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Tricky Service Situations in Self-Storage

Self-storage operators know that a huge part of their job involves providing superior customer service. If you’re skills are lacking or you just need a refresher, consider this advice.

Self-storage operators know that a huge part of their job involves providing superior customer service. When faced with a tenant who’s fuming about a late fee, they must smile and stay calm. When a new customer is signing a lease while his three-year-old runs circles around the office and knocks over merchandise, again, they must smile and stay calm. And when a customer enters the office and shares waaaayyy too much information about a fight with a spouse, they’ll nod their head in the appropriate places and offer words of encouragement.

Wearing many “hats” is just part of the gig. And nearly every cap, bonnet or fedora usually contains some aspect of customer service. Even so, your skills can be stretched, tested and even be nonexistent on a bad day.

Self-Storage Talk (SST), the industry’s biggest online community, recently presented a few instances in which flexing your customer-service muscles was a must. In the thread, “Yes. I Am Really Going to Ask This Question,” SST Moderator MusicCityGal introduced the topic of smelly bathrooms after use by a tenant or guest. Others quickly chimed in to share their own revolting tales and discussed how to handle not just the stench left behind, but gently deal with the customer who made it. It’s a delicate customer-service situation that no one wants to be in, but it does happen.

SST threads about late fees also demonstrate how often self-storage managers must activate their customer-service prowess. The thread “What to Do. Renter Pays but Still Behind” contains several instances in which managers were faced with tenants angry about fees and overlocks, and some who had to move forward with a lien sale after listening to one too many sob stories from customers who were behind on the rent.

As you can imagine, a hallmark of good customer service is patience. Another is being an excellent listener. Finally, you need the ability to communicate well with your tenants. If your customer-service skills are a bit lacking, however, don’t fret. These can be learned and improved any time. In the ISS article “4 'Stupid-Simple' Tricks for Elevating Your Self-Storage Service Skills,” author Rick Beal offers strategies you can adopt to ensure the next time you’re faced with a “tricky” service situation, you’ll know how to handle it. He also introduces the concept of “infusive service,” which goes beyond just your words and actions to include everything about your property, from signage to curb appeal.

In the age of technology, customer service often gets left behind. And while offering your customers a number of ways to interact with your facility—via a kiosk or online billpay, for example—is necessary, it’s still critical to keep that “old-school” customer-service philosophy intact. People who seek self-storage are often in some kind of life transition. It could be a family move, divorce, death, downsizing, job loss or any other high-stress event that rocks someone’s world. They’re likely already on edge, so it’s up to you to make moving into a storage unit as pleasant as possible. You don’t have to be Polly Positive every day and in every situation, but keeping your cool when faced with one of those “tricky” situations is a must.

How do you handle difficult customer-service situations? Add a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s biggest online community.

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