebook. This comes with inherent risks to the user should there be any type of security breach, but many of us simply throw caution to the wind to not have to try to remember another account username and password. Convenience is a powerful distractor and motivator.
This is the impetus for so many advancements in self-storage operations. Integration is the epicenter that makes contact-free practices and the Internet of Things work and has enabled so many operators to leverage elements of automation into their services mix, including pivoting to a fully unmanned model. There really isn’t a touchpoint within a self-storage business today that can’t be impacted through some means of integration.
ISS has covered numerous areas of this recently. For most operators, this shift begins with robust management software. Check out our 2022 showcase, in which eight industry vendors offer insight on their program features, what’s on the horizon, and how to choose the right product for your business. Website, devices, pricing, payments, communications, access control, auctions and more can all be enhanced through modes of integration, so having the right software to bring all these elements together is critical.
One of the offshoots of these advances, of course, is that gains in efficiencies can also complicate internal processes, which require more third-party interactions. In-house marketing has become more difficult to manage in the Digital Age, even though the tools at our disposal make reach, engagement and reporting much more effective. This article on outsourcing marketing, with advice on how to choose a provider, even includes a section that discusses the importance of systems integration.
Site security is another area that has comes leaps and bounds thanks to technological innovation. Systems integration and smart cameras make DVR-recording systems look downright antiquated. Here are two recent pieces that offer good insight to how integration is enhancing security systems and pushing site safety forward for self-storage operators:
- Self-Storage Security: Leveraging the Expertise of a System Integrator
- Beefing Up Your Self-Storage Security Technology: 4 Things to Consider
The ISS Store also has several education video sessions available that offer insight to how integration is impacting various aspects of self-storage operation. We began to tackle the subject a couple of years ago with “Let’s Work Together! Achieving Self-Storage Efficiency Through Technology Integration,” which discusses how meshing technological systems can help operators convert more rentals and decrease costs while improving productivity.
The Innovation Track at this year’s ISS World Expo also featured integration-related sessions including presentations on must-have technologies, gate access, call-center advancements, digital-marketing trends and enhancing the customer experience through virtual services. All of the sessions from the 2022 expo are available for pre-order as streaming video, with delivery into customer accounts by June 24.
It wasn’t long ago that all these advancements sounded theoretical or futuristic, but the pandemic accelerated industry adoption in part because it’s become the best way to serve customers. That’s not likely to change other than new developments that further service convenience and enhancements, and offer greater operational control and insight. For most self-storage operations, the commitment to invest in systems integration has only just begun.