The 5 Most Common Self Storage Tenant Complaints and How You Should Address Them

Krista Diamond |

Some self storage customer complaints are justified and others are totally crazy, but the one thing they all have in common is this: You have to address them.

We poured over Yelp, Google and Facebook reviews for more than 20 storage facilities across the country and saw a lot of positives and a few (okay, more than a few) negatives. And while the tenants who wrote the positive reviews all seemed happy for different reasons, the unsatisfied customers who wrote the negative reviews all seemed unhappy for the same five. Here are those reasons,along with some practical advice for addressing them.

1. Facility Hours

As a self storage operator, you understand the burdens associated with operating a 24 hour facility. There are extra costs, extra security measures and extra risks involved. This is why most storage facilities don’t offer 24 hour access. But many tenants—even the ones who don’t have a regular need to drop by their storage units at 3 a.m.—feel weirdly robbed at times when you don’t offer it. Usually, the tenant complaining about your hours of operation is someone who has a habit of showing up at 7 even though you close at 6.

How to Address It: You can’t force your tenants to memorize your storage facility’s hours, and you’re not obligated to change them if it’s beyond the scope of your operation. But you can make those hours more obvious. Have them on the lease document that your tenants sign. Display them on the sign outside of your storage facility. Remind tenants verbally, especially if those hours change on the weekend or will be changing due to a holiday. Put the hours on your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter account. As a last ditch effort, consider ordering magnets or at least business cards and handing them out to your tenants as a gentle reminder.

2. Bad Phone Etiquette

Blame it on texting. Hardly anyone knows how to actually talk on a phone anymore. But the people who do call your facility expect the voice on the other end of the line to be a friendly one. Common complaints about bad phone etiquette include rudeness, incorrect information and perhaps worst of all, unreturned calls.

How to Address It: This one comes down to training. Spend some time going over phone etiquette with new hires and revisit that training with longtime employees. This topic is often skipped because managers assume that all employees already know how to talk on the phone. And while that’s true, not all employees will answer phone calls the same way, give the same information or return phone calls right away. Aim for uniformity.

3. Hidden Fees

The overwhelming majority of negative self storage reviews are about the same thing: hidden fees. It should be noted that some of the things customers perceive as hidden fees can be chalked up to a misunderstanding of the lease. For example, we came across one review written by a tenant who agreed to a three month lease in exchange for the first month free. This tenant tried to move out after the first month and then was angry to learn that she was still on the hook for the rest of the rent she’d agreed to pay. You can’t do anything about complaints like that, but you can address the complaints of tenants who are upset concerned about poorly announced rent increases and unexpected mandatory insurance fees.

How to Address It: The answer is, as it almost always is, communication. Yes, you can advertise promotions like one month of free rent or the lowest prices in town, but if those amazing deals come with extra fees, hiding them from your tenants is going to hurt your business.

4. Curb Appeal

A storage facility isn’t exactly an art museum, but that doesn’t change the fact that customers expect it to be aesthetically pleasing. Complaints about curb appeal usually address how messy a storage facility’s property looks (overflowing dumpsters, abandoned junk from tenants) and the risk of pests. These issues affect a tenant’s superficial experience at your facility but they can also pose a legitimate risk to the well being of the contents inside storage units.

How to Address It: This is one complaint that you’ve got to take seriously. Start by re-evaluating the way your facility deters pests. Be sure to make new and existing tenants aware that you’re on top of this. You’ll also want to evaluate the way you’re handling keeping your facility tidy. This means getting out of the office to pick up trash and look for anything that needs maintenance. Lastly, give your office a facelift. Get rid of that stack of papers, empty out that smelly trash can and maybe pick up a succulent or two to create an inviting space.

5. Break-Ins

If you’re lucky, you can count the number of break-ins that have happened at your storage facility since you’ve worked there on one hand (if you’re really lucky, you don’t even need any fingers to get to that number). Unfortunately, judging from the reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Google, the threat of storage unit break-ins is omnipresent. Potential customers and existing customers who hear that your storage facility has been the target of a break-in will start to doubt the safety of your facility. And they’ll let you know.

How to Address It: First of all, you’ve got to have a plan in place for recovering from theft. When dealing with complaints about a recent break-in or concerns about the possibility of one occurring, it’s important to be proactive. This may seem like information you want to keep quiet, but like all valid customer complaints, you’ve got to own it. Let customers know that you’re taking steps to make your facility safer every day. They’ll feel valued, rather than ignored and they’ll know that renting a storage unit from you is a safe bet.