3 Common Concerns About Automated Self Storage
By Robert Priester, Storage Pug
Originally published 8/31/22, Storage Pug Blog
Automated self-storage facilities. Unmanned or unattended facilities. Remote facilities.
There are all kinds of terms being thrown around in the industry to describe the same thing: A contactless self-storage facility where customers can go from rental to move-in to move-out without ever interacting with an employee.
Many people have concerns about how this model operates, though. Let’s look at some of the common ones!
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Does automated mean no people?
Let’s establish one thing up front:
Whether you’re saying automated, unattended, or remote, it does not mean that the site goes without a person physically working on the property.
There may come a day when you can use a robot to manage the facility or when it’s all so mechanized that it can basically take care of itself.
Today’s not that day.
So, automated self storage doesn’t mean there is no human element. At its core, automated self storage just means that—from the customer’s perspective—the customer journey is handled entirely contactless.
You’re still going to need someone to visit the facility to clean the grounds and prepare units for new move-ins.
You’re still going to need someone checking all of your hardware and the facility grounds for maintenance concerns.
You still need people involved in self storage, whether you want to call it automated or unattended self storage. These terms only truly define the tenant’s experience.
With that detail in mind, let’s explore some of the concerns you might have or that you may have heard floating around, from self storage security to cost of implementation.
1. Is an unattended or automated self-storage facility less secure?
When it comes to security, there are two sides to look at. Side one is how secure a facility actually is, and side two is how secure a customer perceives it to be.
These are related but not always the same.
Thankfully, properly using modern technology and self storage software to automate your facility actually improves both sides at the same time.
While it’s technically possible to run an unattended facility without the use of state-of-the-art technology, it’s certainly easier to invest in the right software and tech. Smart locks and smart units, advanced access control systems (self storage gate software), and the right cameras and motion sensors mean that you can run your facility from virtually anywhere in the world. With all that technology, you’ll still have more insight into what is happening there than someone who physically sits on the property daily.
In addition to the data you get, these systems also increase both the perception of security as well as the actual practical security of the automated self storage facility. A smart self storage facility is both more secure and more convenient for the operator.
Of course, even if you’re not investing in this technology, storage unit security at an unattended facility shouldn’t be a large concern. After all, self storage break-ins usually happen at night when no one is working in the office anyway.
2. Are automated self storage facilities less walk-in friendly?
These days, the vast majority of your business traffic is almost definitely coming from the internet.
Based on information from the Self Storage Almanac, online traffic far outclasses any other lead source.
That said, it’s true that there are still self storage customers that prefer to physically visit a storage facility and rent a unit there.
So, can an automated self storage facility be walk-in friendly?
The answer is yes, yes, it can!
How walk-in-friendly you make your facility is really up to you and your investment in technology. Your method for walk-in rentals can be as simple as signage with how to rent online or a phone number to call for rentals.
QR codes are rising in popularity, as well. With the right website, having signage with instructions and QR codes can help bridge that gap. Though, the emphasis here is on instructions. Just having a QR code with “scan to rent” is much less likely to secure that rental than clear instructions.
If you really want to go the distance, you can set up screens with video walk-throughs for how to rent, visual guides for choosing the right size storage unit, and for whatever other common questions your office staff usually gets.
3. Are unattended self-storage facilities expensive to set up?
Is it expensive to set up automated self-storage?
Of course not.
Your level of automation is going to greatly define how much it costs to get going with a remote or unattended self-storage facility. That said, even at the high end, it’s not going to be an unreasonably expensive project.
Why? Because you’re not increasing your operating budget. Instead, it’s more likely that you’re shifting money from one area of operations to another.
With an automated facility, it should be obvious that there will be lower payroll costs. You don’t need someone to do as much work, and depending on how you run the facility, you may not even need someone on site except for a visit or two a week.
You can affordably automate your self storage facility without cutting payroll costs, even. But if you’re going to go all-in on state-of-the-art technology, then it’s only natural your payroll needs will decrease as a result, making up for the cost of technology and software.
Whether you call it automated self-storage, unmanned or unattended self storage, or even remote self storage, it’s on its way.
What it really means, in the end, is a contactless self-storage experience for your customers.
If you have concerns about running a contactless or automated model, make sure to look at the facts critically!
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