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5 Reasons to Consider a Mystery-Shop Program for Your Self-Storage Business

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By Jim Mooney Jr.

In the self-storage industry, conducting mystery shops on our own stores or the competition is (or should be) a way of life. I couldn’t begin to count the number of facilities I’ve visited during my industry career. There are still times when I leave an office shaking my head and wondering, “How are they still in business?” I’m sure we all have these stories, but we try to convince ourselves it doesn’t happen at our company. Well, I’m sad to say, it happens more often than we’d like to think.

We all have our thoughts on how to control the self-storage inquiry process. One way is to use a call center to answer inbound calls and ensure all leads are logged and followed up. But what about the customer who walks in the front door or comes from a third-party directory? Most operators will say they close 80 percent to 90 percent of all walk-ins. But what happened to the other 10 to 20 percent? Did the operator do everything possible to secure that rental? Not based on what we’ve seen in the field.

Thankfully, there are several companies in the marketplace whose focus is to perform mystery shops. A mystery-shop program will help you better understand the sales your closing as well as those you miss. Here are a few other reasons to hire a partner.

Independent Observations

At my company, our sales system is completely customizable so we can set the criteria for our site managers. However, it can be hard to self-monitor. Personalities come in to play, and whether we want to admit it, so does favoritism. Having a neutral third-party shopper and staff to grade the resultant shops can cut out a lot of grey area.

Multiple Avenues to Review

To ensure we’re covering all the ways a customer can interact with our company, we instituted a multi-level shopping program. The first shop is in person at the facility, with an audio recording to remove the “he said/she said” from the equation. If the manager doesn’t log the lead into the management software, no matter how well the rest of the visit went, the score is a zero, as there’s no opportunity for him to follow up and close the deal.

The second shop is via phone. Since we use an all-call system with a national call center, this is a two-part shop. The first is to test the quality of service provided by the call center. The second is to see how fast the store staff responds to the inquiry and ensure our procedures are followed.

The third shop is a “Web-lead shop.” The shopper places an inquiry on our website. Again, we use the call center for the initial follow-up. The call center is graded on response time (with immediate being the goal), and the same parameters apply as with the phone shop.

To create a uniform measurement, we have our mystery shoppers give out a tracking phone number. How often have you had a manager say he made a follow-up call but you couldn’t confirm it? This removes any doubt. We can log in and see if the call was made. We can even listen to the call.

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