Monday, April 24, 2017

Automating Self Storage


Self storage is a great business model.  No toilets to fix, no carpet to replace, no busted pipes.  It's a straightforward, manual business with little moving parts.  But now, technology is disrupting the industry for the better.  Technology has and continues to evolve the storage business, allowing the owner to automate the business and manage remotely.  Here is how to do it...
Kiosks

Kiosks allow customers to secure storage units 24/7 without the manager's presence.  In 2017, most customers are fine with using automated service.  We've grown used to it in the digital age.  If you're a millennial, you're especially comfortable with the idea and probably prefer interacting with digital interfaces instead of real people.

OpenTech Alliance's kiosks seem to be the most popular.  OpenTech Alliance offers 7 kiosk models, starting from as little as $1,200 to their best called "Insomniac," which retails for around $19k.


The general sequence of kiosk prompts are as follows:

1. The users are asked what size unit they want to rent.
2.  Do they want to purchase insurance or a lock?
3. The users input their name and address.
4. A picture is taken and it scans their driver's licence.
5. A rental agreement is generated and displayed on the screen; the users are asked for their electronic signature.
6.  The users select a payment option: cash, credit (can enroll in auto-pay) or check.
7.  They decide how they would like their rental agreement and receipt of payment: email, text or in print.
8. An access code is generated and/or a lock is distributed.

Advanced Kiosks is another company that services self storage facilities.  Their recent 2017  case study of a North Carolina self storage business found that kiosks greatly grew business due to their convenience.

Both kiosks offer customer service call centers.  If a customer has problems or questions using the kiosk, he or she will be connected to a call center through the kiosk.

Apps

But, wait.  Why do you need a bulky, expensive kiosk when you can do everything a kiosk can do (except sell locks) with an app?  Well, you might lose your older customers with an app, but it does connect you with everyone who has a smart phone.  Plus, there's no worry about your kiosk getting damaged or broken.  There are many apps out there that can help self storage business owners automate their businesses. Here are a couple at a quick glance...

With Spider Door, customers can pick the unit's size, pay, sign an agreement, attain access codes and notify owners when they are moving out, all through the app.  It costs $30 a month ($360/yr) and $4 per rented unit per month.

PTI Security specializes in self storage security, such as keypads and door alarms.  They have an app that syncs with the security system, which will notify you of break-ins, who is and has been on the property, and you can also deny access to customers... all from your phone.

Locks

As mentioned above, you can get a kiosk or a vending machine on site to sell customers storage unit locks, but locks are going electric and digital now.  These kinds of locks haven't been widely accepted yet, but obviously this is what the future holds.

Janus electric locks are placed inside each individual storage unit, and tenets lock or unlock their unit using a keypad.  The business owner can easily change the code and lock the tenet down for unpaid dues through an app.

Slockit is a tech company making digital locks that can be locked or unlocked remotely.  I can see these smart locks taking over.  It would work so well with self storage.  Here's a quick demo of Slockit:

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