Lessons to Be Learned

Posted on Feb 27 2012 - 3:49pm by Tony Gonzalez

I recently learned about an experience that a fellow had when he reserved a unit at a self storage facility. While I’m not going to mention the name of the facility (because the name isn’t the important thing), I think that there are several lessons to be learned from his experience. Here’s basically what happened.

A man wanted to reserve a storage unit. He paid the required amount of money to reserve it. The day before he moved in, he went to the storage facility in person to confirm his reservation. When he showed up less than 24 hours later, the unit was unavailable. He could have the same size of unit but it would be on a different level and it would cost more money.

The man asked the person who worked at the storage facility to honor the lower price. After all, the contract said a reservation was “required to guarantee price.” He DID make a reservation.  He DID pay the amount of money that was required to reserve the unit.

The employee said that only the corporate office could determine if that was feasible. The corporate office said they wouldn’t honor the lower rate. When the man complained, he was told to call customer service. He called customer service and got an answering machine. The man left a message explaining the situation. The customer service never returned his call.

Frustrated, he called an ombudsman office for help.

I would like to start with the last problem mentioned: customer service didn’t return his call. This is the first lesson to be learned. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, return calls left on your answering machine. That’s just a no-brainer when it comes to providing good customer service. Even if you don’t have an immediate resolution to a problem or question, you still should call the person back. Returning calls tells customers (and potential customers) that you care about them and want to provide them with a good experience in doing business with them.

The second lesson learned is to review the wording in your contract. One sentence on the reservation contract said: “reservation required to guarantee price.” If your contract says that and a person makes a reservation and pays the required amount of money, then legally you should honor that price. If you don’t intend to, remove that from your contract.

Another thing about contract wording. The contract also said that “prices were based on availability and subject to change.” That is totally understandable. A storage facility can have a plethora of units available in the morning and by evening they are all filled up.  That’s just a fact of life in the storage business. 

However, if a person makes a reservation, pays for it, visits your business the day before he intends to move in, then legally and ethically you should save a rental unit in the size that he reserved and have it available for when he comes to move his items in the unit.

Last lesson learned. When the ombudsman checked out the storage business with the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs, it had five active complaints against it. This goes back to customer service. In my humble opinion, if you strive to provide excellent customer service, many complaints to consumer affairs offices can be avoided. I realize that you can’t please everybody all the time. So, it behooves a business to do its best to quickly resolve customer complaints. Unresolved issues don’t look good on your record.