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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At 10 Federal, our focus is on operating unmanned, autonomous self-storage facilities. Over the past four years, we've tried numerous technologies and methods to refine the process, and I'm pleased to report the model is succeeding. Properties that have been on our platform for a minimum of six months have increased net operating income an average of 18 percent. With our debt leverage, this equates to a 52 percent increase in the value of equity invested! What's important to recognize is technology is replacing labor. It doesn't matter what industry you're in—there are more machines, computers and robots than ever performing work that used to be done by people, and productivity is increasing tremendously through technology use. For example, we have one property manager who oversees all 15 of our locations. That's pretty efficient! Our goal is to find the maximum point on the curve where one axis is customer satisfaction and the other is cost. Effectively, we're looking for the best tenant experience at the lowest rate. We'll look at any technology that can improve convergence. However, the tools we employ can be used by any self-storage operator. Pick one or all. Any will increase the efficiency of your operation and save you time, money or both. Before I dive into the details of the technology we use, I want to emphasize that the following is not a definitive list. Our industry is full of great vendors who are constantly refining and improving their products. This is simply what we're using for our current model. I'll distill items into three categories: sales, operation and monitoring. I'll also shared challenges we faced to implement new technology and the effect it's had on our customers. Sales Our sales revolve around a leasing-enabled website and kiosk as well as a call center. A leasing-enabled website allows a prospective renter to create an account, select a unit, enter payment information, create a gate code, electronically sign the lease and move into the unit all on his own. Twenty-four percent of our tenants rent through our website without ever talking to us. Not only is this optimal efficiency, it gives us a big advantage. We can lease 24 hours a day, whereas our competition can only rent during business hours. We average three to five leases per facility per month through after-hours leasing. A leasing-enabled kiosk performs all the same functions as the website. Though only 6 percent of our leases originate through this tool, I still recommend having one. The use is enough to justify the investment, and the kiosk doubles as a pay station and information terminal for customers. Further, it establishes an "office" where renters begin their onsite journey. Another critical item you need if you're operating an unmanned facility is a model unit, since after price, the next most common question from customers is, "What size unit do I need?" We either convert an existing office or buy a 10-by-20 portable-storage unit to use as the model. We mark the smaller unit sizes on the floor using colored tape. Placing this near the kiosk allows customers to visualize the space they'll need. The call center is the final and most critical sales channel. Seventy percent of our leases originate here. Units are rented over the phone, or the customer can complete the lease at the kiosk or website. You can't escape having a call center if you go unmanned. We established our own, as unmanned sites were pretty specialized when we started. Now, there are many great call-center options. None of the above is relevant, however, if the customer doesn't know about your store, so it's critical to have an online presence. Start with getting a Google My Business Listing, then supplement with Google AdWords. I love this advertising channel because you can turn it on and off as needed. Operation For payments, we only accept electronic—no cash or checks. We lose 10 percent of customers when we acquire a facility and enforce this requirement, but we recover that loss quickly and the system is very efficient. A Successful Unmanned Model 10 Federal Storage improves efficiency and revenue with automation By Brad Minsley LEARN MORE Learn more from author Brad Minsley in the seminar "A Self-Storage Automation Case Study: Costs, Implementation, Challenges and More" at the upcoming ISS World Expo in Las Vegas. Get details and register at Can't wait? Check out the videos "Advancements in 'Unattended' Self-Storage Facility Management" and "5 Essential Automation Techniques for Self-Storage," available in on-demand and DVD formats at 66 ISS I March 2019

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