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Dealing With Unhappy Self-Storage Customers: 7 Steps to Turning a Challenge Into an Opportunity

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Self-storage manager Mary stands up with a smile on her face, ready to greet the customer as he walks through the office door. Then the dam bursts. The man explodes into a mad tirade, claiming the company failed to deliver on a service he expected, costing him time and money.

Mary does her best to reason with the customer, but nothing she says seems to help. The tenant only gets angrier, shouting accusations and spiraling further into a rage. Within a few minutes, he walks out, vowing never to do business with the storage company again and to post bad reviews online.

Storage managers often have to deal with unhappy tenants as part of the job, and it's never easy. But if we know what to say and, more important, how to say it, we may be able to save the situation. In fact, we can even end up having a better relationship with the tenant by showing we care.

Let’s explore how to deal with angry or difficult customers. Here are seven steps you can take to smooth things over and leave them feeling satisfied.

Step 1: Adjust Your Mindset

Once you're aware your tenant is unhappy, your first priority is to put yourself into a customer-service mindset. This means you set aside any feelings you might have that the situation isn't your fault, the tenant made a mistake or he’s giving you unfair criticism. All that matters is you realize he’s upset and it's up to you to solve the problem.

Give 100 percent of your focus to your customer and the current situation. As the ambassador of your company, you accept responsibility for his discontent. Again, this doesn’t make you “at fault,” and it doesn’t give the customer leeway to demand whatever he wants. Rather, it gives him someone to talk to instead of being angry at a faceless company.

Step 2: Listen Actively

The most important step in the process is actively listening to what your customer is saying. He wants to be heard and to air his grievances. Start the dialogue with a neutral statement such as, "Let's go over what happened" or "Please tell me why you're upset." This subtly creates a partnership between you and your tenant, and lets him know you're ready to listen.

Resist the temptation to try and solve the situation right away or jump to conclusions about what happened. Instead, let your tenant tell his story. As he's talking, don't plan out what you're going to say when he's done—this isn't active listening. Also, don't allow anything to interrupt this conversation. Give your tenant all of your attention.

Step 3: Repeat His Concerns

Once he's had time to explain why he's upset, repeat the customer’s concerns so you're sure you're addressing the right issue. If you need to, ask questions to make sure you've identified the problem correctly. Use calm, objective wording. For example, "As I understand it, you’re upset because we didn't deliver the service as promised."

Repeating the problem shows the customer you were listening, which can help lower his anger and stress levels. More than this, it helps you agree on the problem that needs to be solved.

Step 4: Be Empathic and Apologize

Once you're sure you understand your tenant's concerns, be empathic. Show him you understand why he's upset, and make sure your body language also communicates this understanding and empathy. For example, you could say, "I understand why you're upset. I would be, too. I'm very sorry we didn't get this right and it's caused problems."

Step 5: Present a Solution

Now you need to present your customer with a solution. There are two ways to do this. If you feel you know what will make him happy, tell him how you'd like to correct the situation. If you're not sure what the tenant wants from you or he resists your proposed solution, then give him the power to resolve things. Ask him to identify what will make him satisfied.

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