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October 19, 2021
Guest post from Rodolfo Ramirez, COO of Swivl:
After a year that changed everything, the self-storage industry proved to be practically pandemic resistant with Americans migrating, moving, and storing more than ever. We are now seeing an uptick in the number of individuals that value flexibility and ease when looking for a storage facility to store their items.
Let’s walk through an example that a lot of operators are seeing today:
A couple of digital nomads have just finished their most recent move cross country and realize that their new home will not fit all the items they brought with them. Knowing only a few more hours remain on their moving truck rental, they must find a storage unit fast, so their belongings don’t end up on the curb.
They quickly take to Google and find you. You’re not the closest Self Storage location, but your website is polished, and you have something none of your competitors have: a proactive, 24/7 interactive chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence.
An AI chatbot on your website communicates with this couple the same way one of your store representatives would. It’s able to answer common storage questions, recommend a suitable unit, help them create an account, and finally, send them a code to access the unit all in the time it took them to drive to the location. And because of the power of automation, the couple was able to reserve a unit on a day no one was physically on site.
In the on-demand, real-time world we live in, consumers expect to be able to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. With relatively new advancements in machine learning, this AI-driven experience is no longer a pipe dream. Today, operators in the self-storage space have access to this type of technology and are leveraging it to run more efficiently 24-7 which differentiates them from the pack.
Over the course of the last 8 months, the swivl team surveyed self-storage operators and industry leaders with the goal of gaining a better understanding of how the industry is reacting to increasing consumer demand and taking advantage of the advancements in automation technology.
Initiatives related to improving the Customer Journey were the most mentioned automation projects.
When asked about the most important areas within customer experience that could improve from automation, the vast majority of respondents signaled they intended to streamline a myriad of touchpoints from sales all the way to retention. Specifically, over half of respondents focused on enhancing the shopping experience, while 42% wanted to hone in on accelerating customer success initiatives.
With the customer experience being the largest area of potential innovation for the self-storage industry, this new AI-powered customer journey is one of the best ways to do just that.
Having enough staff to deal with all the pre and post-purchase queries is labor and resource-intensive as well as unscalable. Data shows that combining a powerful AI chatbot system with a live agent queuing system (if needed) provides the best experience for the customer. Additionally, customers don’t expect a human agent readily available at all times.
Furthermore, early findings show that even for operators in this space who do not currently have automated solutions up and running, 58% of respondents stated that they are actively exploring or developing automation projects. We also found that 67% of operators surveyed expect to adopt automation into their operational responsibilities by next year. Knowing the latter, it’s clear that the industry is moving in this direction and that most operators already know and are working on implementation.
But there are barriers to implementing these systems; common barriers we found were dedicated budget, personnel for launch, and future maintenance. swivl aims to solve these barriers by democratizing AI, making it easy and affordable for any operator to implement these same features into their business, no matter if they have one location or a few thousand. They make their own machine learning algorithms accessible and optimize them with an intuitive no-code dashboard and management system. This means that operational leaders don’t need to hire an expensive team of engineers; instead, they can implement these features and take control of them themselves without learning code and for a fraction of the cost. With further advancements in AI, the question of Buy vs. Build is pushing owners to seek industry-specific options vs. trying to create an in-house option.
Real-time messaging has led to a fundamental shift in how consumers prefer to shop. In the age of hyper-informed, store-anywhere consumers, your business needs to be always on, data-driven, and customer-centered.
Automation is the future of self-storage. Your renters demand it.
Swivl is excited to share their 2021 Automation and AI Trends in Self Storage. Get a glance at what operators and self-storage shoppers are prioritizing.
You will learn:
At StoragePug , we build self storage websites that make it easy for new customers to find you and easy for them to rent from you. With Insights, our self storage marketing platform, operators get the data and digital tools they need to make the get out of their website and their self storage investment.