How Break-Ins Impact the Reputation of Your Storage Facility
“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently.” –Warren Buffet
All business transactions are based on the concept of a fair exchange of value between buyer and seller. In exchange for money or other considerations, a business promises to deliver a product or service that customers value. In our industry, the customer promise is secure self-storage. When your self-storage facility is burglarized, this fundamental promise is broken. The fallout from such a crime can be damaging to your business reputation, resulting in lower occupancy rates and lost revenue.
A burglary at your facility may be reported by the local newspaper or TV station—which is hardly a good thing—but the real damage to your reputation will come from the internet and social media. If tenants at your facility have been burglarized they will be shocked, frustrated and angry. They may use any available media to share their stories and write negative reviews.
Your customers will talk to others and will post feedback. A survey conducted by Dimensional Research (https://www.marketingcharts.com/digital-28628) confirms that customers are more likely to share negative feedback than positive feedback about your business, and the reporting rates are very high. Overall, 95% of respondents who had a bad experience told someone about it. Additionally, those who had a bad experience were 50% more likely to share their stories on social media than those who had a good experience.
Good news travels fast and bad news travels faster. We know intuitively the truth of this proverb, but negativity bias is real. Psychology Today reports that our brains are built with a higher capacity for negative news. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias) Your customers’ negative feedback will be detected and acknowledged by others because humans have an innate interest in calamity, misconduct, gossip and scandal.
Conduct your own searches to assess your online reputation. Use search engines such as Google to determine how your facility is being reviewed by consumers. Create a record of your search results and determine how each site and each reviewer should be contacted. Develop and deliver specific responses and remedies for each negative review. Then make monthly online searches part of your normal operational routine.
You control how your business will respond and recover. Your legal liability may be minimal, but customers will expect a thoughtful, caring, professional response, known as a service recovery plan. As business expert Tom Peters has said, “The problem is never the problem. The reaction to the problem becomes the problem.” According to the Harvard Business Review, service recovery is a recognized business pursuit with its own set of terms, procedures and best practices. (https://hbr.org/1990/07/the-profitable-art-of-service-recovery) You can protect your reputation by developing and pursuing a service recovery plan that demonstrates compassion and sensitivity.
Deploy or develop your service recovery plan. If you already have a service recovery plan, you should activate it immediately. If you do not have a service recovery plan, you can use online resources to find step-by-step models. Team participation is an important part of any good plan, so be sure to share specific elements of your plan with any employee who will be communicating directly with customers and prospects. Train them on your key messages and rehearse in advance the best ways to answer customer questions and complaints.
Upgrade security systems and promote the improvements. Thieves will continue to exploit your weaknesses until you strengthen your security system. Move quickly to direct a post mortem audit and correct the problems you identify. Consider asking your local police department to conduct an on-site survey of your facility and make recommendations for improving security. When you upgrade your access control, surveillance and perimeter fencing, promote these improvements to your customers and the community through advertising, press releases and social media.
Respond to online reviews and communicate directly with customers. Your business reputation resides online, so you should monitor online reviews and post responses, but always stick to the facts and maintain a professional approach. Your reputation will not be enhanced if your tone is defensive or peevish. As previously mentioned, one of your most effective recovery steps will be to contact customers directly, demonstrating your concern and providing updates on the status of the criminal investigation.
Increase your community profile and publish positive content. The best way to counter negative publicity is with your own positive stories. Look for ways to serve your community through memberships, sponsorships and charities. Share positive press releases with local media. Develop presentations that can be delivered in meetings with local civic clubs. Keep your website current and consider posting podcasts or videos that cast your facility in a positive light. Finally, ask your customers to post positive feedback on social media and their preferred review sites.
With social media the reputation of any business is under constant scrutiny and feedback, and reputation is not the same thing as performance. You may be doing an adequate job, or even an exceptional job, but your reputation is based on how your business is perceived in the community. Every service failure is a learning experience. As you conduct your postmortem review, consider what changes you can make to improve the security of your facility. If you are upgrading your security system, be sure to tell your customers that you are doubling down on your promise to deliver secure self-storage.