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Using Self-Reflection to Improve Self-Storage Customer Service

The most difficult customers can make work challenging, creating unexpected or unreasonable hoops to jump through and testing one’s patience and boundaries of decorum. Lately, I’ve used negative instances we’ve experienced in the Inside Self-Storage Store to reflect on my own behavior as a customer. The exercise not only has made me a nicer customer to deal with, it’s improved my customer-service skills.

Tony Jones

November 27, 2014

4 Min Read
Using Self-Reflection to Improve Self-Storage Customer Service

Customers are funny aren’t they? Businesses certainly can’t survive without them, and yet those who deal directly with clients are sometimes left to wonder how they can function efficiently with them. The most difficult customers can make work extremely challenging, creating unexpected or unreasonable hoops to jump through and testing one’s patience and boundaries of decorum. This holds true, whether you’re a self-storage manager, auto mechanic, bank teller or any other type of service provider or manufacturer. Business creates customers as well as the occasional, customer-induced headache.

Some industries, like self-storage, have built-in customer pain points simply in the way they function. About a year ago, ISS highlighted the “The 10 Worst Types of Self-Storage Customers” in a memorable slideshow, compiled from contributions by members of Self-Storage Talk (SST). The forum thread that spawned the slideshow has continued to grow, gathering more true tales from the trenches. It’s worth a read, not only because many of the entries are hilarious, but to see the commonalities of problem customers self-storage managers deal with on a regular basis.

A more recent SST thread has managers sharing some of the unspoken thoughts they have rattling through their minds when confronted with difficult customers. Clearly, managers experience their fair share of bite-your-tongue moments, and it’s interesting to examine some of the actual retorts they use to diffuse certain situations. The camaraderie of pain points is readily apparent.

We’ve experienced our own share of challenging customers since launching the ISS Store. Most users are wonderful, of course, and genuinely appreciate the efforts we take when they occasionally experience difficulties with the website or a product they’ve purchased. Like any business conscious of good customer service, we strive very hard to resolve any issues that arise with promptness and courtesy, even if we know the problem they are reporting is on their end.

Sometimes, though, there is little that can be done for customers who convince themselves a business is in the wrong, no matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary. Self-storage managers deal with this frequently when it comes to late payments, overlocks, lien notices and other items that may be explained in a rental agreement but have gone unread or misunderstood by the tenant.

We have a unique position through the ISS Store to engage with customers who come from all points around the industry, from tire-kickers examining the prospects of building or investing in a self-storage facility to analysts studying market trends to storage owners and facility managers looking for ways to improve their business acumen. Because we are a business-to-business entity, the one thing almost all of our customers have in common—outside of their connection to ISS and self-storage—is they each have their own client base.

So when customer-service issues arise, it’s interesting to experience the dynamic of a business person being a customer. In those rare cases when a customer has been unruly or unreasonable while trying to resolve an issue, it’s natural to wonder about the professionalism that person displays when dealing with challenging issues brought forth by his own customers.

I’ve used the few negative instances we’ve experienced to reflect on my own behavior as a customer. When an issue arises and I’m gearing up to lodge a complaint, I’ve found myself taking a step back to more carefully examine the problem to see if there is something I’ve missed or misunderstood that will help me rectify the situation on my own or clarify the issue I need resolved.

This is what we wish our most difficult customers would do isn’t it—take stalk and re-examine their complaint from all angles before jumping to conclusions and laying blame? Not only has this made me a nicer customer to deal with, I believe assuming preferred customer behavior has helped improve my own customer-service skills in terms of assisting clients through a problem or explaining our position on an issue. If nothing else, it’s a useful exercise in slowing potential volatility and building empathy when trying to view a problem from the customers’ perspective.

By no means is this meant to condone or excuse unreasonable client behavior, but by holding your own customer-service issues against a mirror, you’re likely to uncover insight that will help you improve customer relations and sharpen your problem-solving skills.

I’d be curious to know if others have taken a similar approach to examining their customer service. What are you like to deal with as a customer? Please share some examples of how self-reflection has helped you improve customer service in the comments section below.

About the Author(s)

Tony Jones

ISS Store Manager, Contributing Editor, Inside Self-Storage

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