Self-storage has come a long way from its initial concept of industrial locations consisting of metal buildings sprawled out in rows with little to no security and a place for customers to dump the junk they no longer need or want. This old school approach clearly doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, it’s all about the customer experience when ensuring the success of your facility and standing out in the increasingly competitive self-storage landscape of today.
That’s why it’s critical to think about the customer experience when developing a plan for building your new self-storage facility. How do you develop a plan for your facility that’s focused on providing a great customer experience? Keep reading to find out!
In this blog we’ll cover 5 ways you can build your new self storage facility with the customer in mind (and why it’s so important).
- Site Layout and Design
- Tenant Pleasing Unit Mix
- Smart Technology and Customer Convenience
- Enhanced Security and Safety Measures
- Ancillary Services and Amenities
Site Layout and Design
There’s no denying that choosing the location of your self-storage facility is one of the most important decisions you will make, but the decisions surrounding the overall site layout are just as important. To ensure an efficient layout that will serve you and your customers for many years to come, there are a four key design tips to consider.
Eliminate “Road Rage” and Property Damage
We’ve all been frustrated while driving, but add a 10-foot trailer and nowhere to turn around and that’ll get the temper brewing even faster. Not to mention, the likelihood of your property being damaged in the pursuit to clear the area before someone’s “man card” gets confiscated (i.e. not everyone driving a truck and/or trailer is equipped to do so). The good news is that both of these dilemmas can be avoided by simply designing your site layout with the traffic flow in mind.
Designing driveways that circle around your facility is a great way to provide an easy entrance and outlet for customers. Also, make sure to provide adequate turnaround space around the sides of the exterior. Your local ordinances may outline their own requirements for this. If your facility is gated, the same turnaround considerations are recommended to the outside of the gated area as well. This will help assure happy customers and a damage-free facility.
Ice Isn’t Always Medicinal
Is your location subject to extreme weather conditions such as snow? If the answer is yes, then consider the potential flooding to the property from melting snow and make sure that there is an adequate path for water run-off. Standing water in a freezing climate is dangerous for employees and customers alike, so paying close attention to slopes and areas that could hold water can save you the inconvenience and potential lawsuits later on.
Tenant Pleasing Unit Mix
Choosing the right unit mix can be one of the key elements to making or breaking your business. It’s always important that you do your research to determine what kind of unit mix meets the demands in your market. Having larger units are great, but based on your findings from market research you may see that a larger quantity of smaller units are in high demand. In this case (same is true of the opposite), if you don’t have enough of the unit sizes that are in higher demand, while having others sitting empty, you might as well just escort potential clients right to your competitor down the road. Adding the right variety of unit sizes will help you get the most use out of your facility and keep occupancy rates at their highest.
Take these examples for instance. If you’re in wine country or have tenants looking to store valuables that must be kept within certain temperatures, you’ll need to consider climate controlled storage units. Maybe you have more millennials in your area who need to store their bikes, kayaks, or other play toys that don’t require as much space. This would be perfect for adding smaller units to the mix. Or, your facility could be located next to a college campus, which would then be a great idea for including lockers.
Climate Control vs. Drive Up (or Both?)
It’s true, both options have their advantages. While indoor climate controlled units may be of upmost importance for some, others prefer the convenience of driving right up to their unit to unload their items. So why not consider both?
Nobody likes to move in scorching temperatures or pouring rain, but sometimes Mother Nature has other plans for moving day. Adding drive-thru storage units to your facility is a great way to provide tenants a climate-controlled option that allows them to avoid the weather elements but still enjoy the convenience of a drive up unit. And just think, while you are giving tenants a more convenient experience, you’re also able to charge more in rent for these units. The selling points are obvious - drive right up to your climate controlled unit, unpack your vehicle and fill your unit without ever having to step foot outside.
A New Take on a Traditional Storage Idea
An interior drive through aisle provides protection from the elements, climate control, and convenience for tenants, resulting in top of the line, premium access units that accumulate higher rental rates. While we typically think of drive through storage as being more for conversion projects, it can also be a great option for brand new single-story or multistory facilities. These types of units are ideal for commercial contractors who access their unit every day, or for families who need a climate-controlled unit large enough to store their valuable items, such as expensive furniture, appliances, or recreational vehicles.
The Ins and Outs of Drive-Thru Self-Storage
If you have concerns about including a drive through aisle in your storage facility, let me squash those now. Drive-thru aisles can be included in single-story or multistory facilities, although building up could help accommodate this without the potential of losing out on rentable square footage. Most drive aisles are 30 feet wide, but can go as low as 20 feet wide. This gives larger vehicles, like moving trucks, plenty of room to enter the facility, and provides sufficient room for parking. Straight-through drive aisles are typically recommended, as one way traffic provides the best flow for the tenants to get in and out, without the struggle of having to turn around. Some have opted for an L-shape drive aisle at larger facilities that can spare the square footage. Let’s talk more about that.
