If you’ve ever had a customer service job—in self storage or some other industry—you know how challenging helping others over the phone can be. Customers often get frustrated when there’s a problem and can take it out on you, yet you need to maintain your professionalism. As a self storage employee, only part of your job will be helping customers over the telephone, but you still need to know how to do so in a way that reflects well upon yourself and your facility.
Answering the Phone
When the company phone line rings, do your best to answer it before the fourth ring. Customers are likely to hang up after three rings, and those who keep waiting will get a sense that your business doesn’t care about its tenants.
If you’re helping a customer in person at your storage facility’s office, ask politely if they will wait while you answer the phone. Answer it, ask the customer if you can put their call on hold (more on that shortly), and get back to your in-store customer. Get back to the call within a minute or two.
If this happens frequently, that’s an indication that your business is busy! You or your supervisor might want to consider hiring a few more customer service employees at your storage facility.
Your Storage Facility’s Customer Service Style
To keep phone service consistent and professional, no matter who answers the phone, it’s good to have some company rules.
First, everyone should answer the same way. A good template is to say the company name, then your name, then ask how you can help. “Joe’s Storage, this is Joe. How can I help you today?” Tailor it for your facility, or facilities, and make sure everyone knows it.
Watch your word choice. Many customer service employees in other industries substitute the word “issue” for “problem.” The former has a less negative connotation and feels a bit easier to deal with than an outright “problem” does. You might also consider replacing “sympathize” with “empathize.” The former sounds like you feel sorry for the customer, while the latter sounds like you’re putting yourself in their place.
If you’re not in charge of phone etiquette at your storage facility, ask whoever is in charge how they expect you to answer the telephone, and if there are specific word choices they want you to make.
During the Conversation
It’s important not to interrupt the customer while they’re speaking. Wait until they’ve said what they have to say, and then give your response.
This may sound strange, since you’ll be on the phone, but it’s a good idea to smile while speaking. This helps keep your tone friendly, and helps you feel more positive.
Do not argue with the caller. This can be difficult when a customer is being irrational or is especially angry. Listen to what they have to say, and do what you can to help solve their problem.
Also, do not tell a customer “calm down.” That comes across as rude and is bound to make an angry customer irate.
Let the customer know that you understand. You might say, “I’m sorry you’re showing that you were double-billed for your storage unit. I’m going to check our records to see what’s going on.”
Put Calls on Hold
Don’t put your customers on hold; put their calls on hold. Yes, this is exactly the same thing. However, it’s all about word choice, again.
Also, ask the customer before you put their call on hold. They may have something to add before you do. Either way, they will feel better about you if they feel somewhat in control of the call.
An excellent phrase to use, when you need to check something for the customer, is, “May I put your call on hold?” It beats “I’m going to put you on hold” or even “Can I put you on hold” any day. When they say you may, thank them.
While the customer is waiting, get back on the line every two minutes or so and let them know that you’re still there working on their issue. “Hello. I’m still checking to see if there’s a 10x10 unit for you at our other storage facility. Do you mind if I put your call back on hold?”
If you learn that resolving their issue is going to take more than a few minutes, ask if you can call them back, and confirm that you have the correct return phone number. Many people will appreciate this. After all, nobody really likes waiting on hold for long. Then, resolve their issue or get their answer as soon as you can, and call back. If it’s an issue that has to wait, do not forget to call back. For example, you may need to talk to the storage facility owner, who won’t be back in the office until later in the day. Write yourself a note where you can’t miss it, talk to the owner when he or she comes in, then call the customer right back.
As mentioned, if you’ve told a customer you will call back, don’t forget to do it. Also, make sure to return calls left on voicemail. After hours, tenants will often call in with questions or complaints. The storage facility will also receive calls from people interested in renting units. Listen to the voicemails, write down the names, phone numbers, and the reasons for the calls, and call each person back in the order that the calls were received.
Ending the Call
When the call is wrapping up, thank the customer. You might also say something like, “I hope I’ve provided you with great customer service today.” Say goodbye, and hang the phone up gently.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be an asset to your storage facility and will reflect well on the company. You’ll also make your own job easier and avoid unnecessary confrontations with tenants.