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Learning to Love the Mask: Self-Storage Customer Service During COVID-19

Wearing a face mask when serving your self-storage customers might feel awkward and like a nuisance, but it adds a layer of protection for everyone during this coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how to work through your face covering and still make prospects and tenants feel at ease.

Smiling has been a key component of self-storage customer service forever and a day … until about mid-March when the coronavirus threw everyone for a loop. Now, we must smile through our face masks. Awkward!

Whether people in your area are being super careful about transmission-busting protocols or more relaxed about that sort of thing, you need to take maximum precautions against spreading the virus. Why? Because folks who are worried about getting sick want to know you’re taking their safety seriously. Even those who are flip about it should be aware. And everyone should understand you take employee protection to heart.

As self-storage operators, we don’t know what liability we may be creating for ourselves if we don’t take every available measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. I would hate for your business to be sued by someone whose loved one got sick, or worse, died after contracting the virus, and the only place he had recently visited was your office.

It’s vital to minimize this potentially life-threatening risk. That means more facility cleaning, social distancing both inside your office and out on the grounds, and wearing a mask when interacting with others on any level. It’s that last one with which many people are struggling, as they don’t like wearing something on their face, or feel embarrassed, or think it’s a nuisance. But it’s imperative to wear a mask at all times when any customers are near. If they see you take it off and on, or fiddle with it, it’ll make them uncomfortable and you’ll create an awkward situation.

It may be months or even years before we can stop wearing masks in public all the time. Moving forward, we may always wear masks when away from our homes. You got used to wearing shoes, didn’t you? You’ll get used to wearing a mask.

It irks me when I see self-storage staff without a mask, or wearing one but allowing their nose out to hang out, or the mask is hanging off their chin. I take that as an act of callous disregard for my safety and that of their customers and co-workers. Wearing a mask the right way is a super simple thing to do. It’s a tiny, tiny effort—a minute inconvenience. It tells everyone you care about their health.

When I see facility managers disregarding mask protocol, I want to ask them why they don’t give two flips if they pass the virus to someone or someone passes it to them. Instead, I usually make a joke or say something goofy about my own mask to see if I can get a chuckle. Sometimes it’s better to bring people around to your way of thinking through humor.

I’ve only been working remotely since the social-distancing recommendations began. All my clients have figured out how to do a no-contact version of self-storage. The operators with whom I work are taking precautions to protect their customers and staff, and that includes wearing masks. It isn’t hard. I wear mine every time I’ll be within 10 feet of people, and especially when I’m in a grocery store or other place of business.

All that said, you still need to offer superior customer service, even when your mouth is covered. How do you smile through your mask? Try this old trick phone salespeople use: Smile real big so the person on the other side of the conversation can hear it. Practice this and you’ll see what I mean.

Another way you can “smile” through your mask is to wear one with a whimsical print or fun colors. There are so many people making masks these days. Ask a friend or someone in your family to make one for you, or buy one online. You might even try making them yourself. Get funny fabrics with things like pink donuts or kittens playing in yarn, or anything that might make someone grin.

What are we to do? This isn’t enjoyable, but we must put our customers at ease and keep our own sanity. So, learn to love your mask and how to smile through it. Good luck and stay healthy!

Tron Jordheim is managing partner of Self Storage Strategies (SSS), a joint venture he formed with Store Here Management after serving as business development manager for the firm and its parent company, RHW Capital Management Partners. SSS provides market studies, feasibility reports and consulting services. Jordheim is a consultant in sales, marketing, call center practices, revenue enhancement and management. For more information, visit www.selfstoragestrategies.com.

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