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Self Storage Lab

Self Storage Lab

By swivl

Join us for our brand new show, The Self Storage Lab–a new podcast deconstructing how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

In the age of hyper-informed, store-anywhere customers, your business needs to be always on, data-driven, and customer-centered.

Whether you’re a thousand location operator or looking to get into self storage with your first property, nerd out with us as we help you decide what’s best for your business.
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2023 Recap: Generative AI & ChatGPT

Self Storage LabNov 29, 2023

2023 Recap: Generative AI & ChatGPT

2023 Recap: Generative AI & ChatGPT

In this episode, we nerd about about all things genAI — a year in review:

Nov 29, 202301:12:58
AI Guidelines & Regulation - This is Just the Beginning

AI Guidelines & Regulation - This is Just the Beginning

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

It appears that there is a continuous stream of groundbreaking advancements in the realm of artificial intelligence, occurring on a weekly basis.

At the end of October, the Biden Administration released a sweeping order on artificial intelligence with the goal of promoting the “safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence.”

In today’s podcast, we nerd out on the key points of the executive order, the winners and lowers of the new guidelines, and dive into how it affects the technology landscape as it relates to the Self Storage industry. Enjoy!

In this episode, we discussed:

Nov 13, 202345:13
QR Codes - What are they and how do I use them in Self Storage?
Oct 19, 202341:53
The State of AI (Rodolfo on the CSSA Webinar)

The State of AI (Rodolfo on the CSSA Webinar)

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

Today’s podcast explores AI as an umbrella term, capabilities, limitations, and get a glimpse of what the future holds for this technology.

Rodolfo did such a good job at explaining this topic on a recent CSSA webinar, that we decided to play you the entire conversation. For more on AI topics, dive into some of our most recent episodes.

Topics Explored:

  • Automation vs. AI
    • What is Automation?
    • What is Artificial Intelligence?
    • Why is it important to move beyond the term "AI"?
  • AI in Self Storage
    • Adoption of AI in Customer Service
    • AI at a High Level
  • What is Vertical Intelligence?
    • LLM Limitations
    • Differentiation between LLMs and Business Specific Models
  • Next Opportunities
    • What’s in store for the future of customer service and communication?
Sep 28, 202323:35
What is AI? Just another buzzword?

What is AI? Just another buzzword?

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

AI is all the rage right now. But what exactly is it? It’s thrown around as a buzzword and can often be a blanket term that encompasses a broader set of tools and technology. So let’s chat about what is and what is not AI.

Topics Explored:

  • What is Automation?
  • Automation vs. AI
  • Why is it important to move beyond the term “AI”?
  • The Different forms of AI
  • What are some examples and practical applications?
  • The current state of AI Research
  • Big tech’s stake in AI’s advancement
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • Vertical AI
  • Deep dive into the AI Stack
  • How does vertical AI differ from other forms of AI?
Aug 17, 202343:40
How to choose a Facility Management System (FMS) We talk to operators

How to choose a Facility Management System (FMS) We talk to operators

Welcome to the Self-Storage Lab, where we delve into how operators adapt to the technology-driven landscape and its impact on their businesses. In this episode, we explore facility management software, a crucial decision for facility operators seeking to optimize their processes.

In the later part of the episode (44:24), we hear from operators who have gone through the decision-making process and learn about their experiences with different facility management software.  Stay tuned for valuable insights that can guide you in selecting the best software partner for your self-storage business.

The Importance of Selecting the Right Facility Management Software (FMS) 

  • How do the different FMS types impact your self-storage business differently?

  • What key factors should you consider before making your decision?

  • Are there any industry-specific challenges you should address through your software choice?

Core Features to Look for in Facility Management Software

  • What are the essential features that every FMS should offer?

  • How important is integration with your self-storage website and customer relationship management (CRM)?

  • Are there additional features that can enhance the customer experience?

Scaling Up: Finding the Right Fit for Your Growing Business

  • What considerations are crucial when selecting FMS to support future expansion?

  • Are there any potential challenges when transitioning from a simpler system to a more robust FMS?

Understanding the Data Structure and APIs

  • What information can be accessed through the APIs? (e.g., tenant data, occupancy rates, pricing, etc.)

  • Does the facility management system offer open APIs for collaboration and ecosystem building?

Analytics and Reports

  • What types of analytics and reports are available in the facility management system?

  • Can custom reports be generated based on specific requirements?

Cost Considerations

  • How is the pricing structured for the facility management system?

  • Are there additional costs for specific integrations or API access?

