We’ve talked about customers who hoard items and those who don’t pay their rent—two of the biggest issues for self storage facilities—but here, we’ll cover customers whose emotions are driving them to be difficult.
Before we get into the four types of difficult customers, keep one thing in mind. When dealing with customers who test your patience, it’s important to maintain professionalism. Your voice, choice of words, attitude, and body language should reflect a calm demeanor. Realize that you can control your own behavior, not that of the customer or tenant. Whatever the problem, don’t blame the customer, and don’t blame your storage facility either. Acknowledging that your facility is to blame can lead to lawsuits. Instead, try to resolve the issue to show good faith.
When it comes to difficult customers, the angry ones are probably the toughest to deal with. You may feel as though the anger is directed at you personally. Realize that it isn’t. Chances are the customer is frustrated with a sales or rental problem, and just wants it resolved. By the time the customer gets to you, they may have been trying to get the issue resolved for a while.
Remain calm, and listen more to the substance of the complaint rather than the anger, but acknowledge how they feel. Consider if it’s a case where you, as facility manager, can bend the rules. Can you replace that lock for free, get the mess someone missed in front of their unit cleaned up, or discount their rent because of a recent pest problem? The way you handle it could mean the difference between having a happy, loyal customer, or losing a customer and getting a scathing Yelp review.
If you’re unsure what the customer is asking for, ask how they would like to see the issue resolved. Can you do what they ask, or compromise? Do what you think is most reasonable, even if it goes somewhat against usual policy. There are always exceptions to the rules.
Some people don’t know when to stop talking to you. They may be lonely, socially awkward, or so deep in their own narrative they don’t realize you need to keep working. When a chatty customer has your ear, this can be a tough situation. You don’t want to be rude, but you need to get work done.
If possible, wait for a break in their talk and ask, “So, is there anything I can help you with?” This should help reorient them toward thinking about your facility, and if you can help them with their unit or a purchase. You can also say, “I need to get back to work, but let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.” This gives you a friendly exit, but lets them know you’re not abandoning them. If they need self storage related help, you’ll be there.
When dealing with a customer who can’t decide on what sorts of boxes, locks, tape, and so on to purchase, or what type of unit to rent, you should be right in your element. This is where your self storage expertise comes in.
If they need help picking a unit, ask how much they have to store. Is it the contents of a closet, living room, or full house? When they don’t know what to pick, from the level of insurance to what types of boxes they’ll need, give them the options. Don’t pressure them, but if it’s taking them a while to decide, and you have other customers who need help, you can tell them, “I need to help these other customers, so take this time to think about it and we’ll take care of this in a few minutes.”
When met with aggression, it’s natural for your own emotions to rise. However, when you’re dealing with a customer making threats, it’s critical to stay calm, serious, and to avoid sarcasm. Otherwise, you may simply inflame their anger and frustration. Don’t raise your voice, and keep it soothing. Make sure your body language shows that you are feeling calm and patient, which means no clenching your fists or jaw, rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, or displaying impatience in other ways.
Essentially, treat a threatening customer the same way as you would treat an angry customer. The threatening customer is also angry, but may also turn aggressive. If the methods for helping an angry customer don’t work, you may have to ask them to leave the premises.
You can let them know you find their continued behavior threatening to your person, to the business, or to other customers. Tell them you’re willing to listen to their problem and to help, but that they cannot threaten anyone present. If that doesn’t help, tell them it’s your duty as an company representative to protect everyone present, and that you need them to leave the building. Finally, let them know that if they don’t leave of their own accord, you will have to call the police.
Whatever you do, don’t touch the customer, unless they move to attack you or someone else. In that case, you have the right to protect yourself or others. Call the police, or ask a colleague who is closer to a phone to do so.
These skills will continue to serve you well throughout your self storage career, or in any career involving customer service.