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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Handling Self-Storage Customer Complaints in a Facebook World

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A guest installment by Mark Beck, Owner, StorageAlly

The way businesses interact with customers has changed dramatically, especially with increased access to social media. Have you ever dealt with a defective new purchase or simply had a poor customer-service experience? If so, then you’ve likely jumped through hoops in your attempt to contact the respective company to deal with the issue at hand, only to find yourself being transferred from person to person and eventually back to the beginning, right where you started.

What does this say about the current climate of customer service? According to a recent consumer study commissioned by TalkTo.com, a company that makes it possible for consumers to text businesses, the average person will spend nearly 43 days waiting “on hold” during their lifetime. This is one of many reasons why people are moving away from the phone as a means to connect with businesses and reaching out to companies through the Internet and social media instead.

In an attempt to find new ways to reach customers and grow their businesses, self-storage operators are relying more on social media for marketing purposes. The Internet has radically transformed the self-storage industry and how business is conducted, especially with the advent of e-mail, websites, online reservations, rentals, chat rooms, and other social media.

Today, potential self-storage customers are still soliciting recommendations from their friends and family members, but it’s no longer solely by word of mouth. Prospective tenants also depend on their social-media connections, whether through followers on Facebook and Twitter or by visiting websites like Yelp and Google, to help them decide where to rent.

Customers also aren't reluctant to share their personal experiences with certain businesses, especially if they believe a company has let them down or has avoided an issue regarding their service or purchase. Unfortunately, businesses don’t always realize how this can negatively impact their company.

This is why it has become even more important to not only provide exceptional customer service at the counter, but also create a social space to allow customers to interact with your storage company if there is ever an issue. After all, how can you fix a problem if you don’t even know it exists?

Self storage owners and managers need to understand that social-media users are essentially part of their marketing team. It is critical operators understand how to effectively communicate with their customers online, including responding to and fixing potential issues that are brought to their attention.

I will be discussing this important topic at length during my educational session at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas. Titled “Handling Customer Complaints in a Facebook World,” the session is part of the Manager Essentials track and will be presented on the first day of the show, April 3, at 10 a.m.

During the session, you’ll learn how to connect your self-storage company to hundreds of leads and pre-existing loyal customers. We’ll discuss several issues and how they relate to your self-storage business, including:

  • Why you need an online customer-service recovery strategy
  • Is social customer service replacing the phone and e-mail?
  • Great examples of social customer service successes (and failures)
  • How to respond to an upset customer via Facebook and Twitter
  • Top problems facing self-storage operators online

I’ll also delve into the top three problems self-storage operators tend to face with online reviews and virtual customer interaction, including how to respond to:

  • Posts about a poor service experience
  • Frustration over a rate increase
  • A customer’s inability to access his storage unit

Kristen Partipilo, marketing coordinator for real estate company the William Warren Group and operator StorQuest Self Storage, says it’s crucial operators monitor all online reviews and respond when necessary to ensure their brand maintains a positive reputation. She recommends all operators consider the following when responding to customer complaints through social media:

  • Always respond to reviews. Not responding could be viewed as a passive acceptance of the problem. Customers who post online feel a strong need for their message to be heard, both by their peers and by the company they’re reviewing.
  • Reach out to the reviewer offline. When a company representative reaches out to a reviewer by phone, it re-establishes a personal relationship and lets the individual know his complaint has been heard and the company is willing to listen to customer feedback to create a more enjoyable self-storage experience. It also enables the representative to gain a better understanding of the complaint and strengthen her ability to fix the problem. Once an issue has been resolved, the representative can then politely request that the customer either remove or update the negative review by reflecting on the positive resolution.
  • It’s important to follow up. Respond to the review online with an empathetic voice addressing the customer’s concerns and the steps that were taken to resolve the issue.

As the self-storage industry becomes more tech savvy to better serve and connect with customers online, knowing what to do when something goes awry is becoming an increasingly important part of how we do business.

I strongly encourage you to register for the Inside Self Storage World Expo, April 3-5, and I look forward to seeing you during my session.

Mark Beck is owner of StorageAlly, a company specializing in self-storage training and support services, and ambassador for the California Self Storage Association. He has been a self-storage operator since 1995 and supported more than 200 store teams in the United States and Europe. He lives in Southern California with his wife and son. Connect with Mark on Twitter via @markbeck.

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