Self-storage kiosks warm up to customers; they return the favor

Prospective self-storage customers are more likely to sign up through an automated attendant if a live, warm voice beckons at the other end of the transaction.

OpenTech Alliance, Inc. a leading developer of innovative self-storage solutions, discovered that their "Live! Megan" call center service rolled out in late 2010 ramped up kiosk-driven rentals. According to Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech, "Call center counselors are available to not only assist consumers through kiosk transactions over the phone, but could literally take control of the application over the internet to assist them in completing the rental or payment at the facility. This has made a positive impact on the increase in rental activity."

A live person to help a renter complete transactions complements other likely factors in the increased use of kiosks. Notes Chiti, "In general, people are becoming more accustomed to transacting business through an automated attendant. It's been a mainstay in banking for years, and it's proliferating in air travel, hospitality and other industries. Plus, busy customers often need to access services after normal office hours, making self-storage kiosks a natural."

A white paper published by OpenTech addresses the overall rise in kiosk use adoption in the self-storage industry, showing move-ins per kiosk per month at 4.3 in 2011, versus 3.4 in 2010 and 2.73 in 2009 - representing about a 60% increase in just two years. As popularity of self-storage kiosks continues to grow, demand on self-storage operators to offer them will, too.

This, of course, leads to the obvious issues of affordability, ability to finance, and return on investment. OpenTech Alliance publishes prices ranging from $5,500 to $18,000. Between tax incentives in force through at least for now, leasing as well as purchase options, and a realistic ROI of one year, self-storage operators will be well advised to at least explore the possibilities.

An IRS Tax Code Section 179 tax deduction effectively can reduce the cost of a kiosk by 35%. An operator purchasing a $15,000 solution will be able to recoup roughly $5,000 upon filing taxes, subject to such IRS regs as purchasing or financing the equipment before year-end.

Businesses can take advantage of Section 179 when leasing kiosks - another potential option for cash-strapped businesses. Section179.org, which promotes itself as a free resource service for Section 179 information, notes on its website: "...leasing equipment and/or software with the Section 179 deduction in mind is a preferred financial strategy for many businesses, as it can significantly help with not only cash flow, but with profits as well."

A good place to start checking out either financing or leasing options is the company selling the kiosks. Just as car dealers attempt to help people acquire vehicles, so do kiosk sellers want to, "make acquiring a kiosk easier" for potential customers.
So, what about your return on investment? According to an OpenTech Alliance financial breakout, purchasers of the INSOMNIAC 770 AssistantManager at $15,500, plus setup, training, customization, maintenance and the call center can derive net operating income averaging $57,121 per year over five years. The breakout addresses payroll savings from not having an additional employee, and increased revenues attributable to the kiosk's presence.

In addition, the calculation claims an increase in facility valuation due to the kiosk of $672,012. Those interested can run their own calculations through an OpenTech application accessible through their website. Click here for more information.

OpenTech Alliance, Inc.

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SelfStorage.com

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