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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Self-Storage Service Doctors: Alleviating Customer Pain, Winning Customer Trust

By Teri Lanza Comments
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Customer service is an important component in the success of any business. But in self-storage, where customer interactions can frequently be tinged by emotion, service is more than sound business practice. It can have a profound impact on a customer's state of mind. Not only might it inflame or alleviate whatever feelings they're already having about their need for storage, it will certainly influence the way they feel about you, your facility and your brand.

Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you're a self-storage operator, every day is an adventure. You never know who'll walk through your door or what their circumstances will be. A customer's need for storage is often predicated on a stressful event. Sometimes it's something tragic like a divorce or death in the family. They're in distress. How would you wish to be treated?

A little over a month ago, my husband and I had to take one of our cats to the vet. We came home from dinner one night, and the girl who had seemed normal just two hours earlier was suddenly fatigued and despondent. We took her to the 24-hour animal hospital, where we were sure they'd discover a simple ailment and send us all home. Instead, we faced a week-long hospitalization, a litany of tests, a surgery, dozens of unanswerable questions and several sleepless nights.

During that week, we were emotionally overwrought. Every day was a rollercoaster ride of progress and setbacks. We didn't know which end was up. And during all of this, we interacted with many different members of the hospital's staff, from receptionists to vet techs to internal specialists to surgeons. Each had a different "bedside manner," but the ones who were kind, informative and compassionate helped to ease our burden. The ones who were curt, impatient and rude served only to escalate our anxiety.

Customer service isn't just about helping people accomplish their goals, it's about listening and helping them solve problems. Ultimately, it's about alleviating pain.

In self-storage, this might be the simple discomfort of an overstuffed garage or the intense pain of storing a deceased parent's belongings. In either case, the self-storage operator has the power to lessen that pain or make it more acute. He's a service doctor, and if he doesn't take his job seriously, he'll not only contribute to another person's suffering, he'll do damage to his own business in the process.

During our experience with the animal hospital, my husband and I encountered many wonderful, caring individuals. Unfortunately, we also had two very unpleasant exchanges—one with a doctor and another with a receptionist—that left such a horrible impression on us that we now have a negative association with the business, even though the majority of its staff is excellent. If asked my opinion, I might not discourage someone from using this hospital; but I would be honest about my experience. And I certainly am not an eager advocate who will generate referrals.

No matter who you are, you're a customer, too ... of many different companies. At some point, you may need help during an emotionally charged time. I guarantee that in that moment, you will be grateful for the representative who treats you with kindness and understanding. It could completely transform your experience and will likely build brand loyalty. Keep that in mind when you deal with your self-storage customers. Some days, you may feel your role in the industry or the world in general is an insignificant one. Trust that your interactions with customers are meaningful, and you have the power to truly help people.

Have you ever had the opportunity to make a difference in a customer's life through great service? Or has a customer made a difference in yours? Please share your stories on the blog.

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