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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 11/2000: A Top Shop!

November 1, 2000

4 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 11/2000: A Top Shop!

A Top Shop!

Measuring results in self-storage

By Jim Chiswell

Ifyou are not measuring results, can you really be certain you and your managementteam are as successful as you think? I have asked that question of manyself-storage owners over the past 16 years. The usual response is they measuretheir success in unit occupancy or gross income.

In today's competitive environment, these standards of measurement are notenough. You should be constantly examining your operations and seeking out everyadvantage to enhance your competitive position in the marketplace. This isespecially true when it comes to a manager's effectiveness on the telephone. Byobjectively measuring performance on the phone and during the in-office salesopportunity, you can obtain a more accurate measure of your manager's quality.This can help both of you achieve greater levels of success.

A new company supplying these types of objective measurements for industriessuch as self-storage is A Top Shop!, owned by Lori Niemczyk. The company,formerly known as Double Check, was instituted in 1992. It is national, not onlyin its client base, but also in its shopper base.

"I started the company as an alternative to other shopping companiesthat were in business at the time," says Niemczyk, who describes hercompany as taking the concept of "mystery shopping" to the next level."A Top Shop goes one step further than any other company in that it offersmystery-caller, shopping and renting services."

"Mystery calls are a must in every industry. Phone calls are thelifeline for most businesses, especially self-storage," Niemczyk explains."It costs a self-storage owner an average of $9 to $14 in advertising coststo make the phone ring just once. If the manager on duty doesn't do a sufficientjob in selling his product, that money is wasted. Mystery calls are a way ofensuring owners their ad dollars are paying off. These calls are also a way formanagers to improve their phone-sales skills. We invite feedback from managersabout their evaluations."

According to Niemczyk, the biggest shortcoming that managers convey on thetelephone is lack of enthusiasm. "Managers usually try to get out of thephone call by saying, 'It would be best for you to come and take a look,'without even giving the features or benefits that would motivate the caller tomake a visit. If the manager is not enthusiastic and motivated, it is reflectedin his tone of voice. This is picked up by the potential customer. No one wantsto visit a dull person--or place for that matter."

Mystery calls are not the only service offered by A Top Shop. Mysteryshoppers will also make a physical visit to a facility, calling the locationfirst, documenting the telephone greeting and getting directions from themanager. The visit must include a tour of the facility, trip to the restroom andvalidation of the visit by obtaining either literature or a business card fromthe manager. Mystery renters start out as shoppers, but actually rent a unit.They then visit the facility on a regular basis to check the unit and pay theirbill in cash. This is a particularly great service for owners because there areso many items that can be monitored and tracked each month, i.e., cash deposits,delinquent tenants, lien sales, etc.

Niemczyk emphasizes that the intent of the services she provides is not toshed negative light on the manager. "We are not 'out to get' the managers.Our main goal is to make businesses look good and improve their bottom line. Wewant to ensure that every potential customer is treated with respect andcourtesy," she says. And clients consistently claim the benefit of theseservices.

For example, one New Jersey client could not figure out why his facility waslosing so much money. A Top Shop sent its mystery shoppers to the site. Onenoted on his evaluation form that the office was old and run down. A secondshopper confirmed this. As a result, the owner made the commitment to refurbishthe entire facility to upgrade its image and professionalism. In less than twomonths, the facility's occupancy had increased and comments from customers wereoverwhelmingly positive. "The owner knew something was missing but couldn'tput his finger on it until some independent shoppers gave him theiropinion," Niemczyk explains.

Another client had a manager who refused to collect late fees. The mysteryrenter program helped that facility get back on track with its collections. Manyclients ultimately discover managers who are unwilling to sell their product. ATop Shop's telephone evaluations have assisted owners in establishing a rewardsystem to motivate managers to perform on the phone and get prospectivecustomers to their facility.

A Top Shop doesn't only provide services for its clients' facilities. Somecustomers ask to have their competition "mystery shopped." In doingthis, clients can find out if the competitor's employees wear uniforms, whatsize spaces they offer--virtually anything they would like to know. Thisinformation, combined with the talent and enthusiasm of their own managers,streamlines the facility's success. "I shop my own competition aswell--hence our new name," says Niemczyk. "The bottom line is thatevery business has room for improvement."

For more information, call (303) 888-0602; visit www.atopshop.com

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