Tech Support and Onboarding

  • What is the onboarding process like for transitioning to a new facility management system?

  • Is there a designated account manager or tech support representative for assistance?

  • What is the service level agreement for tech support and issue resolution?

Customer Experience and Integration

  • How does the facility management system integrate with an operator’s website for tenant login and account access?

  • Are there any concerns about customers’ trust and understanding when interacting with the facility management system through an operator’s website?

========== Operator Conversations =========

Grace Totty on Choosing the Right FMS (44:24)

Brett Copper on Choosing the Right FMS (1:10:40)


Back to the episode (1:17:50)

Essential Questions to Ask When Evaluating an FMS

  • Does the FMS offer educational material and an onboarding process for easy implementation?

  • Should operators request customer references to gauge the FMS’s performance and support?

  • What support and tech assistance should operators expect from their FMS providers?

Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead

  • What factors are driving innovation in FMS, especially in terms of contactless and mobile solutions?

  • What improvements can FMS providers make to enhance customer-centric offerings?

  • How is AI changing the landscape of Facility Management Systems?

  • How can operators benefit from the ongoing development and integration of AI in FMS?

Jul 26, 202301:29:20
Levels of Automation (0-5) - Autonomous Vehicles & Self Storage??

Levels of Automation (0-5) - Autonomous Vehicles & Self Storage??

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business. In our tenth episode, we dive into the five different levels of automation, from manual processes to more advanced use of technologies, and examine how they are transforming the way humans work. We walk through the challenges, benefits, and exciting opportunities that we can expect from automation, and how these might come intro fruition in this dynamic and ever-evolving industry.

Topics we explore

  • What is automation?
  • 5 Different levels of automation
  • Examples of each
  • Pros and Cons
  • How does it relate to Self Storage?
  • What to expect in the future


  • Why so much talk about self driving vehicles? - 2:00
  • Why we picked this topic - 5:53
  • What is automation? - 8:40
  • Level 0 - 9:35
  • Level 1 - 15:00
  • Level 2 - 19:42
  • Experience riding in an autonomous vehicle - 24:12
  • Level 2 in self storage - 28:29
  • Level 3 - 30:47
  • What level is swivl? - 36:23
  • Level 4 - 40:51
  • Can a self storage property get to Level 4? - 43:40
  • Level 5 - 46:45
  • Recap - 49:52
Jun 22, 202352:59
Management Styles & Tools (Hub & Spoke, Remote, etc.)

Management Styles & Tools (Hub & Spoke, Remote, etc.)

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.Have you ever reached that point where running your self-storage property just feels like too much to handle? The good news is that you've got options! In episode 9 of the Self Storage Lab podcast, Kyle, Mason, and Rodolfo discuss the varying management styles in the self storage industry and how they have led to changes in the day-to-day functions of operating teams.

Mentioned in this episode:

The transition period in the industry

  • The shift from traditional brick and mortar management to remote, unmanned, and virtual management
  • The rise of technology and changing consumer expectations
  • The impact of COVID-19 on management styles

Different management styles

  • Fully remote or unmanned management
  • Hybrid management styles
  • Automated management

Which management style is right for you?

  • The benefits and challenges of the different styles of management
  • The role of human involvement in remote management
  • The need for reliable technology and security measures
  • The importance of customer service and personal interaction
  • The potential for robots and other technologies to replace human involvement

The shift in management styles in the self storage industry

  • The importance of focusing on sales and service centers and boots on the ground personnel
  • Viewing management styles as a customer journey
  • The importance of the first-time rental experience
  • 70% of renters are first-time renters

The role of technology in improving the customer experience

  • The potential for cloud-based software, mobile apps, and kiosks to improve efficiency and convenience
  • The need for reliable technology to protect sensitive data
  • The potential for technology to improve the ongoing customer experience

Making the decision for your business

  • The importance of finding the right balance for your business and customers
  • Pros/Cons of In-house management
  • Pros/Cons of Third-party management
  • The economies of scales of Third-party management

Remote vs. Unattended facilities

  • Is it truly unmanned/unattended?
  • The benefits/challenges of remote management
  • What’s the difference between remote and hub and spoke?
  • What’s the deal with unattended facilities?
  • Finding the right balance

The Importance of Simplification

  • How to streamline the Customer Journey to bring uniformity
  • Simplifying the technology stack to have one way to do as much as possible is key to success
  • How to optimize the Rental and Sales Process

Leveraging automation in self-storage management

  • The impact of technology on hiring and employee turnover rates
  • The importance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in remote management
  • The role of technology in enhancing property value and attracting higher-end tenants
  • Tools and technologies for remote management, including video calling, contact centers, and automated locks
  • AI for predictive maintenance and enhanced security
  • Thinking outside the box and applying retail strategies to self-storage management and operations.

