June 3, 2023

Post-Pandemic Staffing Issues in Self Storage: Should Your Facility Become Fully Automated?

With technological advances on the rise, more and more self storage facilities are opting to run their operations with little to no staff. This trend of automated facilities has its perks. For one, there’s less overhead and less training. With fewer people passing around important documents and information, fewer things would be lost in the shuffle. This was the perfect solution when the world had to socially distance itself and human contact in the service industry was limited. Now that the tides of the coronavirus are ebbing, plenty of storage facilities are continuing to run on little to no staff, technology allowing their businesses to essentially run unmanned.


As a self storage facility owner and operator, you may be considering leaning toward the business model of automated facilities. Maybe the wave of technology is intimidating to you, and besides, you’re old-fashioned and prefer contact with others.


The Case for Automated Facilities

There are plenty of benefits of automated facilities, and if your focus is saving the time, money, and hassle that staffing can ensue, this may be the right option for you. Just from a fiscal standpoint, the amount of money may be worth it to you. Payroll for workers is a huge hit to any company’s budget, and an unmanned facility might entice you with savings. 


With no staff, there’s no training period. When you have all of your tools and tech set up, running a facility is instantaneous, and you don’t have to worry about shadowing potential newbies. This also avoids the dreaded lull in business as you train up workers to full capacity.


Administration over the records for your business is streamlined. With a dashboard that keeps track of who has rented which unit, who is late on their payment, and how many storage units are unsold, it’s easier than ever to centralize your documentation.


The Case Against Automated Facilities

On the other side of the coin, there are drawbacks to running a facility with no staff. The money saved on staffing your business will be spent elsewhere on keeping up with the latest technology. Lots of technological integrations are costly on the front end, and drumming up the capital to do so can be challenging.


Depending on the size of your storage facility, managing administrative aspects on your own can be overwhelming. With unmanned facilities, even if all of your documentation is coordinated in one place, it can get out of hand quickly.


Having cameras in place for security measures is often what storage facilities implement. You can also opt for other measures such as motion sensors and individually alarmed storage units. These are necessary anyway to ensure the safety of your business. However, having these checks in place does not deter ne’er do wells completely. One advantage of having staff onsite is that the physical presence of people on the property will do more to ensure safety. Those with bad intentions would think twice before trying anything at a property they aren’t sure will be empty. If a facility is exclusively automated, that is a potential weak spot for storage facility owners.


Additionally, in case of incidents where tenants need to make claims on their policies because of damaged or stolen items, having members of staff on site is a big plus. Customer satisfaction in general improves overall when customers know there is someone who can help them as soon as they need it.


The Case to Hybridize

In order to get the best of both worlds, consider a hybrid version of a full-staffed facility and an automated one. This way, you receive all of the benefits of both and any weak points are strengthened through a backup plan. Tech breaks down all the time, and much like having physical copies of digital photos, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan. With limited staffing, not only can you keep the positive attribute of personable customer service, but you can also utilize technological tools in place to enhance the experience for you and your customers.


Whatever you decide during these unprecedented times is wholly up to you. There are many advantages to both an automated and a traditional facility, and how you run your business will be dependent upon a lot of variables that only you can decide. 


In the meantime, your tenants still need protection for their possessions. If there’s one thing you know about, if you’ve been in the self storage industry for a while, it’s that tenant insurance is necessary. We’re not tenant insurance — we are Tenant Property Protection®. When your tenants need the protection of their possessions, the last thing they want (or you), is to deal with the hassle that comes with traditional insurance. We’re not traditional insurance, but we have the knowledge and business sense to help your tenants and insure their items at your facility. See for yourself how we do things a little differently. Visit our website to learn more. At Tenant Property Protection®, we’ve got you covered.