|The Inside Scoop|
The Art of Saying 'No' to Self-Storage Customers
It’s difficult for some people to say “no” to others, whether in regard to a personal or a work-related request. Some are simply too polite; others worry about the reaction of the person whose request is denied; some are just people-pleasers. But even for those who have the power and will to say "no," the act can be tough, especially when the refusal means turning away business.
For self-storage operators, there are two circumstances under which you might have to say “no” to a customer: 1) You do not have what the customer wants, for example, a unit of a particular size; or 2) There’s something about the customer that discourages you from renting to him or her. In either case, it can be hard to turn away a sale. In the first place, we hate to turn customers to our competition or admit to shortcomings in inventory or product features. In the second, we have to trust our intuition and do what feels right for the business, even at the risk of angering a consumer.
How do you say “no” when a potential customer wants something you can’t provide? Try as you might to accommodate―combining two units to make a larger, for example―there will be times when you may have to admit defeat. Perhaps the customer wants an individual unit alarm, and your facility doesn’t feature them. Maybe he’ll ask to make online payments when your website isn’t built to accept them. Whatever it is, to provide the best service and make a good impression (critical in these days of social-media impact), your response must be courteous and professional. It may even involve sending that customer to your competitor.
But all doesn’t have to be lost. Set an eye toward the future and consider responses that leave open the door to future business: “I’m sorry we can’t currently meet your need for [fill in the blank], but perhaps we’ll be able to accommodate you in the future. May I please have a phone number or e-mail address where I can reach you when this item/feature becomes available?”
Also keep referrals in mind! Just because you can’t help this particular customer does not mean you cannot meet the needs of his friends, family or co-workers. Offer the customer a flier, business card or coupon he can pass on to those he knows―highlighting your referral bonus, of course! For example, you might say, “Feel free to take these coupons for your family and friends. If one of them rents from us, we’ll give you a $25 gift card for sending them our way. Thanks so much for your interest in our facility, and I hope we can do business in the future.”
Undesirable customers are a different story. Sometimes a consumer makes it plain that he’ll be trouble to rent to, either because of a bad attitude or demeanor, or by openly stating nefarious intentions for a unit (storing an forbidden item or using the unit for an prohibited use). Sometimes a credit or background check will reveal the prospect to be objectionable. Whatever the case, you should have the right to refuse service to anyone, particularly if you believe a prospect to be dangerous to you, your other customers or the business itself.
Facility managers are sharing situations in which they declined to rent to customers on Self-Storage Talk, in a thread titled “Turned someone away.” Sometimes you just get an inkling that someone is bad news, and that’s OK. The trick is denying service without creating a volatile or dangerous circumstance for you or anyone else.
Again, be courteous and professional. Also be clear and concise in your verbiage: “I’m sorry, but I cannot rent a storage space to you.” If it’s appropriate to provide an explanation, do so; but don’t be defensive. The customer may become upset; he may even threaten to bad-mouth your business or worse. Remain calm and polite. Stand your ground. If absolutely necessary, call for help. (Dealing with angry customers is an art in itself. It can come with the territory when learning to say “no.”)
It’s an unfortunate fact that you will sometimes have to turn away business. Facility policies and a sound customer-service philosophy are there to protect and guide you in these circumstances, which are hopefully few and far between. Though it can be prickly to say “no,” self-storage managers should be prepared to do so. When it comes to smart business, sometimes no is the way to go.
Got a story about a time you said “no” to a customer for the good of your self-storage facility or the customer himself? Have a strategy for delivering the blow? Share it with our blog readers!