Enter your email address for weekly access to top multifamily blogs!

Multifamily Blogs

This is some blog description about this site

Do Mystery Shops Need to Just Go Away? (part 1 in a 2 part series)

I've had clients asking me  this very question for years. Are shops really valuable to a company? Is there a better way? Let me give you some reasons why  mystery shops just might not be the answer you're looking for at your company. For the sake of this discussion, we're limiting this to phone and in-person shops.

1. Shoppers have bad days. Just like Leasing Professionals, shoppers have 'off' days, too. And this is reflected in the shopping report  that describes the Leasing Professionals' behavior. I once worked for a company who so strongly believed in this that they made sure their employees were shopped TWICE on the same day. That way, if one shop was horrible and one was good, they could throw the bad shop out (chalking it up to a bad day for the shopper). 

2. Shoppers have to remember how you behaved on the tour. Having been shopped numerous times in my career, I can tell you that sometimes shoppers get their facts confused. I have had shopping reports that accused me of failing to show all of the amenities on the property to the shopper - and they listed the ones I left out. The  problem? The property didn't HAVE the amenities I supposedly overlooked. 

3. Perception is skewed. How I view something can be completely different than how you view the very same thing. While I may think a Leasing Professional is fabulous, you might think that person needs some work. The same holds true for shoppers. Perception often times determines how the Leasing Professional is scored. We're human - we can't be 100% unbiased all of the time. 

4. Shoppers aren't real prospects and savvy Leasing Professionals can generally spot them. Shoppers will typically ask for an appointment if one isn't offered to them. They often  want to make certain that the person who makes the appointment is the one that will be showing the apartment. They typically offer an objection and are impossible to close on the first visit.  They also tend to us industry jargon in their questions. And, as one seasoned professional told me, 'they just give off that vibe'. 

What are your experiences with Mystery Shops? Have you ever had a bad shop that was completely untrue? Have you fired someone due to a bad shop? Have shops made your company better and more successful than ever before? Let's talk about all of it..the good, the bad, and the indifferent. 

Part Two to this discussion will be next week. Thanks for reading! 

Rate this blog entry:
0
 
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have a love hate relationship with shops. I love having the feedback (recorded phone calls and tours) but hate when the shops are so robotic like that you can't be yourself. When there are required touch points put into place for community...

I have a love hate relationship with shops. I love having the feedback (recorded phone calls and tours) but hate when the shops are so robotic like that you can't be yourself. When there are required touch points put into place for community tours I think it totally destroys the opportunity to be natural and personable. I recently has my leasing agent shopped and it proved to be helpful in training phone techniques. However, the shop marked her off for not asking the advertising source... She didn't need to because the source had a jingle before the caller was connected. I think there should be some flexibility for the shopper- rather than YES or NO.

I like shops when they are conducted in house. Sure this can prove to be a challenge but I believe by sending someone in who is employed by the management company will get more accurate results. After all the shopper will be someone who should have the best interest of the company in mind and know its expectations. This could limit the shops to new hires only since they would get familiar with the people throughout the organization over time. I have never worked with a company that practices this but if there are any out there I would love to know if it works for them.

Thanks for the post! I am happy to see this conversation started.

Read More
  Michelle
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great points, Michelle! I can see the love/hate relationship points. I actually LOVED being shopped when I worked on site because I liked the validation that I was doing a good job. But when I got some inaccurate shops, I got upset. We're all...

Great points, Michelle! I can see the love/hate relationship points. I actually LOVED being shopped when I worked on site because I liked the validation that I was doing a good job. But when I got some inaccurate shops, I got upset. We're all human, so there are definitely going to be mistakes. But I am really seeing a lot of discussion on doing away with shops. It's been brewing for a while out there, so I wanted to see what everyone else was thinking. Thanks so much for commenting! I'm looking forward to seeing more discussion on this topic.

Read More
  Lisa Trosien
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have used video shops in the past that have helped to avoid some of these challenges. I believe that written reports always need to be taken with a grain of salt, and should not be used to justify terminations. They should only be used to...

