Media giant Comcast has been sharply criticized recently for poor customer service after an employee argued at length with a consumer who was calling to cancel his service.
The telephone conversation was recorded by the customer and an online post of the discussion went viral. Comcast, which provides cable, Internet and telephone services, issued a public apology.
Trying to dissuade customers from leaving your business is fine, as long as you don’t take it to extremes, said Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech Alliance and a member of the Self Storage Association’s governing board. You goal should be to avoid conflict.
“If you try too hard, you are going to upset them,” Chiti said.
Here are five customer service lessons that self-storage facilities can take away from Comcast’s major mishap.
1. Keep your customers happy.
If you keep your customers happy, you won’t have as many departures.
“What makes us so successful here is no matter what the problem is, whether it is on the sales end or after the sale, we have the ability to make it right,” said Scott Reifsnyder, property manager of Crosstown Stor-N-More Self Storage in Tampa, FL. “We are going to take care of it.”
It’s not enough for facility managers to care about their tenants. Every member of the staff must share the same commitment. Make sure the people you hire know that the needs of customers come first, even when they decide to leave your facility.
If you’re stressed-out, never take it out on your customers, Chiti said. “Find a way to be in a good frame of mind.”
2. Never quarrel with your customers.
There’s a good reason why successful business owners often say, “The customer is always right.”
Customers have an array of self-storage facilities to choose from. If you’re rude or argumentative with tenants, they’ll go elsewhere. Once a renter leaves, he or she likely will tell other people about their bad experience.
Remember, your tenants are not captives. You need to give them a reason to remain at your facility.
“There are customers who can make you want to rip your hair out,” said Eric Tyson, co-author of the book “Small Business for Dummies.” “You still want to treat them properly. You need to be a good listener.”
3. Know when to let go.
When someone makes it clear he or she longer is interested in renting a unit, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let the customer go with your good wishes, Chiti said. Remain professional and helpful so the customer leaves with a positive feeling about you and your facility. It’s always better to say goodbye gracefully.
Unlike Comcast’s overly persistent representative, understand that “no” means “no,” and train your staff to act accordingly. “You have to know when to cut your losses,” Tyson said.
4. Create a customer-friendly culture.
Invest time in training your employees how to treat the public well.
If you have workers who are especially good with customers, be sure to reward them for their efforts and try hard to retain them.
Shep Hyken, a customer service expert and the author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time,” said the Comcast incident underscores the importance of working with the public in a positive manner. Customer service training should be ongoing, he said.
“We have to have people [who are] customer-focused and people-focused,” Hyken said. “It’s not rocket science, but there has to be an attitude and an aptitude, the ability to understand and know what customer service is all about.”
5. Seek customer feedback.
One way to prevent tenants from leaving is to monitor how satisfied they are. Seek customer feedback. This doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Simply mail surveys to tenants asking about their experience with your business and your staff.
Reifsnyder said his company conducts surveys to determine why tenants leave.
“Asking why they are leaving is valuable input,” Chiti said. “You have to track that.”
Studying results of satisfaction survey results will enable you to pinpoint problems and correct them, Tyson said.
“You have to care what your customers think,” he said, “and make an effort to gather that information.”