By Lori Niemczyk
Theres no doubt, customer service can make or break a business. Whether its 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 its 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 Im ignored or treated poorly, I will not return, and I will spread the word to anyone and everyone wholl listen. Second, dont ever base customer service on the way someone looks. You know the old idiom, Dont judge a book by its cover. Whether dressed for the gym or the opera, tattooed, pierced or handicapped, were all the same inside, and we all deserve to be treated with professionalism and respect.
Next, its not really a reach to be efficient and friendly if youre already being professional and respectful. Extra effort doesnt have to be extremeits 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 dont have these abilities, its 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 shoppingevaluators, 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 shopping comes in many forms and can answer various questions about your business, depending on the information youre looking for. If your managers are lacking in phone-sales skills, mystery calls are a great way to start your investigation. Theyre made by a third party to determine how well your manager fares. During the call, the shopper measures the managers sales skills. Does he talk about the sites 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 youd like to record the mystery call.
In-Person Mystery Shop
Walk-in or in-person mystery shops are a good follow up for mystery calls because most prospects begin their self-storage search with a phone call, then follow up with a personal visit. An in-person shop will evaluate the location, visibility and accessibility, site cleanliness, company-policy adherence as well as all forms of customer service.
Direct interaction with the site managers is evaluated and submitted by the mystery shopper using a numeric rating scale or yes/no input, and may include narratives as well. Opinions may be included in these reports for owners to use as public informational feedback.
Other mystery-shopping services specific to the self-storage industry include:
- Competition calls or shops: You should always know what your competition offers so you can rise and shine above them!
- Integrity shops: Ensure all rents and fees are accounted for and deposited accurately and timely.
- Mystery renters: Track rent from the day of rental through all phases of delinquency. This is a great tool to ensure all legal issues are being met, and legal notices are in compliance when presented to the tenant.
Build Your Brand
All aspects of mystery shopping should be geared toward your brand, allowing your managers to perform to the peak of their training and company requirements. Every business is unique, and you should promote your sites with that in mind. When mystery shops and calls are conducted on a regular basis with positive reinforcement, your employees will be motivated and encouraged to achieve their sales goals.
As a side note, mystery-shopping services should be unbiased in their reporting, simply providing facts without opinions. Opinions should be given by mystery shoppers only when required by the storage operator. Its a fact-finding tool, beneficial to owners, managers and employees alike.
Mystery shopping can be introduced as a motivational tool to give employees an opportunity to shine. If its used to catch or bust an employee for unprofessional or bad behavior, it will be met with resentment and eliminate any possible benefit. Also, its recommended you obtain your employees consent to all forms of mystery shopping before beginning any type of evaluation.
Mystery shopping can be an invaluable training tool to help you and your employees become the leaders in your self-storage market. Give your customers what they PREFER, and youll excel at service.
Lori Niemczyk is owner and founder of A Top Shop!, a Colorado-based customer-service evaluation company that has worked with self-storage operators in the United States and Canada since 1992. Niemczyks company has been instrumental in providing client feedback and employee evaluations to increase return on investment, track and document rent and legal procedures, and improve management integrity and sales skills. For more information, call 720.283.8377; visit www.atopshop.com .