I have used video shops in the past that have helped to avoid some of these challenges. I believe that written reports always need to be taken with a grain of salt, and should not be used to justify terminations. They should only be used to evaluate and train.

Read More
  John Modlin
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have said it before - nope - don't like Mystery Shops. I know when I was first hired and working as an Assistant Manager I was shopped and with absolutely NO TRAINING received a 100% score and was called the Management Company's leasing...

I have said it before - nope - don't like Mystery Shops. I know when I was first hired and working as an Assistant Manager I was shopped and with absolutely NO TRAINING received a 100% score and was called the Management Company's leasing superstar since no one had ever gotten this high a rating before. (Never mind that almost all the properties in their portfolio were affordable housing...)

Anyway, I eventually began selling real estate, too, and they utilized the video shops. Didn't like those either because they would purposely send someone out to shop you two days after you started. Hummmm. Not enough time to really practice your skills and they test you? But honestly, I did not care, as I had a closing ratio of more than 70% - anyone who walked in I could sell a house to because it was a matter of listening to what they wanted and then tracking the MLS listings and dazzeling them with my enthusiasm. : )

Then, as a Manager, one company set up quarterly Shops, and it was awkward as a Manager since you don't normally answer the phone all the time, so it was a forced situation. Yes, this company did try to use the Shop Reports as documentation toward dismissal. I wrote about my Leasing Consultant whose report was incorrect and I had to go up the chain to fight for her, since Bonuses (and jobs) were based partially on Shopping results in a previous post.

It is the inaccuracies and subjectiveness of the in-person Shops with which I take issue. I have had great rapport with Shoppers who then report that I was friendly but said I did nothing memorable. Okay - what makes anyone's shopping experience memorable? I have given people my own umbrella on rainy days, walked them to their cars when they wouldn't take the umbrella, and practically stood on top of my head and I could never get a "memorable visit."

I think the best way to help for training purposes is listening to the recorded phone calls of a leasing consultant through your regular advertising sources, like the Apartment Guide or For Rent. When I listen to these recordings I learn a lot about the leasing professional plus I can go back to any day in a month and see where she/he may be a bit "off their game" and not hold it against them. Also, I can detect a pattern on what days of the week someone is "not getting the job done." For example, are they morose on Monday but really happy on Fridays? Do they ignore the phone on Saturdays and tell me there has been no traffic? Perhaps, they were busy texting or checking out their facebook page and couldn't be bothered to answer the phone?

I think these recorded calls offer a huge training opportunity!

Read More
  Mindy Sharp
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

@John, thanks so much for the feedback. I think a lot of folks are clearly looking at the written reports as something that just isn't totally factual. Video shops are great and I agree...all shops should be used for evaluation and training...

@John, thanks so much for the feedback. I think a lot of folks are clearly looking at the written reports as something that just isn't totally factual. Video shops are great and I agree...all shops should be used for evaluation and training purposes.

@Mindy, thanks for taking the time to comment. I, too, received zero training in my first job, yet I was shopped regularly. I'm not a fan of bonuses based upon shops, or promotions. There is simply too much room for error in these 'written shops' which rely so much on the memory of the shopper.

Recorded calls are excellent tools! And I love the 'patterns' that you have taken the time to notice. They do offer us a huge training opportunity, especially when we can sit down one on one with the Leasing Professional and review their call.

Thank you both so much for commenting!

Read More
  Lisa Trosien
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I've been on both sides of this coin. I was a shopper in the financial industry for five years and now work as a leasing consultant and receive my own shops. As a shopper, I took it very seriously that I was rating people and how it could affect...

I've been on both sides of this coin. I was a shopper in the financial industry for five years and now work as a leasing consultant and receive my own shops. As a shopper, I took it very seriously that I was rating people and how it could affect their lives. We saw bonuses, promotions and terminations resulting from our work. Even as a shopped, I didn't agree with using a mystery shop for this purpose. In the financial industry, it was common to repeat-shop someone, perhaps months after an initial shop. Seeing improvement in customer service skills led us to believe that the company we were working for took our advice and reports seriously. Now, as a leasing professional, I love being shopped. Oh sure, its not something I want done everyday, or even every month. But I really appreciate the feedback I get from my shops. I know to take them with that proverbial grain of salt (and thankfully my company does too!) so I don't get too upset when they incorrectly report on me, but I do appreciate hearing that I've done well and I appreciate finding places to improve upon. If used as the tool it is meant to be, it can only make us better!