Thank you for listening. Please leave any feedback and we encourage you to subscribe to get the latest episodes instantly.

May 08, 202301:13:45
ChatGPT Update! Things are moving fast

ChatGPT Update! Things are moving fast

Mar 28, 202301:22:14
Omnichannel Communication

Omnichannel Communication

Long gone are the days when customers only had one or two options for interacting with a company. Today’s customers move freely through digital and analog channels, using telephones, web chat, social media, and others to make purchases, find solutions, initiate returns, and more.

In today's episode, we will be discussing the importance of having a cohesive communication strategy across all channels, including email, social media, and in-person interactions. We will also delve into the role that technology plays in enabling shoppers a seamless, consistent experience wherever they engage with your brand

Some of the topics we will be covering in today's episode include:

  • The definition of omni-channel communication and why it matters
  • We will dig into benefits you might expect from a successful transition
  • Examples of successful omni-channel communication in action
  • A look at trends to keep an eye on in the new year

We hope you enjoy this episode and come away with a better understanding of the importance of omni-channel communication in today's world.

Show Notes

1:23 - What is Omnichannel?
  • Defining Omnichannel Communication and why it is important
  • Expected response times for main communication channels (8:15)
  • The difference between Omnichannel and Multi-Channel
11:43 - Benefits of Omnichannel Strategy
  • How can you leverage an omnichannel strategy to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty?
  • Companies with a strong omnichannel strategy retain an average of 89% of their customers.
  • Consistency is KEY
  • How to eliminate friction and silos within your organization?
13:52 - Talk is talk. Time to get our hands dirty. How to create a plan?
  • Who in your organization should be involved in creating an omnichannel strategy?
  • How to go about creating an action plan to implement the strategy?
  • How to create a strategy that combines both in-person interactions to online services?
17:25 - Examples of Companies Doing Omni-Channel Right
  • Can I use Apple as an example for every topic?!
  • We discuss how some world-renowned brands are using an omnichannel strategy
  • Who in Self Storage is doing omnichannel right?
24:35 - How It Affects Operators
  • What are some of the common pitfalls and challenges business face when implementing an omnichannel strategy?
  • How to make the transition from a single-channel and multi-channel strategy
  • What questions to ask when implementing this strategy?
  • How to incentivize your team successfuly?
31:52 - How to leverage technology to achieve a true omnichannel communication
  • What’s the role of Automation in an omni-channel strategy?
  • What is a “channel” and which ones should I be paying attention to?
  • At what point in the customer’s journey do store managers need to get involved?
39:53 - Pet Peeves
  • Some fun personal anecdotes of bad omnichannel experiences
44:47 - Self Storage Wrapped | Future Trends
  • Conversational AI will continue to permeate communication stacks
  • Amazon Go - style Self Storage facilities?
  • Can technology create more human connection in the industry?

Feb 22, 202353:16
ChatGPT & Generative AI

ChatGPT & Generative AI

We spend a majority of the today’s show nerding out about ChatGPT’s technology in general, discuss some philosophical questions, use cases, and it’s limitations.

If you want to get right to the meat of how this affects the self storage industry - fast forward to 50m30s

The rest of the following show notes were *** WRITTEN BY ChatGPT ***


In this episode, we will be discussing the latest breakthrough in language technology, GPT-3, and its impact on the self-storage industry. GPT-3, which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, is an autoregressive language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. The model was launched in November 2022 and reached 1 million users just five days after its initial launch.

Segment 1: What the heck is GPT-3?

  • GPT-3 is a large language model that predicts the probable sequence of words. It was trained on a massive corpus of text with more than 175 billion parameters and was taught how to pick up on writing patterns by analyzing millions of conversations.
  • The model has an input layer, where the user inputs a prompt, and an output layer, where the model generates a response that sounds "human-like."
  • GPT-3 is based on the GPT-3.5 architecture, which includes three models: text-davinci-002, trained by supervised fine-tuning on human-written demonstration, and samples rated 7/7 by human labelers on overall quality scores, and the most recent text-davinci-003, which includes reinforcement learning with human feedback (RLHF), a reward-based model trained on comparisons by humans.

Segment 2: How did GPT-3 get so smart?

