Self Storage

swivl data report: The rise of customer-centric automation

December 20, 2023
7 minutes

An examination of the dramatic rise in the use of technology and its effect on the Self Storage industry.

Automation is any system, tool, or process that reduces human intervention, enabling you to achieve more with

less effort. The primary goal of automation is to simplify the lives of both customers and businesses by eliminating repetitive and mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more meaningful activities.

From simple light timers to advanced motion-sensing technologies, automation can be found in various aspects of our lives. Automated systems have seen a sharp rise in adoption over the last few years due to digital transformation efforts from the burdens placed on industries, including Self Storage, by international conflict, inflation, and the pandemic.

How can you better meet the new generation of customers’ expectations? Should you invest your time and money in adopting automation tools? Which parts of your business are being most impacted?

Self-storage technology is transforming the way facility operators interact with their tenants and deliver customer experiences.

  • Struggling to provide a consistent and positive experience for your tenants?
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of data that you collect on your tenants?
  • Looking for ways to improve your tenant service without increasing your costs?
  • Worried that you're not doing enough to attract and retain tenants?

For self-storage facility operators, automation potentially provides answers to all of the above. With this in mind, it’s important to understand the current use cases of self-storage automation solutions for operators.

In this article, we will break down some key findings from the second edition of our industry report – The State of Technology in Self Storage. swivl is uniquely placed to report on emerging industry trends.

Why Listen To Us? swivl is the leading conversational AI and automation platform in Self Storage—automating +85% of customer interactions across +3,000 swivl-powered facilities. Thanks to integrations with industry-specific tools, Self Storage Operators can build reliable and customer-centric automation for business-critical workflows across their organization's technology stack. Learn more.

Our 2023 report delves into current trends surrounding the adoption of customer-centric technology, providing clarity on its importance in the current market landscape. It offers insights into how self-storage operators can gain a competitive edge by effectively leveraging these systems, tools, and processes.

Self-Storage Tech: 4 Overarching Trends

Before we begin, let's first take a look at the main findings — summarized as four overarching trends — from the research and data regarding the typical self storage operator and customer.

  1. Efficiency Matters: Evaluate the teams, tools, and data used at each touchpoint across your customer journey to ensure efficiency, while providing your customers the best experience possible.
  2. Conversations as Meaningful Experiences: Now is the time to prioritize a customer experience (CX) that enables immediate engagement, two-way conversations, cross-channel interactions, and deeper customer insights.
  3. Augmented Intelligence: It has never been easier to implement AI, so keep up with advancements in the industry to provide your customers with better experiences.
  4. Breaking Silos: Embrace data sharing from various sources, including valuable service data not just marketing data. Don’t let your data remain siloed; make it accessible across teams to maximize its impact.

Self-Storage Automation Is Booming

The self-storage industry is undergoing a transformative shift driven by the rapid adoption of automation technologies. According to a Camunda study, an enterprise automation provider, 48% of self-storage operations have already implemented automated systems across various aspects of their business.

This trend is expected to accelerate further, with an estimated 50% of self-storage facilities adopting automation within the next two years.

automation boom_swivl 2023

When implemented effectively into your facility’s technology stack, self-storage automation tools can:

  • Reduce labor costs by eliminating repetitive tasks.
  • Streamline operations, improve efficiency, and reduce wait times.
  • Enhance the customer experience through self-service options.

Modernizing Tenant Experiences With Personalization

The self-storage industry has undergone significant transformations in recent years. As per Microsoft's State of Global Customer Service, a substantial majority of customers desire the freedom to select their preferred communication channel when engaging with a business, all while anticipating a tailored and personalized experience.

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A thorough analysis of the current market landscape reveals that self-storage operators are adapting to a shifting consumer demographic. A younger customer base has different needs and preferences. To cater to the evolving expectations of modern consumers in an increasingly competitive market, self-storage operators are prioritizing technology, convenience, and most of all, ease of use.

The SSA Demand Study shows a staggering 54% of millennials visit their storage unit at least twice a month, with 36% going once a week or more.

Self-Storage Operations: What Was Automated In 2023?

Hoping to stand out in this competitive landscape and focus inwardly on improving operational efficiency, operators are looking to the integration of advanced technology and the inclusion of in-demand amenities within their facilities. Aligned with the findings of the 2023 SSA Demand Study, our data showed the paramount significance of comprehending consumer preferences.

Notably, when selecting a self-storage facility, customers prioritize flexible and seamless access to both the facility and their unit. The availability of climate-controlled units, package acceptance services, and the option to rent moving trucks are also key considerations for customers.

