No Ruffled Feathers! Smoothing the Way Toward a Positive Self-Storage Customer Experience

In the world of self-storage customer experience, there can be a fine line between satisfaction and frustration. Some interactions with prospects and tenants are simply challenging. The following strategies should help you navigate and even resolve difficult service situations and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Risa Saavedra

May 28, 2024

5 Min Read

Every month here at Extra Space Storage, the customer-experience team takes time to carefully review the feedback provided by our valued tenants. We specifically look for remarks about our employees and their customer service.

As I read through the comments, two sentiments consistently resonate with me. The first is a profound sense of gratitude toward our dedicated team members for consistently delivering exceptional service. Second, it’s clear that customers have grown accustomed to encountering poor service. I frequently read things like “Good customer service people are hard to find” or “It's a rarity to have a positive customer experience.”

According to “The Wall Street Journal,” in 2022, 74% of U.S. consumers had at least one poor customer-service experience, an 8% increase over the previous year. So, it’s no wonder that people feel relieved when they have a genuinely positive encounter with a company. Still, there can sometimes be a fine line between customer satisfaction and frustration.

When a problem arises with a self-storage prospect or tenant, it’s important to have strategies for managing it. Let’s look at four tried-and-true approaches to challenging scenarios that’ll help you find resolution and conclude with a positive customer experience.

1. Take Ownership

Every single one of your self-storage employees who engages in customer interaction, whether face to face or over the phone, must be 100% committed to the principle of One Contact Resolution (OCR). This approach demands that the person who initially engages with a customer maintains complete ownership of the inquiry, regardless of the department involved.

For example, if a customer speaks to Rene in Department A, and Rene refers them to Kris in Department B, the customer has to restart the process and explain their issue all over again, which may no doubt be frustrating. Applying an OCR mentality, Rene would take ownership and solve the customer’s problem without unnecessary delays. The OCR prioritizes individual ownership and instills a natural inclination to expedite solutions during the initial customer contact.

To reinforce this commitment, empower your employees to take ownership of any self-storage customer issues as soon as they’re uncovered. My dry-cleaner once charged me more than what was quoted due to a computer error. It took two in-person visits and a game of phone tag before I received the proper credit. The issue would have been resolved quicker if the employee to whom I originally spoke took ownership of the situation. By empowering staff to do this, you can efficiently resolve issues and build trust with self-storage customers.

2. Show That You’re Human

According to HubSpot, 81% of customers prefer using a self-service option to resolve an issue before contacting a customer-service representative. If they do ultimately need to connect with a human, they’re often frustrated. If you’re on the receiving end, the key is to empathize, which is expressed by and acknowledging demonstrating an understanding of the customer’s experience. You can express empathy by using a two-part technique.

First, acknowledge and understand their feelings. Whether it be confusion, disappointment or shock, addressing emotions with statements that resonate can defuse tension and foster understanding. For instance, you might say, “I can see how time-consuming it is when the entry gate isn't working as it should. I'd feel frustrated, too.”

The second step involves moving forward. Tell the self-storage customer you’re going to work on finding a solution and share what you plan to do to get there. “I'm committed to resolving this for us. To get started, I'll need to ask a few questions and check a couple of things on your account.”

When empathy is genuine, it establishes a connection with the customer, which is something they might expect as soon as you greet them.

3. Ask Questions and Listen Intently

To formulate a unique solution for your self-storage customer, tap into the resources you have around you—including them! Gather the information you need and do your research. Follow your instincts and ask the applicable questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

If you need more time, ask if you can follow up with the customer within 24 hours. This ensures a well-informed solution while demonstrating a commitment to their needs. By asking questions, you can create a more effective and collaborative problem-solving experience.

You just asked your customer a question, and now you must do only one thing: Listen intently. This isn’t the time to ring up a different tenant, clear out your open tabs, or review the person’s payment history. Stop multi-tasking and show your customer that you genuinely care about them by taking notes, making eye contact and paraphrasing what you captured. This focused listening approach conveys respect and allows you to make a more empathetic response.

4. Provide Options

Empower your self-storage customers by offering two or three carefully crafted solutions from which they can choose. Each should have pros and cons. Outline them to provide transparency in the decision-making process. Then, allow your customer to pick the option that best fits their needs.

You can take the conversation a step further by asking the prospect or tenant what outcome they'd like to see. I've used this technique on several occasions, and the proposed solutions were always reasonable, which results in a win-win for everyone.

It's no surprise that a positive experience can raise customer satisfaction by as much as 20%, according to McKinsey & Co., but constant progress depends on how that experience is created. Even as we embrace the use of technology and explore innovative problem-solving strategies, it's important to acknowledge that self-storage renters will continue to anticipate consistent care when they need our help.

Risa Saavedra is the customer-experience manager at Extra Space Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate investment trust and property-management company. She joined the company as a learning and development manager in 2015 to coach customer-facing employees and field leadership in sales and service processes. She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from the University of La Verne and a certificate in marketing from the University of California, Irvine. For more information, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Risa Saavedra

Risa Saavedra is the customer-experience manager at Extra Space Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate investment trust and property-management company. She joined the company as a learning and development manager in 2015 to coach customer-facing employees and field leadership in sales and service processes. She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from the University of La Verne and a certificate in marketing from the University of California, Irvine. For more information, email [email protected].

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