Red means stop, yellow means caution, and green means go (or hit the accelerator and hurry up!). The traffic light or stoplight was patented in 1910 by Earnest Sirrine, but we all understand what the colors mean when approaching a stoplight. The standardization of stoplights has enabled us all to understand the meaning of these colors – there is no doubt about what they mean, or the message they communicate. That is an example of an ideal user experience.
The Self Storage Customer Experience: Keypads
When considering the Customer Experience (CX) at self storage facilities, I think about the access control keypad that tenants use to enter the facility. An analogy that I like to use is that the keypad is the “front door” to your property – and often serves as your only onsite customer touchpoint. When a customer visits their unit, they always use the keypad – they rarely come into the office and likely bypass your managers altogether. Because of the self-directed nature of a self storage property, your access keypad must provide a frictionless customer experience. If the keypad you have at your storage facility does not include a display, your customer experience will suffer. Unlike stoplights, the lights on a keypad without a display can’t really communicate to the customer what is happening (or what they should do). Will your customers know what a beep or the flash of an LED light means if their code is incorrect, their account is delinquent or your facility is unexpectedly closed?
Access Control Keypads Offer New Features
While a sound or flashing LED indicates there is an issue, it doesn’t tell the customer what the problem is – it only creates frustration for your tenant. A keypad with a display can help self storage facilities visually communicate to the customer what the challenge is. You can display custom messages that alert them to issues like: they entered an invalid access code; they are attempting to enter after hours; or their account is delinquent. Newer keypads can even text a customer their access code or text them a link to make a payment if they are delinquent. This makes life easier for your customers and saves your manager valuable time.
A display on a keypad is a must-have at your self storage facilities. There are a lot of vendors in the industry who will try to sell operators an access control system that isn’t designed for the self storage market. An easy way to spot a generic system is to look for a display on the keypad hardware. While it’s essential to choose the right access control software to power your property, hardware is also a critical component. When you upgrade or replace your system, make sure that you purchase an access control solution designed with the unique needs of the self storage industry, and your property, in mind.
Keypad Killer? Touchless Entry for Mobile App Access
Though mobile apps such as Storage enie have gained traction at facilities (and can make your facility more attractive over the competition), I think we are still several years out before mobile applications replace self storage keypads altogether. Keypads are convenient, easy to use and don’t require tenants to own a smartphone – it is amazing the number of tenants who still don’t use one. And what customer wants to download an app, remember their app store password and set up their account while standing outside your gate?
When you do evaluate self storage app for access to your facility, it is important to make sure that it is quick and easy to use. If the tenant must unlock their phone, find an app, open the app, click a button and wait for the signal to be sent and processed, what customer convenience have you really offered over a keypad? This is the reason why OpenTech includes a Bluetooth device on our INSOMNIAC® CIA keypads. A tenant using the Storage Genie app can approach a keypad and the phone will automatically communicate with the keypad and the tenant does NOT even have to unlock their phone.
Before You Upgrade Your Keypads
When looking to upgrade access control for your self storage facility, make sure that your vendor is the hardware AND the software manufacturer. Also remember red, yellow and green lights are good for stoplights, but they don’t make a lot of sense for self storage keypads.
About the Author:
Jon Loftin, SVP of Product at OpenTech Alliance, is one of the self storage industry’s leading access control experts. Jon has over 30 years of experience in senior management roles and has contributed to the success of Digi Tech International, Chamberlain Access Products Group and PTI. He joined OpenTech in 2016 to spearhead the development of the OpenTech IoE, an intelligent platform of smart-connected self storage technology solutions designed to streamline business operations at storage facilities. INSOMNIAC CIA access control was the first of 10+ products and integrations and growing on the IoE technology management platform.