Yes, a drive through aisle does take up a significant amount of square footage within a facility. However, you can combat this loss by gaining the advantage of charging premium rent for the drive up units. You can do this because there are so many benefits provided for the tenants. These units are big, usually a 10x15 or larger. Larger units generally demand higher rent, but add on the fact that these particular units are climate controlled with drive-up convenience, providing a seamless experience for tenants who have a lot of items to store, and you’ve hit the jackpot.
Tenants in need of larger units have a lot of items to store and providing an option that allows them to avoid numerous trips of lugging their belongings through tight hallways, up and down stairs, or in and out of elevators is very appealing. They can drive straight into the facility, park next to their unit, and easily unload their items.
Energy Consumption: Who’s Concerned?
Now, you may be thinking that this would be inefficient in terms of energy consumption, right? Nope. Climate-controlled units are in high demand because they help to prevent damage to tenant belongings. Depending on the contents stored in the unit, extreme levels of hot or cold weather, or leaks from inclement weather can greatly increase the chance of damage to their property. This is especially true of items like vehicles, appliances, expensive furniture, heirlooms, and collectibles. Climate-controlled drive up units solve this issue. Once a vehicle enters the building, the facility doors close behind it allowing the drive up units to remain climate-controlled without wasting energy.
Smart Technology and Customer Convenience
Smart automation technology has made drastic impacts on a wide range of industries in the last decade. We now see food delivery, car rentals, airlines, hotels, banking, and more all making major changes in the way that customers can use and interact with their services. Customers today expect the convenience of finding what they need, purchasing the product or service, and conveniently getting what they want on the go—no matter where they are.
Many industries today are using smart technology to adapt to what modern customers expect by providing a better, more convenient experience. According to Steven Van Belleghem, 70% of consumers expect a company to offer a self-service application. The self-storage industry is no different and storage operators across the world are now utilizing the capabilities of smartphones to offer their customers an easier and improved self-storage experience.
Improved Operations and Customer Convenience
By using an advanced Smart Entry system that seamlessly integrates with your property management software, you can provide the ultimate onboarding experience. The entire customer journey can take place from their mobile device. From selecting their unit, opting for insurance, contract signing and payment, to immediately receiving a digital key providing access to gates, man doors, elevators, as well as their individual unit – all in roughly 90 seconds.
Now more than ever, your facility can truly be 100% digital and contactless. With this advanced level of automation, tenants are treated to an enhanced customer experience that doesn’t require them to wait on overworked managers to carry out their daily storage activities.
Operators can also remotely monitor facility and unit activity making their lives easier and their stress levels significantly reduced compared to the traditional self-storage model. Site managers aren’t bogged down with manual processes like lock checks and overlocking, collecting monthly payments, or physically unlocking units for new tenants to move-in, as these labor-intensive tasks are done automatically with the capabilities of an industry leading smart entry system.
Offering online, automated rentals and move-ins allows you to capture that additional business you would otherwise miss out on—giving you a serious competitive advantage.
Enhanced Security and Safety Measures
Customer safety is a pretty big deal but customers also want to know their valuables remain safe as well. It’s no secret that crime is a very real and unfortunate fact of life for self-storage owners. The traditional model of exterior drive-up units sprawled out across large parking lots can be convenient for customers, but the most inviting to thieves due to how easily accessible they are.
On the flip side, Multi-level, temperature controlled storage buildings may be easier to fortify on the outside, but if the inside of the building isn’t also highly-secure, this alone won’t keep the thieves at bay. Thieves know that more expensive items are more likely to be stored in temperature-controlled units, making them even more enticing.
One of the current trends in self-storage burglaries is for thieves to rent a unit at your facility, access it, and cut through the wall of their unit to gain access to their neighbors’ belongings. Once inside, they keep repeating the process until the entire row of units has been burglarized.
Your facility’s security is your number one marketing tool, and with upgraded security, you can charge a higher rate for your units and increase your revenue per square foot. Savvy business owners know that return on investment (ROI) is the most important thing to consider when making any major investment into your storage business.
Bottom line, security upgrades translate to better marketing, higher rental rates, and increased revenue for your storage business.
So what security upgrades should you make at your storage facility to stop these criminal activities in their tracks? Check out these top self-storage security enhancements to learn more about how you can up your security game to help eliminate theft and damage:
Ancillary Services and Amenities
More and more storage facilities today are extending their customer service and convenience even further by providing additional amenities such as in-unit package acceptance, mailing and shipping services, and a presentation-ready conference room complete with large LCD presentation screens, computer with wireless keyboard and mouse, conference speakerphone, whiteboard, Wi-Fi and High-Speed Internet.
Full retail centers are also popular for providing just about anything you a storage customer could need, from boxes of all sizes to packing materials and even company branded swag to further their marketing and branding efforts.
To top it off, many facilities even provide a host of free services and features to include a moving truck, full site Wi-Fi, a beverage bar, and open office workstations, along with dolly and cart use.
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