To avoid a horrible article written about one of your managers, you may want to consider hiring mystery shoppers. These incognito hired hands will pose as potential tenants to scope out what a typical customer experiences as they enter your storage facility. If you're lucky, the feedback you receive won't be surprising; it can be an eye opening experience, though, and should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure your employees are treating customers with professionalism and making a significant effort to close sales.
First, create a plan. What problems are you looking to solve? Has occupancy been down and you don't know why? It could be that your employees aren't putting forth effort to close sales or that maybe your facility isn't as clean as it should be. Are your managers being friendly? Helpful? Professional? Are they following company guidelines and dressing appropriately for the job? A mystery shopper can help answer all of these questions and more.
The mystery shopper should probe the manager with some of the harder questions a customer could potentially ask to find out the breadth of the employee's knowledge. Devise a list of what you would like your mystery shopper to observe. Here's an example list:
How long does it take for an employee to greet the shopper?
Is the employee friendly and approachable?
Does the employee attempt to sell add-ons? (Ex. A larger unit, a heavy duty lock, climate-controlled as opposed to regular)
What kinds of sales tactics does the employee use?
Is the overall facility clean?
How knowledgeable is the employee about:
Storage tips? (What's the best way to store dishes, or a car?)
Unit sizes? (What typically fits in a 10x10 storage unit?)
Amenities offered? (Can I store my wine at your facility?)
Think of a list of 20-25 questions you would like your mystery shopper to answer before you send him or her out; think hard about what specifically applies to your facility and try to cover a lot of ground to get a wide variety of information.
Finding a mystery shopper is easy – you can put an ad out on Craigslist or a website like Simply Hired. Look for someone with past experience as a mystery shopper, especially if this is your first experience with one. You can even post your job and browse through applicants on the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website if you're looking for a real pro!
After you've evaluated your own properties, mystery shop your competitors with the same metrics, and make a comparison. This is a great way to assess your strengths and weaknesses against your competitors and see where you can improve from an outside perspective.
Have you ever hired a mystery shopper? What did you learn from the experience? Let us know in the Comments section below!