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Count to 3: Handling Disgruntled Self-Storage Tenants

There are many things that can cause a self-storage customer to have a bad day, and a facility operator can easily find himself on the receiving end of that negativity. Here’s how to defuse the situation in three steps.

When dealing with your self-storage customers, you need to remember two things: First, they’re human and, therefore, prone to mistakes; and second, they have feelings just like you. There are a great many things that can cause someone to have a bad day, and sometimes we find ourselves on the receiving end of that negativity. Being able to deal with unhappy or angry tenants professionally can be extremely difficult, but here are three steps to defuse the situation.

Step 1: Empathize and Remain Calm

Being able to listen and understand will take you far with aggravated individuals. Just because Joe walked in and started yelling doesn’t mean he’s mad at you. Most of the time when a customer is upset, it’s with a situation, not a specific person; but because he doesn’t know who to blame, you become the target.

Don’t take a tenant’s frustrations personally. Keep your mind open and listen to his grievance. Maybe you didn’t clearly explain the due date for payment, or maybe he misunderstood your explanation. Either way, listen and remain calm.

No matter the situation, you need to be detached. When we add our own emotions to those being thrown at us, we tend to say or do things we later regret. Ignore your initial instinct to be offended and defend your position. Be the picture of calm. Once you can do this, you’ll be able to handle people like Joe.

Step 2: Let Them Vent, But Avoid Danger

There’s always a reason for angry, negative behavior. It doesn’t matter what it is. If someone has decided to be mad, he will be until he decides to calm down. If Joe comes in complaining, let him vent. Take note of his grievances and thank him for bringing them to your attention. Don’t try and argue. Instead, accept his feedback and even take notes. This will help you remain attentive and calm.

While you may try to douse the fire with rationality, you’re just putting yourself at risk of getting burned. Instead, accept that this person has every right to be angry. That doesn’t mean, however, that he has the right to threaten violence. If you find yourself in physical danger, call for help and try to gain some distance—quickly.

Step 3: Be Polite and Sincere

When you’re trying to lower someone’s rage, be polite. Yes, it’s hard to remain calm when you’re being yelled at, but once you relate to the source of unpleasantness, you can understand it isn’t personal. Address the grievance with a simple, apologetic statement, and thank him for bringing the matter to your attention. Finally, be sincere. You should feel saddened by the customer’s need to complain. Use this empathy to your advantage.

To sum up: In the face of an unhappy self-storage customer, relate to his grievance. It isn’t personal, it’s business. The reasons for his upset are irrelevant; accept that, and things will be easier to process. Finally, resolve to be sincere and apologetic. By remaining calm in the face of the storm, you’ll survive intact.

Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development LTD, a real estate and development firm that operates more than self-storage 30 facilities in the Southeast. With more than 10 years of management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and she’s excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her @MohalaJohnson on Twitter or For more information, visit

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