Inside Self-Storage

MAR 2019

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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T he way we interact with computers changes approximately every 10 years. First, we used punch cards, then keyboards and monitors, then the mouse, which was followed by touch screens. Each of these changes meant learning new skills but ultimately improved the way we engage with technology. The next user interface is voice-driven. Think of Alexa, Google Home and Siri. A voice-activated device can enable all kinds of hands-free functions at self-storage facilities, from opening gates or doors to answering data-specific questions such as, "Who was the last person who entered the property?" Enabling these types of abilities is like giving the manager an office assistant, allowing him to quickly perform actions and tasks. Voice-enabled, artificially intelligent assistants are being rapidly adopted in the U.S. today. Software firm Pegasystems Inc. recently asked Americans whether they believed they had interacted with artificial intelligence (AI). Only one in three said yes, when in fact, almost 85 percent had done so. AI is touching more facets of our lives, and we need to start thinking about how it can improve the self-storage industry and our customers' experience. AI for Business While voice interactions with AI assistants are fast becoming commonplace in the home, Amazon is looking to bring the same benefits to the commercial sector with Alexa for Business. The service has three main components: management tools, an application program interface to integrate with existing applications and infrastructure, and Echo devices, which can be configured for individual tasks or used in shared locations such as conference rooms or lobbies. SPEAK UP! How voice-enabled devices improve the industry and customer experience By Jon Loftin Alexa devices open a vast array of features and functionality. Some of the skills that are useful for businesses include: • E-mail management, which allows you to read, reply and manage e-mails • Website monitoring, which allows you to learn the status of your websites • Schedule management, which allows you to set reminders and conf rm completion for tasks such as self- storage facility maintenance Because these devices are cloud-based, they can easily be enhanced and expanded. Cloud-based systems allow for easy improvements without the high cost of upgrading older PC-based technology. Self-storage operators who are using antiquated tools should investigate newer platforms that allow for additional functionality, increased security and lower cost of ownership. Some are already experiencing multiple benefits by employing voice-enabled devices at their locations. "We've seen numerous times where overcoming a language barrier sealed the deal in securing a rental," says Natolie Ochi, president of SKS Management, which operates 23 self-storage properties in California. "We see future benefits of voice-driven functions at our properties, from having Alexa open our gates to giving the manager a daily briefing report, setting reminders, and so much more." Common Uses Here are some common ways to use voice-enabled devices and platforms at your self-storage locations: Language translation. If a customer who doesn't speak English enters your facility, you can ask the device to translate your speech into the customer's language and vice versa, omitting the language barrier and facilitating a unit rental. It vastly improves the customer experience for non-English speakers. Control other facility devices . Voice technology can also be used to control thermostats, gates, doors and more. For example, you can simply say, "Open the front gate." There's no need to stop what you're doing to find the clicker or open the access software to perform this simple function. You can even ask the AI to begin the work day, which might include turning on lights, starting the coffee-maker, telling you the weather or breaking news, or relaying the number of rentals the facility had via the self-serve kiosk or online reservation system during the night. Obtain information. Instead of having to look up information on the facility computer, you can simply ask the device, "Who was the last tenant on site?" or "How many tenants are on the property?" If you run daily reports on occupancy, rental rates and other key metrics, the technology can provide data that will help you better operate and manage the site. You could even set this up as part of your morning briefing. LEARN MORE Learn more about AI tools in the seminar "The Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on Self-Storage Marketing," presented by John Jordan at the upcoming ISS World Expo in Las Vegas. Get details and register at 28 ISS I March 2019

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