Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Customer service is the backbone of all thriving businesses, but unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to please every customer in any industry - and self storage is no exception. No matter who is at fault in the situation, it’s your job to clean up the situation or you’ll lose a renter and one of your storage units will be sitting empty. (Just like that old gem, “the customer is always right.”)
If you’ve been in the self storage biz for years, you’ve probably encountered your fair share of upset customers and had more than a handful of uncomfortable conversations. If you’re new to the industry and haven’t encountered an upset customer, you’ll undoubtedly come across this scenario at some point - you can’t dodge customer conflict your whole career. Here are some tips for dealing with customers who need to blow off some steam:
Think about the last time you were rubbed the wrong way by a business and brought it up to the manager. Would you be happy if they started acting snarky or raising their voice? Probably not. The customer wants to be heard and if you don’t stay calm, they won’t think you’re really listening. If you stay calm, it will also help you consider the customer’s point of view, which is vital for conflict resolution. Even if there is nothing you can do to help the customer, simply offering an empathetic, listening ear is always appreciated when an upset tenant needs to vent.
This is especially important if the customer is acting irrationally. Start by asking, “why are you angry?” And end by asking, “what can we do to remedy this situation?” Calmly asking questions without pointing any blame can help you get to the bottom of the conflict and can start diffusing the situation. Without all the information, you won’t be able to come to a resolution you are both happy with.
If during the conversation you realize that you or one of your employees has made a mistake, own up to it immediately. Customers appreciate honesty and want to feel validated. Immediately take responsibility for the wrongdoing and assure the customer that you will follow up with appropriate action to ensure it doesn’t ever happen again. Then, be sure to follow through and stick to your word.
Figure out what it’s going to cost you to keep the customer happy. When figuring out your own resolution, remember to look down the road to see how much it would cost to lose their business entirely. Put yourself in their shoes and try to think of what you’d want in this situation. While not every customer is worth keeping, most of the time you’re going to want to do whatever it takes to keep the customer’s business. If you do intend to sever ties with the former customer, do so amicably - never burn a bridge.
Once you’ve determined how much you’re willing to sacrifice to appease the client, ask them how you can resolve the issue for them. Sometimes it will be as simple as an apology and you won’t have to worry about giving them free rent for a couple months or reimbursing for previous months. But if the conversation becomes unproductive or verbally abusive, stop it immediately. Use a calm voice to let the customer know you’re going to step away from the situation until everyone cools down. Give the customer and yourself a couple minutes to get your bearings. Then try to tackle the negotiations again.
Once everything is hammered out, make sure you take a second to thank the customer for bringing this problem to your attention. It shows that you value their opinion and their business. This also ends the confrontation on a good note and leaves the customer feeling appreciated and heard.
Resolving the issue quickly and to the customer’s liking can not only keep their business, but it can also keep a negative review of your facility off the internet for potential future customers to see. Now that you have all of these conflict resolution tips, put them to work at your facility the next time a conflict arises!
Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Homelessness + self storage: How to be compassionate while preventing live-in renters, 5 key lessons for smooth tenant move-ins, and How to prevent pets from being stored at your facility.