Out of Site – Out of Mind?
Does an Unmanned Facility mean that it is out of mind?
Unmanned Self Storage is all the rage at the moment. While COVID-19 highlighted deficiencies in contactless move-ins with for many sites not able to move a storer in electronically, many factors such as electronic access, consumer experience and facility layout, influenced customers’ storage intentions during the Pandemic.
Unmanned Self Storage Is Not New
As Self Storage developed across Australia, expansion into rural areas was largely unmanned. Typically, smaller sites are managed by realtors, with no management or presence on site; in some cases, expansion can lead to onsite management. The income generated by sites under 250 spaces is not deemed viable to sustain onsite management. There simply is not enough income to cover on-site management.
Pioneers in remote access were Centreforce Technology with the early adoption of their AccessEzy system, allowing gates and alarms to be controlled over a phone line. The early adopters in regional areas had more security than their counterparts. Over time, upgrades meant these connections were internet based.
Over the last 20 years, the technology used to open gates electronically, combined with better internet connectivity, has meant that remote access systems and security surveillance and door alarms could be installed, increasing access and convenience for customers, leading to a more secure experience for storers.
These rural sites are often an investment, with the main business of the owner being something else. In turn, many smaller unmanned sites were “out of mind” by absentee owners, often neglected and untidy. As the industry grew and Self Storage became popular, the manned site would take precedence, and storers gravitated to newer manned sites that were more proactively maintained.
A Price Difference
Unmanned sites often have lower pricing. Until recently, unmanned sites commanded lower rates as they did not have the exact features or access that larger, manned sites have. Newer unmanned operators have built hi-tech new sites with the latest technology, and these sites can command equal rates with those that compete. But there is still a catch…
Customer service is still the key
Because staff are not on-site to meet and greet customers or organise rentals, extra effort is required to manage the customer experience.
Customer service needs to be provided several ways, not only off-site but when the storer is on site. Text messages, web access, App access and phone access must all be flawless to ensure the storer does not feel abandoned. Self Storage is not always cut and dried, so having good communication tools for storers is paramount. Self Storage is about solving issues for storers, and you must be able to respond instantly and often out of hours.
An online portal is essential to ensure storers can access their space, interrogate charges and communicate with the site.
Storer protection via controlled access using quality access control ensures only those storers who are authorised to have access can get into the facility. Door alarms provide the last layer of defence for customers’ goods.
You still need staff
While you might not have dedicated on-site staff, customer-facing staff are still needed to answer questions and deal with situations. This is sometimes managed by having a centralised call centre or someone who manages multiple locations’ enquiries centrally.
Cleaning must be regular and complete, and surveillance is essential to ensure the site does not become a dumping ground.
You will need someone to be on call in the event of an issue on-site. They need to be close and empowered to deal with issues.
More than likely, an unmanned site will be competing with a manned site close by, and you can expect that competitors will use every tool at their disposal to market against your unmanned site.
With storers looking online for a complete move-in solution, ensuring your online booking platform delivers all the information they need to move in will be attractive to a part of the market that like the no-fuss, easy-to-do business and store their goods.
Bring the systems you need together
While an unmanned site may not be your primary business, tools are available to integrate the process of running a site remotely. With the advent of the NBN in most areas, remote access to the site means you can implement a strategy to serve your customers. We have written a comprehensive guide to unmanned facilities which you can check out or use the shortlist below as a starting point.
Here is our pick of the tools you need:
- RapidStor – Online Move-ins on the web, customised for your site
- SiteLink Web Edition – cloud-based facility management software – works with RapidStor
- Storapp – Give your customers complete control remotely as well as app-based gate and unit access
- Cloud-based access control and security door alarms – integrate with Sitelink to control access centrally and off-site
- CCTV with remote access to view site activity
- Remote intercoms
While unmanned Self Storage is popular, there are tech hurdles to be overcome; our guide has highlighted some of the issues to be faced. Quality customer service cannot be understated, as manned facilities have friendly staff willing to help storers.
With the right help and technology, unmanned Self Storage can be successfully implemented, but it cannot be out of mind. That doesn’t work!