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What Would You Do? Navigating Tricky Service Situations in Self-Storage

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What would you do if you didn’t have a unit size a customer needed?

You should never lose a potential tenant simply because the requested unit size is unavailable, our experts say. “Go to the next size up, or maybe two smaller spaces to equal the size the customer needs. Just find a way to supply what they need,” advises Bob Taylor (astro), an SST moderator and facility manager of Blue Ridge Self Storage in Cashiers, N.C.

For most operators, there are a number of solutions, including combining units, upsizing or downsizing or adding the customer to a short waiting list, says Robert Madsen (Madman), an SST moderator and president of U-Lock Mini Storage in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. “Most important, we don't want to say flat out no and force them to go elsewhere to work on their storage solutions on their own.”

Not only is this a great customer-service opportunity, but also a time when a discount might come into play. “I'd offer the customer the next size up at a discounted rate,” says Satyra From PhoneSmart, an SST senior member.

What SHOULD you do?

Appleby: Figure out a way to satisfy the need and get the business. If we’ve got a unit to rent and they have money, we can work something out. That is what we are here for.

Ballard: Since we are the pros and know all about our competition, we would place them with a competitor, calling to confirm they had the size and price and letting them know we are sending them a customer. The customer will be so impressed that, when they rent again, we usually get them back to us.

Bledsoe: We would attempt to find two units that are close to each other and offer the same amount of space between two units at the same rate. If the customer needs a smaller unit and we don’t have the size available, we would try to find a unit with low occupancy and offer that unit at the same rate or at a slightly discounted rate. Ideally, we would try to offer the tenant a unit that we do have in stock, and we may make some deeper concession to rent them that unit.

What would you do if a tenant filed a complaint against you, a co-worker or another customer?

Richard and Beverly Haessler (RichardandBeverly), SST members and resident managers at Park Inn Storage in Odessa, Texas, disclose that their owner has received two complaints about them. They called the owner ahead of time to explain the situation. “The owner said he felt bad that we had to deal with such people. End of problem. Both [customers] were given 15-day-to-vacate notices. One called the owner back and wanted to stay, but he said he would stand by our decision.”

As the facility owner, SST senior member geraldine1051 says she hasn’t come across this scenario yet. But she knows exactly what she’d do if it ever happens: “I would suggest the customer take his belongings to another facility. And if that tenant needed a police escort, that could easily be arranged.”

However, she has had complaints from one tenant about another. In these instances, geraldine1051 says she’s spoken with the “offending” tenant about altering his behavior. Usually, that’s all it takes.

What SHOULD you do?

Appleby: This depends on the nature of the complaint. It should be handled according to company policy. If needed, contact your attorney.

Bledsoe: A complaint filed against any employee would never be directly handled by that person. The complaint would go directly to his supervisor, and that person’s supervisor would contact that customer to discuss the issue. The supervisor would then work with the employee to resolve the problem.

A complaint filed against another customer can obviously be tricky. From time to time, this sort of thing happens, and typically we work with the complaining customer to find out what the problem might be. Sometimes we can resolve the problem by moving tenants to units that aren’t close to each other on the property. We work with the person filing the complaint to exhaust all efforts for resolution before we go to the person they’re complaining about.

To read more great content in the ISS "What Would You Do?" business-challenges series, type code WWYD13 in the search box at

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