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Self-Serve Technology That Creates Self-Storage Opportunity

Self-Service signage on brick wall
Enabling self-storage customers to serve themselves when your team is busy or unavailable is respectful of their time and helps them to complete their tasks quicker. This article explores the technology available to help tenants rent units, make payments and more.

Enhancing your self-storage operation’s user experience can significantly improve and influence a customer’s purchasing journey. All interactions with your business are part of that experience: finding your facility during online search, seeing the property for the first time, speaking with staff, etc. Facilities that provide a great customer experience win loyal fans who share their happiness with family and friends, and write flattering reviews that create a tidal wave of new renters.

It’s estimated that Americans spend 37 billion hours waiting in lines each year; that’s roughly 118 hours per person. Here are a couple of other interesting facts:

  • On average, people overestimate how long they've waited in line by about 36 percent, according to “The New York Times.”
  • A Harvard Business Study publicized by revealed that not only do people hate standing in lines, they’re “last-place averse,” altering their preferences and behaviors to avoid being at the end of them.

Time is a precious resource, and no one wants to stand in line when there’s a faster alternative. When considering your customers’ experience, what are you doing to help them skip the line? Are you enabling them to self-serve when your team is busy or unavailable? Doing so is respectful of their time and helps them complete their tasks quicker. Brands that embrace this on-demand mentality are easily beating their competition. Let’s explore the technology available to better serve your future and current self-storage tenants.

Online Rentals

At my self-storage operation, we give our customers options. When they visit our website during the “researching a need” phase, they can reserve or rent a unit online. We break the process into small, easy steps so customers can complete the task at their own commitment and time level. They move through the process at their own pace, providing more information until they finalize the rental. We encourage this on the website with the verbiage, “Save time at the office and complete your information now.”

We’ve also found great success with our industry-specific, multi-channel communication platform. When a prospect calls the office to inquire about reserving a unit, we ask if we can text him a quote and any information we discussed on the phone. We can also send him a Google Maps link with directions to our facility. If he decides to rent, we use software to text him a lease he can digitally sign. This is another offering that allows customers to rent a unit from the comfort of his smartphone.

Payment Options

We also offer customers multiple options for paying their monthly bill, and send automated past-due rent reminders via text for ultimate convenience. The message includes a link the customer can click to immediately log into his account, press a button and submit payment. There’s no need for a username or password—two clicks and his payment is done!

Customers also have the option every month to check a box and sign up for autopay. Then there’s no need for them to hunt down their credit card, write and send a check, or visit the office to fork over a payment. Additionally, they can pay their bill on our website.


Kiosks are another way for customers to serve themselves. We see them everywhere now, for example, at the airport, where travelers use them to check in for their flights, print boarding passes and even rent a car. There are kiosks that sell electronics, makeup and even cupcakes. They’re becoming so widespread that we even see them on restaurant tables to help speed up the ordering and check-out process.

Some self-storage operators offer kiosks 24/7 for customers who’d like to rent a unit or pay their bill. Some facilities are simply using a tablet, with their own website serving as the “kiosk.” If they’re already offering online rentals and billpay, this is an easy, do-it-yourself hack that can help customers serve themselves. It can also remind tenants that these options are available to them via the convenience of their phone.

Vending Machines

Some self-storage operators are using vending machines to sell locks, packing tape, box labels, markers—you name it. Ideally, the manager would be able to assist the customer in purchasing retail products, but in those times when someone is unavailable, it’s helpful to provide these options. Should a line situation arise in your office (good for you, bad for customers), these machines give them something to do to circumvent boredom and will potentially create an impulse buy.

Mobile Apps

Some storage facilities offer mobile apps that house all the tenant’s information, such as unit number, gate code, billing information and more. On those frequent occasions when customers forget their unit number or gate code, the app can help them serve themselves rather than forcing them into the office to hunt down a manager.

All these self-serve technology applications make life easier for self-storage staff and customers. Anything that’s a win-win is something you should quickly and eagerly adopt to help your business stand above the competition.

Phil Murphy is the president of Next Door Self Storage, which owns 14 facilities in Illinois. He’s also the founder and president of CallPotential, a technology firm designed exclusively for the self-storage industry. The company’s products seek to automate and streamline sales, marketing, collections and rentals into a single platform, do-it-yourself call center and SmartKiosk. For more information, call 877.552.2557; visit

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