  • GPT-3 is the latest iteration in a series of models, including GPT and GPT-2.
  • The model's intelligence is derived from a massive corpus of text with more than 175 billion parameters.
  • Beyond GPT-3, what does the future hold?

Segment 3: Use cases

  • Some examples of GPT-3's capabilities include sending and responding to emails, writing cover letters, building Excel formulas, and creating creative projects such as poems and short stories.

Segment 4: Limitations

  • GPT-3's limitations include its inability to distinguish between bullshit and reality, its lack of understanding of math, and the fact that the code it generates may not always run correctly.

Segment 5: Impact on the Self-Storage Industry

  • GPT-3's advancements may affect technologies and processes such as Property Management Systems (PMS), the analysis of BI databases, and call centers/customer support.
  • Specific use cases in the self-storage industry include generating emails and messages, sales pitches, and responses to Google reviews.
  • It can be eerie as to how human-like GPT-3's responses can sound, but it still has errors.



Tips and Tricks to using chatGPT:


ChatGPT Limitations

OpenAI Blog

OpenAI Alignment Research

OpenAI Moderation Tool

The AI Revolution | Wait But Why

Jan 13, 202301:10:57
Reputation Management

Reputation Management

Welcome to the Self Storage LAB — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

In today’s business landscape, your online presence and reputation is mission critical to helping you stand out in the sea of competitors. Reviews are one such way to stand out. If you give an unparalleled customer experience, your customer’s won’t keep it a secret. They will share it! Reviews are a Transfer of Trust, the Modern Referral mechanism.

Your brand is your business. And your online reputation is a huge part of your brand.

We explore:

  • What is Reputation Management and why does it matter?
  • The value of a reputation management strategy
  • Examples of brands doing it right
  • Innovative ways to Collect Reviews

Show Notes

Nerdy Numbers Corner - Why Does It Matter?
  • Defining Reputation Management
  • Mason and Rodolfo relay some of the numbers they found researching Reputation Management.
Reviews IRL
Brands to live by
  • Apple and Nike - High Quality and Aspirational
  • Southwest - Loyalty and Freedom
  • Costco - Quality and Affordability
  • Disney - Feel Good Stories
  • Subaru - AWD and Mountains
Self Storage Operators build their reputation
  • Google is King
  • Getting involved in your community
  • Brand trust is the long term investment
How To: Reputation Management 101
  • WHY? Reviews lead to more sales
  • Pillars of Reputation Management
  • Build
  • Using sentiment throughout the customer journey to optimize for positive reviews
  • Gold Standard: Net Promoter Scoring
  • Turning detractors into promoters: Acknowledge, Align, Assure
  • Incentives and strategy for more reviews
Put that review to work
  • Social Proof and the Trust Economy
  • Just Reply!
  • Showcase them on your website
  • Turn that frown upside down. Handling negative reviews
  • Review gating discussion
Decision Time
  • Google My Business
  • Does it integrate?
  • Does it support multiple locations?
  • Can I manage my listings?
  • Insights and Analytics offerings?
  • Other features to make the job easier?
Other Misc Links
Jan 09, 202301:01:21
Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Welcome to the Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

Even with facility occupancy at all-time highs this year, operators should be exploring fresh ways to market their facilities. Even in a booming market, you can build momentum and capitalize on the steady demand.

By embracing new Email Marketing concepts, you can stay ahead of the curve, engage new tenants, and educate customers on your facility amenities and company news.

We breakdown how it affects Operators and Customers alike, what to look for when making a decision, and discuss some tools you can use to streamline your Email Marketing.

We explore:

  • The benefits of Email Marketing
  • Email Marketing Best Practices
  • List Building
  • What to track and what not to track
  • Segmentation and Personalization at scale
  • Community Building
  • Email Reputation
  • Email Marketing Pet Peeves

Show Notes:

  • What is Email Marketing
  • Overview of the Best Practices for Email Marketing
    The importance of a checklist before sending a campaign
    Designing your Email and Leveraging Templates
  • Audience and List Building
  • Is it worth buying a list?
    Criteria operators should identify to meaningfully segment their audience
    Leveraging Email Marketing to test content
    Your secret weapon: Facility waitlists!!
    List Health tools: Litmus and Sender Score
  • Transactional vs Marketing Emails
  • Content Segmentation
    The importance of having a campaign goal
    Example email campaigns
    Don’t be afraid of the Unsubscribe button!
  • What to Measure
  • Top KPIs every operator should measure
    A/B Testing as a tool
    It is critical to understand your main driver
    UTM parameters and link tracking
  • Best times to engage your list
  • Using data and parallel industry benchmarks to help inform you
  • Top Email Marketing Players
  • SBOA’s newsletter template
    StoragePug’s shareable content
    Learns from Extra Space and Public Storage
    Superhuman and Sketch as Case Studies
  • Tools and recommendations
  • An Operator’s decision and purchase checklist
    Top features to look out for when purchasing
    swivl’s email marketing tech stack: Mandrill/Mailchimp, Sendgrid, FMS integrations
    E-commerce as a case study: Klaviyo, Active Campaign
    Generative AI tools:
Nov 30, 202256:38
Business Intelligence & Analytics

