Early 2009 saw National Storage’s management team review the operations of their business and a task force was created to undertake a review of the way in which National conducted its business.
A decision was made to implement a call centre in the Brisbane Head Office leading to a search for suitable hardware and software. At the same time, a review of operational software was undertaken. National’s Director of Finance, Mike Berry visited the United States in March 2009 to meet with potential suppliers and attend the Inside Self Storage World Expo, meeting many International operators. A study tour after the show to two other US States revealed a number of clear indicators that would form part of the decision to make a number of core changes to the operational side of the business.
A number of Self Storage groups were visited and valuable information about call centres, software and staffing was gathered to assist National’s Directors to make a number of key decisions.
In May 2009, National Storage decided to change its operational software from StorMan to SiteLink Web Edition.
“Our decision to change to SiteLink Web Edition was based upon our study tour and information that we assembled as part of our due diligence. It became abundantly clear that our existing software could not meet our new expectations, so it was time to move on”, Mike said.
An implementation team was assembled with Centreforce Technology being part of the team. After wrapping up the 2009 financial year, the team spent the next two months converting the 58 centres from StorMan to SiteLink Web Edition. Part of the process was to establish a number of processes to make the changeover as smooth as possible with staff training and data conversion a top priority.
A number of trials were conducted to ensure that core data was converted for use in SiteLink. Both Centreforce Technology and SiteLink worked to ensure that the conversion process stayed on schedule and a number of key staff worked for 6 weeks straight to implement at site level and train staff. SiteLink ran a night shift during this time to ensure that there was always someone on hand during Australian working hours.
At the same time the call centre in Brisbane was being established with new staff handpicked for the task, a new office, new computers with separate and specific security requirements and a national VOIP system running across a wide area network (WAN). The call centre was set up with computers with 2 screens for each agent; one with call software running and the other with SiteLink’s Corporate Control Centre where agents answer calls and enter the information directly into SiteLink, all in real time.
Mike Berry said “We investigated the market for software to help us make these changes and SiteLink was the brand that could deliver. We have seen firsthand their investment in the technology, knew it could do what we wanted and were confident that they would continue to work with us to build our business capabilities.”
The project is believed to be the largest IT infrastructure change in the Self Storage industry in Australia. New PC’s, new concept, new staff, new metrics – all designed by the group and put together to make the required changes happen.
The change to SiteLink has been an integral part of this change and Centreforce Technology has been part of the overall concept design. The results have been more than worth it, with measured increases in conversion rates and occupancy, vindicating the original decision to make sweeping operational changes. Two years have now passed since the decision was made to change. Mike Berry takes up the story.
“We had our challenges. Staff and Management had to get used to the fact that we were going to impact their daily routine. Some staff decided it was too much for them and moved on, whilst others embraced the new found versatility that SiteLink offers. We had processes to change but we knew that would be part of the process of change.
We knew it was not going to be easy and there were plenty of challenges on the journey. I think it is fair to say that, as the largest operator to implement SiteLink, National Storage has helped shape its development and assured its ‘Australianisation.’ We will continue to drive development to meet the specific demands of a large scale operator in Australasia.”
Over the last 2 years we have reduced our computer overhead dramatically. We no longer have a “server” at each site – saving us considerable money. We no longer have a head office server and the associated costs of maintenance. All Head office staff have access to all of the group’s operations via SiteLink’s Corporate Control Centre on their local PC’s. Our Call Centre uses the Corporate Control Centre to deal with inquiries and reservations and that has had a material effect on our business in a positive way.
SiteLink Web Edition has been central to our mission of cost saving, providing additional functionality that is essential for us as Storage Group, particularly at a Head Office level. We have found that our suggestions for improvement are welcomed and while we understand that there is probably a long list of enhancement requests from the 9,000 odd users, we have found that our requests for new features have generally been implemented.
There will be plenty who see our “Experiment” with a call centre and centralisation of enquiry handling as a brave move, but we had to change our way of doing business to make reductions in our operating costs and to reflect changes in the marketplace. Our decision has been justified by the results we have been getting and the increase in functionality and efficiency.
“We continue to work with Centreforce Technology and SiteLink and we look forward to even more innovation from them.”
National Storage use SiteLink Web Edition, Corporate Control Centre and use Tenant rate Management for over 30,000 storage spaces