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Self-Storage Break-Ins: Handling Tenant Backlash and Recovering Your Reputation

The fallout from a crime can damage your self-storage business reputation, resulting in lower occupancy and lost revenue. Learn how to handle tenant backlash after a facility break-in and what you can do to counteract any resulting negative press.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

—Warren Buffet

All business transactions are based on the concept of a fair exchange of value between buyer and seller. In exchange for money or other considerations, a company promises to deliver a product or service that customers appreciate. In the self-storage industry, the customer promise is secure space to keep goods. When your facility is burglarized, this fundamental agreement is broken. The fallout from such a crime can be damaging to your reputation, resulting in lower occupancy and lost revenue.

A theft at your facility may be reported by the local newspaper or TV station—which is hardly a good thing—but the real damage will come from the Internet and social media. If tenants have been burglarized, they’ll be shocked, frustrated and angry. They may use any available platform to share their stories and write negative reviews. Here’s what could happen and what you can do to minimize the damage.

self-storage-security-PTI***Your customers will talk to others and post feedback. A survey conducted by marketing-data firm Dimensional Research confirms that customers are more likely to share negative than positive feedback about a business, and the reporting rates are high. Overall, 95 percent of respondents who had a bad experience told someone about it. Additionally, those who had a bad experience were 50 percent more likely to share their stories on social media than those who had a good experience.

“Good news travels fast and bad news travels faster.” We intuitively know the truth of this proverb, but negativity bias is real. “Psychology Today” reports that our brains are built with a higher capacity for negative news. Your customers’ bad feedback will be detected and acknowledged by others because humans have an innate interest in calamity, misconduct, gossip and scandal.

You control how your business will respond and recover. Your legal liability may be minimal, but customers will expect a thoughtful, caring, professional response known as a service-recovery plan. As business expert Tom Peters has said, “In business, the problem is never the problem. The response to the problem is almost always the problem.”

According to the “Harvard Business Review,” service recovery is a recognized business pursuit with its own set of terms, procedures and best practices. You can protect your reputation by developing and pursuing a service-recovery plan that demonstrates compassion and sensitivity.

Respond to online reviews and communicate directly with customers. Your business reputation resides online, so monitor reviews and post responses, but always stick to the facts and maintain a professional approach. Your standing won’t be enhanced if your tone is defensive or peevish. Additionally, one of your most effective recovery steps will be to contact customers directly, demonstrating your concern and providing updates on the status of the criminal investigation.

With online platforms, the good name of any business is under constant scrutiny and feedback. Though reputation isn’t the same thing as performance, and you may be doing an adequate or even exceptional job, your status is based on how your business is perceived in the community.

Every service failure is a learning experience. As you conduct your post-mortem review, consider what changes you can make to improve facility security. If you’re upgrading your system, tell customers you’re doubling down on your promise to deliver secure self-storage.

Stan Hosler is a content writer for PTI Security Systems, a provider of access-control and security systems to the self-storage industry. To contact the PTI team, call 800.523.9504; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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