Business Intelligence & Analytics

Welcome to Self Storage Lab — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

Today, we dive into the numbers that make your business run. We will dive into the new buzzword every operator is talking about, Business Intelligence (BI), why attribution is so important, data privacy, and how to setup an infrastructure to measure the right data.

What we cover:

  • BI is becoming more prevalent
  • Attribution piece
  • It’s not just about measuring, it’s about the questions you are asking
  • Analytics should help you tell a story
  • Data Privacy + Stats being collected
  • Tools and resources Operators should be aware of
Defining BI
A Self-Storage industry in transition
  • Brick & Mortar toward a digital experience
  • Why it’s important?
  • Ask the question and measure the process
  • KPIs and OKRs
What should I measure?
  • Website Analytics → Google Analytics
  • Where do they come from?
  • How do they navigate my website?
So many data silos
  • How do my different data sources all talk to each other?
  • Microsoft BI
  • The why?
  • Know where your revenue is coming from
  • Understanding what is driving the business decisions
Where did they go?
  • Understanding bounce rates
  • What is an “exit event” and what can you do about it?
Your contact center
  • The players
  • Average time to pick up
  • Average chat time
Other things to measure
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Auto-payment enrollment
Data Privacy & Data Bias Making a data tool decision
  • Google suite (GA4 and Tag Manager)
  • Ability to integrate into current software stack
  • Intuitive interface
  • Make sure it’s secure
  • Mason’s favorite BI tool - Microsoft Excel & Apple’s Numbers
Other resources
Nov 08, 202244:49
Websites - Your Digital Storefront

Websites - Your Digital Storefront

Welcome to Self Storage LAB — where we deconstruct how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact their business.

As the first tru episode of our podcast, we wanted to dive into one of the most, maybe even THE MOST important tool an operator can use to ensure they have an Online Presence. Your Website.

Your digital Storefront.

The rise of digital marketing has created different touch-points for customers to engage with your brand. The goalposts have shifted and prospects are now further down the marketing funnel when they eventually talk to your store team.

Today we talk about how to think about your website customer journey, must have components and tools, and what the decision process look like.

---------------------------------------------- Start thinking about your audience
Components of a website
  • Logo, Title, Why Should I care
  • Don’t make me read
Click Funnels
  • SEO
  • Mind the Google
A look at the digital customer journey
  • Brochure and e-commerce
  • The world of Apple
  • 3 clicks to what I want
The non obvious
  • “What time do you open?”
  • Confused about how to pay
A/B Optimization Mobile Design
  • Meet your customers where they are
  • 62% of website traffic comes from mobile
  • 4.3B mobile users
No one-size fits all solution Technology Stack
  • “CMS” or your Content Management System
  • Wordpress is massive
  • Kyle’s starry eyes: Webflow
  • Self Storage options
Questions to Ask
  • What does it cost?
  • Can I customize it?
  • Do you know your brand?
  • When should I use paid acquisitions?
  • How do you help my SEO?
Other Resources
  • StoragePug
  • ReadWrite
  • StartupNation

Oct 13, 202247:05
Who we are, what this is, and why we're doing it

Who we are, what this is, and why we're doing it

Welcome to the first episode of The Self Storage Lab. Today we dive into who we are, what this podcast is about, and why we're doing this. 

For more information about what we do at swivl, check out our website:

Also, be sure to check out the Operator's Blueprint:

Sep 19, 202213:50
Introducing The Self Storage Lab

Introducing The Self Storage Lab

Join us for our brand new show, The Self Storage Lab–a new podcast deconstructing how operators are adapting to today’s technology-driven landscape and how it might impact your business.

In the age of hyper-informed, store-anywhere customers, your business needs to be always on, data-driven, and customer-centered.

Wether you’re a thousand location operator or looking to get into self storage with your first property, nerd out with us as we help you decide what’s best for your business.

Sep 01, 202201:34