Increasingly, the team at Storman speak with self-storage owners or managers who are wanting to automate their facility. What the definition of ‘automation’ looks like can vary from site to site, depending on size and operational model – every business has individual needs! Some facilities may just want to be notified when a customer enquires about a unit on their website. Others may want customers to be able to choose a unit, complete the entire move-in process, sign-up for automatic payments, and be granted an access code all through their website – without any action required by them.
While there’s no right or wrong answer to the question of what your facility should automate, it can sound like a big can of worms to open if you’re just starting out. But it doesn’t need to be! Today, we’ll be talking about some of the benefits of automating your self storage facility, and exploring some of the key areas you might start off with.
Why Automate a Self-Storage Facility?
There are a couple of reasons you might look to automate your self storage facility, whether that’s fully or partially and the benefits break down into a few key areas:
1. To make you more money with less effort.
The wonderful thing about self-storage is that if you’re inclined to automate, it can be set up to run as a passive income stream and require minimal input from you. By doing things such as automating your move-in process and set-up customers for “set and forget” recurring payments, you can improve your cash flow without losing your whole day to administration!
2. To make things easier – for you and your customers.
Automating parts of your self-storage facility doesn’t just make things easier for you – but for your customers, too. The use of modern software and systems can provide customers (or potential customers!) with quick, easy ways to do things like reserve and pay for their units, access the facility with a unique gate code if they’re up to date on bills, and access their unit with their phone using smart locks. A smooth experience is one of the keys to a loyal customer, in this day and age, and automation can go a long way towards providing that!
3. It saves you time.
We all have those tasks in our day, and your staff are no different! The repetitive, mundane ones that don’t take too long or aren’t difficult on the surface – but when they need to be done multiple times each and every day, they’ve taken hours out of your team’s week before you know it. This could be something as simple as issuing receipts for payments, or sending out letters to overdue customers. Automating some of these processes can free up time for your employees to work on ‘big picture’ issues like generating new leads, and finalising new move-ins.
So what parts of self-storage management can you automate, and how?
Booking reservations and moving customers into your facility.
This is one area of self-storage that’s ripe for automation! So much of this process typically involves customers filling out their own details and information – it’s not an efficient use of time to have a staff member standing behind a desk waiting for that to be completed.
There are two ways you can achieve a more frictionless process in this space, depending on the level of automation you’re wanting.
The first one – that gives you the greatest chance of conversion from lead to customer – is to offer an online move-in process on your website. This allows customers to completely book and sign their storage agreement at their own convenience. By giving them the opportunity to complete the whole process in one go, you’re removing obstacles that could cause them to leave your website and price-shop, or procrastinate – and unlike facilities who need new storers to come in-store to sign up, you can take on new customers at any time, on any day. To see an example of what this online, automated process looks like in practice, you can take Storman Cloud’s Online Move-Ins for a test drive by clicking here!
If you’re not quite ready to go down that path, there’s still a way for you to take some of the manual labour out of this process. You might like to set up an iPad or tablet in your facility’s office. Customers can then use this to complete all their paperwork, taking as long as they need and leaving your staff members free to work on other things – and when they’re done, all that information will already have been captured in your management software!
The easier it is for customers to pay their bills, the less likely they are to run into issues with delinquency (check out our blog on minimising overdue accounts, if you haven’t already!). Automating your invoicing and payments can not only save you hours of admin work in a day, but it can minimise the chances of having to spend more time chasing up late payments.
Good management software will take care of this for you. At a minimum, you should be able to configure your system to regularly charge a storer’s recorded payment method (whether that’s a card, or a bank account) to make the process ‘set & forget’ for your customer, and have those payments automatically receipted into your system.
If your customers aren’t set up for automatic payments, you can look for a solution that will send your customers reminders via email or SMS when it’s time for them to pay – and even give them a link to a personalised online payment portal. To see how Storman Cloud handles this, you can read about our payment services here!
Security & Access Control
Your new storer has checked out your website that integrates with your management software. They’ve reserved their unit, completed all the move-in paperwork and paid the first month’s rent up front – and that’s all been recorded in your system automatically, without needing anything from you. Now, it’s time for them to start moving in, and then there’s the question of managing their ongoing access. Security and access control is an area of self-storage with possibly the greatest scope for automation – it really is up to you to determine the extent of what you want for your facility.
Perhaps the most common level of automation that we see is facilities opting to use a gate system that integrates directly with their self-storage management software. Ideally, this should (at a minimum) allow your new storers to receive an access code, automatically lock them out if they fall behind in rent, and unlock them once they’re paid up. Depending on the software and gate you have in place, you may opt to also set up features like specifying access hours for each customer, or receiving alerts if a door alarm is triggered. This space is ever-evolving, and will only advance from here – more and more providers, such as Nokē, are even offering smart locks that allow a mobile phone app to serve as the key. The days of carrying around a huge ring of keys are numbered!
If that’s not enough, there’s plenty more technology that can help you on your journey towards full automation of your facility! You can work with an expert supplier to do things like receive alerts if your security cameras detect motion at particular times, turn on lights outside units when the storer uses the gate and enters the facility – there’s all sorts of options available to you, and that number is only increasing as technology advances!
So there you have it! Hopefully in this blog we’ve given you some tips and tricks on key areas of your self-storage business that could be candidates for automation. Remember, you can automate as much or as little as you’re comfortable with – the aim of the game is to save you time, make you money, and make life easier for both you and your customers!
If you’d like to learn more about the ways our self-storage management software can help automate your facility, we’d love to take you through it! Just fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch.