8 Ways to Cope With Cursing Self-Storage Callers: Tips to Diffuse the Anger

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By John Egan

Reprinted with permission from "The Storage Facilitator" blog.

It appears self-storage managers, owners and operators put up with their fair share of four-letter words over the phone. And we’re not talking about words like “unit” or “feet.”

A recent study by Seattle-based mobile-advertising company Marchex Inc. ranked 20 service industries based on the rate of expletive-filled customer calls they handle. The top industry was  Satellite TV, with one of every 82 calls laced with customer profanity. In seventh place was self-storage, with one of every 192 customers spewing swear words over the phone.

“Consumers expect great service and easy-to-understand pricing from national and local businesses, and they aren’t afraid to voice their displeasure when they don’t receive it,” John Busby, senior vice president of the Marchex Institute, a branch of Marchex Inc., said in a news release.

The study found that a considerable amount of cursing actually happens while customers are on hold. “This should be a clear signal to businesses that long hold times leave a negative and lasting impression,” Busby said.

Now that you know the self-storage industry rates high for incidences with cussing customers, you may be wondering what to do the next time you confront a cursing caller. Here are eight tips from the pros.

No. 1: Don’t Hang Up Right Away

“Let the customer finish. Give [him] an opportunity to calm down. Let [him] know you are there to help. Use the techniques that your company trained you on to deal with this situation,” says customer-service expert Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations LLC, a St. Louis-based company that offers customer-service training. “If all else fails, ask the customer to call back when he is willing to be reasonable.”

Ending the call is an extreme measure that should be avoided, says Stephanie Willis, a member of the Amazing Customer Experience (ACE) Team at online self-storage marketplace SpareFoot. Why? The cussing customer will likely call back and be more aggravated than before.

Taylor Zarsky, an event and ticket specialist for hospitality organizer Red Carpet Experiences, says she’s never resorted to hanging up on a fuming customer. “But one time I did ask a customer if he kissed his mother with that mouth,” Zarsky says. “Guilting typically works in a pinch.”

No. 2: Remain Calm

“Customers will react to your tone and demeanor. If you get defensive or use words like ‘can’t,’ ‘no’ or ‘won’t,’ chances are the
customer is going to become completely irrational and may even begin to cuss at you,” says Patrick McKernan, president of American Mobile Glass of New Jersey Inc., which repairs and replaces glass for cars, homes and businesses. “Too often, I’ve seen customer-service representatives overreact and let the customer get them in a frenzy.”

Instead, withhold judgment about the cursing customer and don’t take the barrage personally, says industrial psychologist Janine Sergay, president of The Sergay Group Ltd., an organizational development training firm in Long Grove, Ill.

No. 3: Be Empathetic

Tron Jordheim, director of operations for self-storage call-center firm PhoneSmart, says the company’s customer-service agents typically adopt a caring tone during the first round of cussing. “We let the caller know we are there to help with their problem or situation and that we want to help. This usually calms the person down enough for the cussing to stop,” he says.

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