Inside Self-Storage

NOV 2018

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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Page 13 of 71

P roviding the highest quality service is important in any industry. In self-storage, however, most customers arrive at your property because they're going through something stressful, such as a move, divorce, deployment, etc. If something goes awry in their transaction with you, it'll only compound their anxiety. That's why it's so important to handle difficult circumstances with tact. You need to resolve any customer issues in a timely manner and make the best of the situation at hand. There are a few simple but crucial guidelines you can follow to ensure distressed customers leave your facility satisfied with their storage experience. Whether a tenant is upset about a late fee or a nasty roof leak that developed after a heavy rain, you can adhere to the same general rules to resolve the problem and move forward. Listen and Hear Don't just listen to your tenants, hear what they have to say. When someone comes to you with a problem, no matter how big or small, the best thing you can do is pay attention. Even when someone comes in with a less-than-ideal attitude and is set to "take you down," he still needs to be heard. Stop what you're doing and listen without interrupting. Once he's finished, you can respond directly to the complaint. If someone is upset about a recent rate increase, for example, don't just fall back on your stock response. Listen to why he's personally troubled, and respond to that insight directly. Make sure he knows you've heard what he said—he's struggling financially, he's been a long-time tenant, etc.—and you want to help. By responding to the specific concern vs. the more general problem, you'll connect with your customer. Put Logic and Reasoning Ahead of Emotion Most of us have faced a situation in which a tenant storms into the office, says his stuff is ruined and it's your fault, so you need to fix it. In cases like this, emotions are already running high and it can be easy to respond with the same level of reaction. While it may feel like a personal attack, the tenant is responding to the high-stress situation, not you as a person. Remind yourself that it isn't about you. Then reply in a calm, leveled manner to offset the emotion on the other side of the counter. As a customer-service professional, you're here to provide a reasonable, peaceful answer and a logical way to assist. Take Ownership and Respond Quickly In the service industry, it's often said the customer is always right. This might not always be true; however, management isn't always right, either. It's important to own up to your part when something goes wrong. Acknowledging when you've made a mistake helps build trust with your tenants. It also encourages them to take you at your word; they know you're being honest and forthright. So, take that ownership when necessary and respond to the issue immediately. Sometimes it can be tempting to put off dealing with an issue, perhaps in hopes that it'll solve itself; but it's important to be proactive and deal with it before things escalate. Of er Tangible Solutions Once you know what's going on, start solving that problem. For example, if there was an issue with rodents in a unit, offer to transfer the tenant to another area where there have been no reported issues. If there was a roof leak and the customer has tenant insurance, offer to help him file the claim. The more readily you can provide a real, proactive solution, the more positive a reaction you'll receive. To be positive and offer help, employees need to know what they can do and offer in various situations. They should know if they can offer a discount or free retail merchandise, or how to file an insurance claim, for example. The more informed and empowered you are, the more smoothly the process will be for everyone involved. You and your team should want to address problems swiftly and easily, just as your tenants do. Difficult service situations can be challenging, but taking control of each situation and following these guidelines will make them easier to handle. With practice, it'll even become natural to navigate through to conclusion. The goal is to learn from mistakes, gain more skill and grow from those experiences. As you get more comfortable in these customer-service scenarios, you'll see that even the most upset tenant can leave your office with a smile. The best thing you can do is listen to what's happening, engage in a calm and measured manner, respond quickly, and provide real solutions. By doing all this—and sometimes more— your biggest critic can become your biggest fan. Susan Haviland is owner of Haviland Storage Services and a partner of industry consulting and training firm Self Storage 101. She has more than 27 years of industry experience, from serving as a site manager to acting as vice president of operation at Extra Space Storage Inc. and Price Self Storage. For more information, call 866.360.2621; visit IN THE TRENCHES Handling Difficult Service Situations By Susan Haviland 12 ISS I November 2018

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