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Rommel Anacan

Welcome to my blog on MFI! This blog allows me to have an ongoing conversation with multifamily professionals like you. My focus is on helping you and your companies succeed by helping you optimize the quality of your relationships. If you'd like more information about me, my company and the ways that I can help you, please visit my website at www.RelationshipDifference.com

One Way to Keep 'Secret' Shops Secret

One Way to Keep 'Secret' Shops Secret


I’ll let you in on a little secret-your experienced leasing associates probably know when they’re being shopped.


I’ll let you in on another little secret-even your inexperienced associates may know when they’re being shopped too! And if your associates know it’s happening, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of a secret shopper?

First of all, how do they know?

  • The first tip off is when a caller asks to make an appointment. Experience has taught your people that most people don’t really like to make appointments, much less ask to make them. So when someone asks to make an appointment, even before the associate has invited them to do so, that is often the red flag that the “prospect” is a shopper; especially when its “shop time.” I have written “possible shop” on my guest cards many times so that I would be alerted when the prospect came to visit.
  • The second tip off is when the same prospect now shows up on time for his appointment. So many people flake on appointments that when someone not only shows up but then shows up on time, this is often a huge tip off that the client is really a mystery shopper.

When all of these factors are combined together your associates are probably thinking “this is my shop!” and adjusting their game accordingly.

What can you do to make the shop more accurate?

Ask your shopper’s evaluation company to use different people for the phone and onsite portions of the shop.

Remember the big tip off to your associates that they’re being shopped is when someone makes an appointment (especially if they are the ones asking for it) and then shows up!

So, if you have one person handling the phone shop and another person shopping your associates onsite, you take away the biggest warning to your team members that they’re being shopped, which enables you to collect more accurate information about your customer’s experience.

There is also another benefit to this; the person doing the phone shop is no longer under any pressure to schedule an appointment with the associate. In traditional shops you can often hear the shopper trying to prompt the associate to make an appointment. Under a separate shop system the shopper can simply let the associate guide her through the process, without trying to end up in a predetermined point.

Potential Problems?

Anytime there is a change to the status quo there will always be some things that need addressing, so I am not suggesting that this change would be any different. It may mean that you have to do some extra leg work to ensure that all the associates onsite have been shopped. It may mean that some things fall through the cracks at first. But I think the benefits to you could outweigh any drawbacks.

Honestly, when my previous company transitioned to this system I expected more push back and logistical issues, but overall the change over went smoothly and gave us really accurate results, because a lot of people I’d talk to would tell me, “I didn’t know I was shopped!”

And that is exactly what I wanted to hear!

Think about it!


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  • I like this approach, Rommel, but how does the shopper ensure they get the right leasing consultant during the on-site portion of the shop?

  • Hi Brent-great question...there are several things that companies can do to insure that everyone is shopped. It can take more time and effort, but I do think it's worth the try. Here are some strategies:

    1) Contact the shop provider and discuss the desired change and how it can be implemented. (I know this one is kind of obvious.)
    2) Taking advantage of off days. In communities with smaller on-site teams, there is often only one person on the "floor" when days off kick in. This makes it more likely a shopper will be able to find the desired person.
    3) In larger communities (or on days when more than one associate is there) a good strategy is to have the shopper walk in and ask for the specific associate and say something like "Is Kathy here? I spoke to her on the phone a few days ago..."

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