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Storage Unit Locks & Locking-Down Mental & Physical Security

15 May 2023


Greta Tasedan

Union Realtime

Self Storage, Locks & Building Customer Confidence in Security

Securing our belongings is something we think carefully about - our homes and cars are guarded by people, cameras, bolts, locks, alarms and motion detectors or a combo of all of the above! As self storage owners, operators or developers, security is a concept we have also (ideally) considered at length. Fencing, CCTV, motion detection lights and cameras and even on-site security personnel are typically on the list of planned installations or upgrades to your self storage facility - but considering the psychology of human beings in general, we must consider which security feature gives your potential customer the most peace of mind - the physical storage lock they personally install on their unit.

Why do we lock our homes, cars and storage units when we exit a space? Ultimately, we are all aware that locks are a deterrent, but not a guarantee. The Scientific American notes that “...guarantees of privacy are important. When someone walks away or shuts a door, there is a social recognition that we should not chase after them or break down the door. They’ve ended the interaction and are establishing distance.” In this distance, human beings find control, safety and the chance to recharge. This element of the human psyche is important to consider when it comes to storage facilities, which psychologically are an extension of a person’s home or safe space. It’s critical that we give our customers what they need to both BE safe and FEEL safe.

In a new study entitled “Important Facts about Implementing Smart Locks at New vs. Existing Storage Facilities” by Janus International, in conjunction with Inside Self Storage, researchers delve into the benefits of using bluetooth technology to level-up our collective self storage lock game in 2023. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between traditional storage unit locks and the next generation of self storage and security technology - the smart lock - and how to empower customers to participate and take ownership of their own security journey.

The Self Storage Customer Security Journey Starts at Home

As the self storage industry steps into the world of automated security technology, many customers are wondering (and asking Google), what type of lock for their storage unit is best to secure their valued possessions. Good question! This depends entirely on the established break-in methods of the criminals doesn’t it? An article detailing “The Latest Crime Rates and Statistics in London” from London Locks notes several important known thieving procedures including:

Considering these are common practices, found the world over with roots in the basic psychology of human beings (we tend to take the path of least resistance), as self storage facility owners, we are responsible for guarding against them - but when it comes to the customer, how do we ensure they are making the most responsible choice when choosing a locking mechanism? We empower them with information about self storage facility safety.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety & Self Storage

In his article “The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety” Timothy R. Clark explains that the human process of feeling safe follows a predictable path:

  1. Inclusion Safety, or being readily admitted to an established group or team
  2. Learner Safety, or being comfortable and secure enough to ask questions, participate and learn from those in the group
  3. Contributor Safety, or being accepted as a contributing member of the group or team
  4. Challenger Safety, or being a leader and securely offering opinions that may challenge the status quo of the group

Now let’s consider these elements from the lens of a self storage facility owner or operator. “Inclusion Safety” is achieved when you welcome the customer to your storage facility or website. Greeting them, making them feel welcome, and showing them your facility should be enough to check off the “Inclusion Safety” element of the human condition.

“Learner Safety” comes through the process of open communication with the customer about your facility features, structure, cost and practices. For more information on customer communication, read our 5 Tips to Improve Customer Service. If you’ve done this correctly (in-person or via your website), your customer will achieve the level of “Learner Safety” where they feel free to ask questions and learn more about your facility - this stage will ideally end in the rental of a unit.

Traditional Storage Unit Locks: Pros & Cons for Customers

Meandering back to locking mechanisms, explaining the pros and cons of traditional locking units (pad locks, combination locks and cam locks) to customers is a great place to start the self storage security journey. Pros of traditional locks include:

Sadly, these pros are also in the cons category. Accessibility and familiarity means criminals with a little “know-how” can easily crack your security code (or lock). Easy removal is also firmly in the cons category, as bolt cutters, lock-pick tools or any number of other implements (crowbars, wrenches, hammers, etc.) can be used to remove the lock.

Benefits of Smart Storage Unit Locks

Pros of using smart locks for storage units should start with a statistic from ISS and Janus International, who notes that self storage owners and operators report 80% fewer break-ins on smart units vs. traditionally locked units. In addition to this hard-wired pro, smart locks are:

Once you’ve rented the unit, the customer progresses to “Contributor Safety,” where they decide how to secure their unit based on your information (and of course, the availability of their locking mechanisms of choice). Here you will find that if you are adequately prepared with the right technology, products and equipment on-site or readily available - you will be able to provide a solid launchpad for the customer to take advantage of more costly, yet more secure smart locking options. Customers who choose more traditional lock options will still have the opportunity and knowledge to upgrade later, should they choose.

Instead of being the final step, “Challenger Safety” is the springboard and foundation for a long and productive relationship between you and your customers. At this stage, the customer feels they have taken ownership of their own security, with you backing them up of course. Not only are the customers feeling more secure at this stage in the process, they are also less likely to cast blame or accusations should an issue arise - after all, they’ve taken ownership of their part of the security process (be it smart locks or traditional). They know that both they and you have done everything possible to secure the facility and stored items - and if the thieves come (and they often still do), you will work with them to ensure compensation and increased security in the future. You care. And this makes a world of difference.

Self Storage Security: Final Thoughts

If you’ve already made the decision to go full-tech and install smart locks for storage units - well done! You’re probably seeing a massive increase in both rentals and customer satisfaction. If you have customers asking for this option - consider investing in this upgrade on a case-by-case basis and slowly upgrading your facility security over time.

For more information on how to take advantage of technology to level-up your self storage security game, check out Radius+, the self storage industry's most comprehensive location intelligence platform for information on everything from self storage supply and demand, to self storage developments, area demographics, and competitor pricing.

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