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As automation and AI advance, facility operators, marketers, and agencies are gaining access to a wide range of powerful tools that have an immediate impact on productivity. These tools include augmented workforces, advanced language models, low-code and no-code AI solutions, creative AI, and much more.

Using Smart Tech To Enhance Tenant Experiences

Mobile apps, IoT locks, and other smart technology are transforming the self-storage industry. They allow customers to access their units 24/7/365, while also providing them with a sense of security.

Let’s take a look at some of your tenants’ most repetitive issues.

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The most common issues faced by current and potential customers can often be attributed to problems with account management or the rental experience. These issues are often caused by outdated operating procedures, leading to bottlenecks in the system. The challenge lies in finding a way to resolve these issues quickly and prevent them from recurring without the need for manual intervention.

Research shows that approximately 75% of customers use multiple channels for their interactions with businesses. By leveraging this data, operators can focus on their customers' preferred communication channels, such as chat, text, email, or phone, to deliver a consistent and valuable experience at scale.

These technologies also enable operators to explore the possibility of transitioning to an "unmanned" business model or experimenting with the concept. This approach has been proven to result in cost savings and added convenience for customers.

Access To Tenant Data Is A Challenge

To enhance their operations, self-storage operators need to address two critical areas.

Firstly, they should recognize the importance of collecting sufficient customer data, effectively sharing it across teams, and taking necessary actions based on the insights gained.

Secondly, operators should prioritize breaking down barriers between different departments and implementing streamlined systems that enable quick access to vital information.

By focusing on these areas, self-storage operators can improve their overall efficiency and effectiveness.

80% of customers use both online and offline channels to shop for products and make purchases. The challenge for businesses becomes attributing each conversion to the right channel.

Collaborative efforts between software providers and self-storage operators can lead to a seamless and customized customer experience. By creating user-centric tools and fostering transparency, the industry as a whole can elevate the level of service and satisfaction for tenants.

Developing Tenant Experiences With Continued Innovation

By leveraging cutting-edge software and hardware solutions like IoT (Internet of Things) and artificial intelligence, self-storage businesses can optimize their operations, strengthen security measures, and provide a seamless and convenient customer experience.

The SSA 2023 Demand Study unveiled an intriguing finding: a significant number of customers actively seek enhanced convenience and are willing to invest more to enjoy its benefits.

Considering the growing usage of mobile devices and customers’ frequent visits to their storage units, integrating a streamlined and user-friendly app-based lock system becomes a vital value-add. This approach enhances convenience for tenants and contributes to their overall satisfaction.

SMS Access Code Retrieval_swivl 2023

The integration of AI in the customer experience is anticipated to focus on three key functions: 24/7 service deflections, cross-channel selling, and augmented contact center teams. Facility operators will evolve their workforce by combining the capabilities of human agents and AI bots. 

This strategic shift will allow team members to direct their attention towards interactions that require a human touch, while seamlessly working alongside AI counterparts.

By embracing innovative technologies and implementing customer-centric solutions, self-storage businesses can meet the growing demand for convenience and deliver an enhanced experience to their customers. The strategic integration of AI can further augment customer service and ensure a harmonious collaboration between human agents and AI counterparts.

The Shift To Tenant-First Experiences

In any industry, understanding customer preferences and providing exceptional experiences are essential for success. In the context of self-storage, tenants now prioritize facilities that offer specific amenities and services that enable a seamless digital-to-physical storage experience, secure and convenient access to their belongings, and immediate support.

A reimagined tenant-first and customer-centric approach encompasses a range of touchpoints. Digital self-service channels play a crucial role in creating a positive initial interaction with your brand, while agent-supported options and public channels, such as social media platforms, serve as avenues to showcase value and build trust with prospective customers.

By embracing this new mindset, self-storage operators can empower modern tenants with a hassle-free storage experience that effortlessly adapts to their evolving needs.

As a result, operators not only create a positive experience for tenants but also lay the foundation for sustainable business growth and long-term success.

This customer-centric focus enables operators to stay ahead of the competition and cultivate loyal and satisfied customers who become advocates for their brand.

About the Report

Building off of two years of data and a mass surge towards AI-driven experiences, the State of Technology in Self Storage highlights unique data insights to showcase how new technologies are affecting the  industry. Our research highlights the changing behavior of buyers, who are now more cautious about spending and prioritizing budget constraints. To remain successful in this evolving market, self storage brands must focus on delivering a connected experience that scales and exceeds customer expectations.

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