Contactless self-service storage: examining technology in a small operation


Contactless self-service storage solutions aren’t just for big carriers. Even those with only one or two sites can greatly benefit from the addition of this technology. Ray Wilson, owner of Chelan Boat Storage in Chelan, Washingtonand EZ Access Storage in Rock Island, Washington, talks about his company’s journey to introduce contactless rental. He also shares the many ways his business, employees and customers have benefited.

When and why did you decide to offer contactless self-storage?

Over the past two and a half years, we have embarked on a journey with contactless self-service storage that has dramatically changed our business for the better. We started with mobile site access, which is powered by Sentinel Anywhere. It gives me the ability to perform all management functions remotely from any device, anywhere in the world.

Then we completely rebuilt and relaunched our websites to make them much more user-friendly and attractive, and provide the platform for online bookings. As part of the relaunch of this website, we have hired a web hosting company with experience in self-service storage, social media and search engine optimization (SEO).

The EZ Access Storage online experience

We relaunched our Facebook page with a brand new look and weekly targeted social media ads. Then we started publishing monthly blog posts on our website ensuring our SEO results were better on Google searches.

What technology do you use to deliver this customer experience?

We have integrated Sentinel Platinum into our websites to offer online rentals, reservations and payments, giving us the ability to secure new customers and take care of existing customers online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sept. At the Chelan plant, we are also preparing to launch a self-service kiosk from Advanced Kiosks. The system is installed and construction of the new kiosk structure is complete. Implementation is temporarily on hold until customer demand picks up with the next shipping season. But with minimal effort, we will be able to activate the system, providing an additional channel for customers to interact with us without contact and outside office hours.


The Chelan Boat Storage kiosk in Washington

What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

These are all things I wanted to implement, but I had no real sense of urgency until COVID-19 hit. We had only just begun the journey when the pandemic began, forcing us to close our offices and reinvent the way we interact with customers in the future.

Luckily, we had just launched our new website and were well placed to take it from there. With this base, we were able to speed up the plans we had on the drawing board. What we thought would take us 6-12 months to set up was up and running in 3 weeks! There were a few operational issues that needed to be resolved, but by bringing in our on-site managers to help find solutions, these minor issues were easily resolved.

What were the pros and cons for your staff and customers?

What has happened to our business since then has been phenomenal. Customers are finding us online, making reservations, making online payments and signing automatic monthly payments, and occupancy rates have increased dramatically.

For the first 20 months, we operated our business in complete contactless mode, never opening the on-site office to the public. We now operate in a hybrid environment with on-site managers working limited office hours combined with a full contactless platform. This gives us the best of both worlds and the ability to switch to completely contactless operation in the blink of an eye whenever there is a threat in the environment or any other unexpected change.


EZ Access Storage in Rock Island, Washington


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