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Do Customers PREFER Your Business? Mystery Shopping Gauges Self-Storage Sales and Service Skills


By Lori Niemczyk

There’s no doubt, customer service can make or break a business. Whether it’s a telephone call or a walk-in, potential customers are looking not only for the best price, but excellent service. Most will go out of their way for great service, even spending a little more than they would to get a “deal.” This is true in self-storage and every other industry.

How often have you called a business for information only to be treated rudely or with disinterest, or reached voicemail or an auto attendant instead of a live person? Did you ever call that establishment again? How about everyday shopping, whether it’s taking your car to a carwash, getting groceries, or dining at a restaurant? Will you go out of your way to visit the place where you know the service will be good vs. one that consistently offers bad service? When it comes to customer service, remember this acronym: PREFER. Consumers prefer to frequent businesses that treat them with Professionalism, Respect, Efficiency, Friendliness and Extra Effort on a Regular basis.  

The PREFER Approach

I have a couple of rules when it comes to customer service. First, you get one shot to earn my business. If I walk into your establishment and I’m ignored or treated poorly, I will not return, and I will spread the word to anyone and everyone who’ll listen. Second, don’t ever base customer service on the way someone looks. You know the old idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Whether dressed for the gym or the opera, tattooed, pierced or handicapped, we’re all the same inside, and we all deserve to be treated with professionalism and respect.  

Next, it’s not really a reach to be efficient and friendly if you’re already being professional and respectful. Extra effort doesn’t have to be extreme—it’s as easy as a simple compliment. Doing all of this on a regular basis will ensure each and every customer who walks through the door or calls on the phone feels valued.

Not all of us are equipped to provide the above, but it can be learned, instilled in us, even taught by professionals. PREFER is a must for anyone who has any type of personal interaction with customers. If you or your managers don’t have these abilities, it’s not too late to get the tools to succeed.

An awesome place to begin evaluating how managers stack up in customer service is through mystery shopping—evaluators, secret shoppers, ghost guests, etc. Mystery shopping is an invaluable tool used by businesses to ensure their employees regularly excel at service. It can measure everything from sales ability to company-policy adherence to site cleanliness and curb appeal.   

Mystery Calls

Mystery shopping comes in many forms and can answer various questions about your business, depending on the information you’re looking for. If your managers are lacking in phone-sales skills, mystery calls are a great way to start your investigation. They’re made by a third party to determine how well your manager fares. During the call, the shopper measures the manager’s sales skills. Does he talk about the site’s features and benefits, store hours, discounts, and general storage advice and information?

Mystery calls can be valued by various scoring systems, geared to individual company requirements and training methods, and can be recorded for future review and training. You should know recording laws vary by state, so be sure to check with the mystery-shop provider if you’d like to record the mystery call.   

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