Inside Self-Storage

APR 2019

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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Tricky customer interactions and how to handle them By Stacie Maxwell ' DEADLY ' SERVICE SITUATIONS se 7 en If you're a self-storage operator who deals with customers, you may encounter situations in which a customer is unhappy and you're in the spotlight to fix his problem. Knowing how to handle these difficult interactions takes a bit of skill, a dash of experience, a whole lot of understanding and the ability to see things from the customer's point of view. Here are seven "deadly" circumstances you may face and advice on how to handle each. 1. You Made a Mistake or Must Deliver Bad News You receive a call from a customer who was supposed to move into his unit on Sunday, but the vacancy lock was never removed, and he couldn't do so. Yikes! This is clearly a manager mistake, one that might even result in disciplinary action. To reduce the negative impact on the tenant and business, the at-fault party needs to react—quickly. The first step is to put your ego aside and evaluate the situation objectively. How would you feel if this happened to you? Apologize and let the customer know you feel terrible about the error. Being truthful and letting him know you also would be upset shows empathy and understanding. Next, let him know you're doing whatever is necessary to remedy the mistake, or that you're willing to facilitate contact with the appropriate parties. Tell him when to expect a resolution. Then, whatever you do, make sure the problem gets solved! In the example above, the answer is to remove the vacancy lock immediately and do what's necessary to make the customer "whole." Did he spend money on a mover or rental truck? You need to reimburse his lost expense or arrange to move him into the unit free of charge. Making the customer whole is key to gaining forgiveness when mistakes are made. The same process applies if you must give a customer bad news. "I find that when you have to relay tough information, it's just best to be honest and straightforward. I've had to do this with a flood and fire, and it is never easy," says Tammy Hamrick, manager Vigilant Self Storage in Richmond, Va. 2. You Don't Have an Answer Have you ever faced a situation in which you didn't have an immediate answer to a customer inquiry or issue? Maybe you were new and still learning. In any case, simply telling a customer you "don't know" isn't acceptable. A better course of action is to tell him you're going to research the question and get back to him. No one can be expected to know everything, so this is reasonable. However, it's vital to follow through in a timely manner. If a bit of time goes by and you still don't have an answer, follow up with the customer to let him know you haven't forgotten him and are still working on a solution. Set yourself a reminder and reach out to the customer either way. A quick e-mail works great for this purpose and creates a paper trail of communication. It's not what you say, it's how you say it. Always try to be understanding and relatable as possible when speaking to customers." _ Cassie Apple, Manager, North Penn Storage, Edmond, Okla. 58 ISS I April 2019

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