10 Ways To Automate Your Self Storage Business
What does it mean to have an automated self-storage business?
Perhaps it is best to think of automation as a spectrum. On one end, you have a fully-automated unmanned storage facility. On the other end, you have a facility implementing a cloud-based self-storage management software for the first time.
Automation does not mean all of your employees will be replaced by algorithms and digital assistants. Instead, automation often means creating more efficient ways for customers to interact with the business. This frees up your employees to spend more time with those customers that prefer personal assistance when renting a self-storage units.
Automation is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can automate as little or as much of your storage business as it makes sense to do so. However, many operators discover that the more automation tools they implement, the greater the benefits they experience in regards to everything from operational efficiency to demand generation.
Below are several key components of an automated self-storage facility. You will find many synergies between them if implemented together, but even on their own, each of these tools can benefit the way your facility does business.
1. Offer online payments
Offering your tenants the ability to pay their rent online cuts down the amount of time your employees spend chasing down late payments. It also reduces wait times at your front desk because fewer customers need to pay in-person. Automated credit card payments can save you a lot of time and reduce outstanding debtors.
2. Communicate with 2 way SMS
Instead of having to chase payments with staff making phone calls you can use more cost effective channels like SMS. Many customers prefer communication in this channel and respond quicker and more positively to payment reminders and other communications in this channel. It also takes notably less time for your staff, meaning it much more cost effective than making phone calls.
3. Use digital documents
Implementing the use of digital rental agreements is becoming a widespread practice in the industry, and for good reason. Not only does it make it possible for customers to rent from you anytime of day or night, but it also makes the rental agreement accessible to all parties at any time or place.
4. Install a self-service kiosk
These are not overly common outside of the US market but we have seem some great benefits achieved there using this technology. If you aspire toward an unmanned facility, then a self-storage kiosk is a must-have. Storage kiosks can also augment busy staff or allow you to conduct business after hours. For whatever reason, many customers today show a preference with conducting transactions via a screen as opposed to face-to-face.
5. Create a website with online booking capabilities
Creating a responsive website where customers can browse available units, make a reservation and sign a lease is a form of automation that many operators are still yet to embrace. As the consumer shift to digital continues, not having a website is a surefire way to send potential customers to your competitors’ corner of the world wide web. Since the start of the Covid pandemic consumers have increased their preference for online self service and contactless bookings. If you have not implemented this yet, it is one of the biggest automation wins you can make. Check out RapidStor as an example of a great online booking platform which integrates natively with SiteLink.
6. Leveraging digital marketing channels to generate leads
Generating and following up with leads used to be a time-consuming and burdensome process for self-storage managers. Today, self-storage operators can leverage the power digital marketing to generate leads with channels such as paid search, organic search, social marketing and map results. Facilities that only take walk-in or call-in reservations are essentially turning away tenants who start their search for storage online. This can be done in house but it is usually more cost effective and successful when working with an agency partner.
7. Automate communication channels
There are many instances when you need to communicate to tenants, whether you are sending a mass update to all customers or you need to send a friendly payment reminder to a particular tenant. With the right management software, you can automate certain aspects of your communication needs. Such tools allow you to schedule emails or text messages in advance, or send messages under certain conditions (such as payment being overdue).
8. Use auto-generated data reports
An overlooked part of automation is the kind that takes place behind the scenes. Manually creating spreadsheets to analyse the state of your marketing, operations and financial situation is not the best use of your time. Smart management software analyses and reports the data you want, when you need it in real time. This allows you to make more timely business decisions with confidence. If you have a specific report that you produce regularly and is key for important decision making, consider getting a custom report developed to be automated which can save your staff time producing it and also speed up the time to get the information so you can make decisions sooner.
9. Install video cameras
If you are moving to an unmanned model, or even partially automated, an internet-connected video surveillance system is a must have. This allows you to keep eyes on your property, even when staff are not present.
10. Hire the right staff
Again, the goal of automation isn’t to remove the human element completely. In fact, it is essential to have a technologically-proficient staff in place to oversee the smooth operation of automation tools. Even with an unmanned facility, you will likely need some help behind the scenes.
Putting it all together
As the industry moves into the 21st century, some level of automation is inevitable. Ultimately, automation is about enabling your employees to do more. Automation works best when all the different pieces are working together in harmony. If you need help or advice on how to better leverage automation in your facility get in touch and we can work through a plan for your business to maximise the sue of automation, and ultimately maximise profitability.