Read More
  Mindi
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Mindi!

Great feedback! And you've had LOTS of experience in this area. It sounds like your company is using all of their material in a really good, educational way and that you are learning from the shops that you get. That's what the shops...

Hi Mindi!

Great feedback! And you've had LOTS of experience in this area. It sounds like your company is using all of their material in a really good, educational way and that you are learning from the shops that you get. That's what the shops are for! Nice to hear such a great story.

Thank you for sharing!

Read More
  Lisa Trosien
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Lisa~

I'm so happy that this topic has come up! I have 'grown up' in the Multifamily Industry and have worked on-site as a Leasing Consultant, Assistant Manager, Property Manager, Multisite Manager and ultimately a corporate Marketing...

Hi Lisa~

I'm so happy that this topic has come up! I have 'grown up' in the Multifamily Industry and have worked on-site as a Leasing Consultant, Assistant Manager, Property Manager, Multisite Manager and ultimately a corporate Marketing Manager for over 20 years. Although I have temporarily taken some time away from the business, I have chosen to stay connected with the industry as a Mystery Shopper. I've chosen this interim path because I feel that it is important to provide feedback to any consultant who shares in the responsibility of leasing to future residents. I understand the value of the Mystery Shopping program as I have been shopped MANY times throughout my career and I have utilized shopping companies to have my associates shopped as well.

After reading through the comments here I was surprised to find myself in agreement with BOTH sides. I take my shopping assignments very seriously and over time have developed a way to shop consultants without 'appearing to be a shopper'. My experience has taught me what to say and what not to say - as I, too, was usually able to tell when I was being shopped. Because I share a passion for the business, I make certain that I report on my shops with accuracy. Oftentimes I will elaborate on my comments especially when I encounter an exceptional performance that is deserving of notable recognition. I know that the report is ultimately a tool for the consultant, but I am also sensitive to how the commentary can be received. If something is missed by the consultant, I report it as such and then do all that I can to offset a potential negative by acknowledging something positive that I observed.

I feel obligated to put what knowledge I have developed over the years into the accurate recording of the overall shopping experience - perhaps for some of the same reasons that others disagree with the overall shopping process. I know that many of the shoppers out there do not share my passion for the industry and do not fully understand the process and how the results of their reporting are received. I'm aware that oftentimes consultants get frustrated because a shopper has inaccurately reported something - In fact, I'm pretty sure that it happened to me a time or two as well!

With all of that said, I truly believe that the shopping report is a good 'tool' for training and development. Shops can expose weaknesses and areas for training opportunities. Shops can ensure consistency throughout a company when looking at the performance of consultants across multiple communities. Shops provide documentation of consistency in fair housing practices, and finally - shops demonstrate to employees that they are a valuable asset to the company that they represent and that they are supported by professional evaluations of their performance so that they can continue to grow.

As a final comment, since most management companies have the ability to customize and develop the content of their shopping reports, I feel that many of the report formats currently being used are in need of some updated changes. The overall leasing process is rapidly evolving as management companies begin to rely on call centers, online leasing, social media platforms and internet correspondence. The time has arrived for the industry to begin exploring more thorough and effective ways to shop consultants through these other channels. For instance, by taking a look at how quickly consultants respond to online inquires, how promptly they follow-up to an initial call center contact and how effectively they interact and communicate with current and prospective residents via social media, we will begin to measure the performance of not just the consultants but also the effectiveness of the systems that we are putting into place. It would be exciting to see the multifamily industry explore ways in which Mystery Shopping can be incorporated into evaluating the new ways that we are doing business.

At the end of the day, excellent customer service will still be the key to the overall success of apartment communities – It seems timely to research, update and make changes to the ways in which we measure how that success continues to be achieved.

Thank you!

