Wouldn’t it be great if a business ran perfectly and we never heard a complaint from a single customer? Unfortunately, we’re dealing with human beings, not robots. It is a given that someone, at some point, will complain.
First, how do you handle the complainer? When an unhappy customer arrives, follow these steps. Write these items on a piece of paper and keep it on your desk!
1. Stop what you are doing and look at the person. Be attentive!
2. The minute they tell you they have a complaint, acknowledge, apologize and ask how you can help.
3. Really listen to what they say.
4. Don’t interrupt, let them finish.
5. Apologize again; explain how you are going to remedy their displeasure.
This process can take five seconds or fifteen minutes. Regardless, remember that your job is to provide stellar customer service! This is the only factor that separates you from your competition. All are selling the same product; you are the difference.
Let’s review each:
No one likes to be ignored, especially if they believe they have been wronged. Continuing to work on your computer will compound the discord and further agitate the customer. Acknowledge the person’s discontent with direct eye contact. Show sympathy, even if you feel none.
ACKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND HELP
Apologize first and foremost. Even if you say, “I am so sorry you are upset. What can I do to help you?” this could defuse an escalating conflict. Most just want to explain their frustration to someone who appears to care. Remain calm; don’t allow yourself to become angry.
It’s hard to listen to someone screaming at you. Listen to exactly what is being said. Watch the person’s body language. Is this breakdown the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, or is there a real issue? Carefully listening let’s you determine the customer’s hot buttons and how to address them.
If you fail to allow the customer to finish before jumping in, you may fuel the fire and accelerate the turmoil. Use this time to formulate your answer. Nod and say, “Oh my goodness”, or “Oh, no”, whatever words will validate their feelings. It’s easier to give an explanation to someone who believes they have been heard.
When the customer is finished, apologize again. “I am so sorry that this happened to you,” will do. Tell them how you are going to solve the crisis. Even if they caused the difficulty, (i.e. they haven’t paid their rent and can’t get in the gate,) you can address the solution and be helpful.
Remain calm and don’t argue! Fighting with a customer is a no-win situation. They will leave in a fury and tell everyone what a rotten business you operate. Try to resolve the dilemma before they leave.
The Top Ten Self Storage Complaints
Some you may have encountered and others you may happily say, “At least I’ve never heard that.”
1. My Gate Code Doesn’t Work –
Usually, the fault lies with the customer having forgotten their code, misplacing their card or late paying rent. Procedural education is the best prevention. During the lease process, demonstrate how to punch in their access number and detail late policies. When a tenant has forgotten their code, ask for proper ID even if you recognize them. They will see that you’re protecting their property by insuring proper access.
If they are simply entering their code incorrectly, demonstrate the correct procedure. Avoid talking through the speaker system; go to the gate and speak face to face. The best speaker is hard to understand and is impersonal. Be pleasant and don’t appear put-out by their inability to perform a simple task. Besides being rude, no one likes to be talked down to.
If their rent is delinquent, point out pleasantly that they probably didn’t realize that they had not paid. Time gets away from us and you’ll be glad to process the payment. Don’t chastise or reprimand. Sometimes it is just an honest mistake. If it is your mistake, simply apologize but don’t offer numerous excuses. They really don’t care; they just can’t access their unit.
2. Late Fees and Miscellaneous Fees –
During the lease process, explain how fees are assessed. Make eye contact; be sure the customer acknowledges that they indeed understand the policy. Present a one time late fee waiver or “Oops Coupon”. Clarify that you can waive the late fee once only. Defining all miscellaneous charges at leasing can avoid misunderstandings. Ask the customer to initial the contract next to the fee policy.
3. Collections/Auction Process –
A customer may claim that they were unaware of the collection/auction policy and were never notified. Education is the key; while processing the lease, explain the policies regarding the application of fees, collection and auction. Commenting, “Well, if you would just pay your rent…” won’t help. Presenting the signed lease with his signature and reviewing the delinquency process (nicely) may calm the customer, persuading him to accept responsibility and avert an angry tirade.
4. Move Out Notice/Refunds –
Facilities commonly require move out notices and don’t offer refunds. As most of our leases are month to month, refunds of partial months aren’t financially feasible. Stamping or writing “NO REFUNDS” on the lease, putting a copy of a move out notice in the lease package and explaining policy may help, but in most instances, people just forget. All you can do is to reiterate the rules.
5. Climate Control is Not Cold Enough –
Many people think a climate controlled unit should be air-conditioned and heated like an office building. Grandma’s hutch doesn’t need to be a comfortable 71 degrees all summer. Climate control exists primarily to regulate humidity and maintain a constant temperature. Customers easily accept this explanation. As always, explain the temperature policy at leasing.
6. Unit Access –
Two issues arise regarding unit access, the first being access hours. Hours are regulated to assure the well-being of customers and of their property. Regulation may be dictated by the local government or by the owner/property management. If a customer wishes access to their unit after hours, again define policy, and if possible, offer 24 hour access at a surcharge.
The second concerns a person not listed on the contract seeking access. Call the tenant and ask if this individual is permitted access. Make a note in the file and inform the tenant that they must amend their access list in person. Only the contracted customer can give permission! Allowing unauthorized access can open you to liability.
7. No Electrical in Units –
Most storage facilities don’t provide electrical outlets in units. Generally, it will be commercial tenants requiring electricity. Ascertain the person’s needs; if the client mows lawns, ask if he needs access to electricity and water. Show them the unit. If outlets are on the property, consider a surcharge for the use.
8. Prices Are Too High –
In a market with older facilities, price may be an issue. A new facility with more amenities justifies a higher price. Establish the customer’s needs and present the property in a manner that meets them. DO NOT CRITICIZE THE COMPETITION!! The manager can make the difference. If a person’s comfortable with you, they’ll be comfortable leaving their belongings in your care. A bit more rent won’t matter.
9. Invoicing –
Most operators don’t invoice every customer. If you invoice, charge a small fee; invoicing requires additional time and money. Address this topic during the lease process. Consider invoicing habitually late customers at no cost.
10. Unit Size Is Not Actual –
This is my favorite complaint. If a person actually measures a unit, look out! They will find other grievances. Units are always approximate and should be listed as so in the lease. Don’t attempt a construction discussion about the 10×10 grid system. Answer that all sizes are listed as approximate and that the price stands. These customers usually ask for a discount or threaten to move out. Let them.
If you’re hearing that your property is dirty, your doors won’t open, or lights are out, your breakdown is in maintenance management and is an avoidable complaint! Customer complaints are to our benefit. Feedback is the only measure of our performance as a manager or owner. Education is the common thread in averting complaints. If policies are clearly discussed in the lease process, if the client acknowledges their understanding, you have already deterred some complaints.