Every once in awhile, you’re bound to encounter a tenant at your storage facility who crosses the line from rude to downright cruel. The difference between a customer who is plain old rude and one who is excessively rude is easy to spot. A rude customer ruffles your feathers and then once they’re out of your office, you’re able to move on with your day. An excessively rude customer is someone who inspires fear, anger or anxiety in your heart as soon as you see them in your doorway.
So how do you handle them? Can you address their behavior? Can you evict them? And most importantly, is the customer always right when the customer is always rude?
An excessively rude customer is motivated by different things than a justifyingly upset customer. A customer who is irritated due to mistake or miscommunication is motivated by a desire to see their problem solved. Maybe they want to know why you increased the rent on their storage unit. Maybe their unit was broken into. Perhaps they misunderstood the terms of their self storage lease.
An excessively rude customer is often being rude or aggressive for no reason, or perhaps they’re hoping to get a rise out of you. Resist the temptation to sink to their level. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t say anything that they might use against you. Speak calmly and be polite. Taking the high road can be hard, but you’ll be glad that you did.
Disagreements between self storage operators and tenants have the potential to get heated when things get emotional. And that’s no surprise. Self storage can often be an emotional business. Every day you see tenants using storage to deal with major life changes, things like death, divorce and deployment. It’s natural for people in these situations to be in a heightened emotional state.
Instead of responding to an angry, emotional customer with emotions, respond with facts. If a tenant is angry because he or she believes that your storage facility should be open later, refer him or her to the hours of operation. If a tenant is furious about an overlock on their unit, show them the terms of their lease that resulted in the overlock.
If you’re dealing with a self storage tenant who is repeatedly displaying volatile behavior and your gut tells you that this behavior might escalate, start documenting. Write down the times and dates of your interactions and what was discussed. Even better, try to communicate via email so that you have actual written proof if a tenant is being unreasonably rude. Hopefully you’ll never need this documentation, but it’s always wise to have it just in case.
So many employees feel bound by the obligation to be a perfectly professional representation of their business and that’s good—up until a point.
If a customer at your self storage facility is being excessively rude to the point where you’re starting to feel unsafe, your priority should be protecting yourself, not protecting your employer. Don’t be afraid to radio another employee or call the facility’s manager. This will give you backup or at least alert someone else to your situation.
And never, ever enter the storage unit of an angry tenant who wants to “show you something.” Stay where the cameras are and stay near another employee or a phone.