Julie

Read More
  Julie Slawson
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I own a mystery shopping firm, and mystery shops need to go away if companies aren't given best practices for how to use them.
1. Sending a shopper in days after being hired-without having been trained-is a waste of money and time.
2. You are...

I own a mystery shopping firm, and mystery shops need to go away if companies aren't given best practices for how to use them.
1. Sending a shopper in days after being hired-without having been trained-is a waste of money and time.
2. You are correct, shoppers, like employees, have bad days. Or, some are just bad shoppers. Or, some shoppers are just badly coached. In many cases, shoppers are given very strict guidelines of what must happen and how they must behave-to the point where they can no longer act like a natural shopper. Again, this is the responsibility of the shopping company to push back and provide guidance on how shoppers can be more natural (e.g. not arriving exactly on time, or remembering the name of the associate that you spoke to that you have a tour with-in other words, shoppers should be coached to act just like a regular prospect.
3. I disagree with shoppers needing to be leasing professionals. When you go down that route, the leasing professional is too "into" the industry to separate themselves from it. Invariably, they will use an industry term and that will be a giveaway (just like an overcoached shopper)
4. Phone shops are great, if they are recorded. And sent through quality control. And if the shoppers are well coached. However, don't ignore where leads come from-phone, web, drop by. Measure all of them.
5. Like audio recorded calls, video mystery shops eliminate the he said/ she said. Video mystery shopping has come a long way, but it's not perfect. The requests for video shops far outweighs the number of qualified shoppers who can successfully complete them. Equipment is expensive, and the learning curve on how to use it is steep. However, they are powerful.
6. Shops cannot be used punitively-unless of course, your leasing agent propositions the shopper-but that's another story. They should be used for coaching purposes. Allow the LA to watch and provide their own feedback.
7. Consistency in training is key, as is empowering your employees. You want LAs to succeed. Part of that is not forcing them into laundry listing features and benefits; rather, empowering your employes to listen and problem solve based on each prospect.
8. Benchmarking against other companies-if your internal training process isn't up to speed, it doesn't matter how you compare to your competition. It's apples to oranges comparisons. Benchmark internally first by looking at employee and resident satisfaction. Surveys don't have to be long, and in fact should be brief (instant text message surveys are amazingly beneficial), and should result in quick responses to residents and employees.

Anyway, those are my two cents. We have a responsibility to the clients that we have to teach them best practices.

Kimberly Nasief-Westergren

Read More
  Kimberly Nasief
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

@Julie and @Kimberly:

Bravo! Great responses!

I agree, it's up to the shopping company to educate their clients. And yes, the shops should absolutely be tailored to the company and their culture.

You both pose excellent feedback to companies...

@Julie and @Kimberly:

Bravo! Great responses!

I agree, it's up to the shopping company to educate their clients. And yes, the shops should absolutely be tailored to the company and their culture.

You both pose excellent feedback to companies who are considering dropping shops altogether.

Thanks so much for reading and replying!
LT

Read More
  Lisa Trosien
Load More

Comment Below

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
When a community’s ratings and reputation is struggling, it can be incredibly challenging to pull those ratings back from the brink, all while not having the team get discouraged along the way. And for those communities that are already doing well on that front, how are they proactive about getting resident feedback before that feedback turns into negative reviews? These are two of my favorite parts of my interview with Danielle Johnson, Vice President of Marketing and Training at Bridge Propert...
This week marked an important step in the rehabilitation of the multifamily industry’s annual conference circuit. The Apartment Innovation and Marketing Conference (AIM) is one of the joys of the conference schedule.  Marketers and operators normally flock to Orange County, CA in May for this event. A COVID-related reschedule pushed this year’s show to October, but a normal-sized crowd and a full complement of speakers made AIM 2021 feel like things are back to normal. On Tuesday...
As a renter who falls into the category of looking over 6 months out, I can confidently say that it’s the properties that stay in touch with me that end up being the ones I tour at. Here’s my story as a renter and I hope you’ll take the time to read it.   Surprising data collected by PERQ shows an interesting and growing trend in renter behavior: 20% of rental prospects are much like me and looking to move 6+ months out from when they begin their search for their next apartment. From the pe...