Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 4th Quarter 2013

Welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2013 Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark. We are proud to be your partner and strive to help you better understand and manage the lead conversion and resident retention processes. Our team continues to  provide you with the most current and effective tools to help you monitor and evaluate on-site sales and marketing effectiveness, as well as to be able to compare your team’s performance against others in the industry. The importance of the customer’s perception of their experience with your team and product cannot be ignored. This perception determines the true value to the customer related to the problem he needs to solve or aspirations she wants to fulfill.

driving long lasting change

As this year comes to a close, we hope that you have found value in the topic information we have provided on Understanding the Customer Experience. Here is a quick recap of the previous three quarters.

1st Quarter: The Treasure Hunt: Understanding the Customer’s Journey through their Eyes (mystery shops, resident surveys, and social media).

2nd Quarter: Panning For Gold: Using the Shopping Report as your Recognition, Reward, and Accountability tool.

3rd Quarter: Eureka!—the Strike: Managing and responding to customer feedback.

4th Quarter: The Transformation: Driving long-lasting change by acting on golden nuggets of information (mystery shops, resident surveys, and social media).

AFTER THE STRIKE: The Transformation

It all began with a treasure hunt. Panning for gold nuggets and eventually calling out “Eureka!” after the strike. Now, with this feedback in hand, you realize you have something precious. You need a plan and a response. What will you do with this treasure? What will it become? How will it change you?

When you mystery shop your employees, conduct resident surveys, and listen very closely to your social media, you are going to learn what customers like and do not like about your people, your product, and your company. These are your gold nuggets, and they are powerful because if handled effectively they can be transformational. Why?

  • If you know what is working for your customers and what is not, you can tweak things to better serve them.
  • When you ask for your customers to provide you with feedback, you are communicating that you value their opinion and care about what they have to say. This builds customer loyalty.
  • You can consistently improve your people performance, products and services, and keep them all being the best they can be. You gain a competitive edge.

All customer feedback can be divided into buckets which often correspond to the way in which you will act:

  • Tactical Buckets: The red alerts; the quick wins.
  • Annual Buckets: Actions that are not immediate but will help over the course of the year.
  • Transformational Buckets: Game-changing ideas and suggestions for the long term.

There is a lot to be gained from getting customer feedback and absolutely nothing to lose. However, the benefits cannot be felt or seen unless you are ready, willing, and able to take action. Driving long-lasting change often results in an improved customer experience and company transformation.

Are you ready, willing, and able to move to the next level in 2014?


READY AND WILLING: Receive the Feedback and the Findings

We can learn a lot about a company with trends—they can be very revealing. However, while positive employee performance trends may look good on paper, the buck should not stop there—there is always room for growth—moving to that next level. Even high-performers can use a little polish on some of their skills and competencies every now and then. This stands true whether they are dealing with potential customers, current residents, or internal customers—their own employees and peers.

When it comes to serving the potential customer, where have your employees ranked among your competitors over the last 13 years? The trending graph provides us with a snapshot of benchmark averages since 2000. The graph below tells us that overall leasing performance has been slowly edging up since the inception of the Benchmark. What does your company trend look like?

Since 2000, the Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark quarterly ranking and comparison has been our way of identifying and recognizing the leasing performance of participating companies. The basic premise of the benchmark is evaluating performance on the 10 key benchmark questions. Then participants can qualify for Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze level based on their company average and Benchmark performance scores during the quarter.

The overall benchmark score range by category was calculated based on all of the shops included in the Ellis Benchmark for 2012.  The median score in 2012 was 92. The 4th Quarter 2013 Overall Average score of all participating companies is 91.

Score Ranges and Q42013 Averages

The chart above shows the average score of all participating companies for each benchmark question and the combined overall benchmark score for participating companies this quarter. This valuable information can assist you as you prepare to transform your people, product, and even your company.

4th Quarter, 2013- 31 Participating Companies Representing 3,385 Total Shops

AMLI Residential; Behringer Harvard; BH Management Services, Inc.; BRE Properties; CWS Apartment Homes, LLC; E&S Ring Corporation; Gables Residential Services; GHP Management; Greystar Management Services; Guardian Management, LLC; Holland Residential; IMT Residential; Kettler Management; Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.; Pacific Living; Palms Associates; Pinnacle (PRMC); Post Properties; RAM Partners, LLC; Simpson Property Group; Sunrise Management; The Bainbridge Companies; Timberland Partners; TriBridge Residential; UDR; Venterra Realty; Walton Communities; Waterton Residential; Western National Property Management; Windsor Property Management Co / GID; Winn Residential

Congratulations to the 4th Quarter 2013 Platinum Level Achievers!

  • Gables Residential Services
  • GHP Management
  • Venterra Realty
  • Western National Property Management

* Companies are listed in alphabetical order

ABLE: Taking Action on the Front-Line

Professional jewelers can always tell real gold from a fake. They have special ways of testing the gold, from adding chemical agents to gauge a reaction, to other special tests. Similarly, over time, mystery shops, resident surveys, and even social media can be very revealing when it comes to the people who serve the customer on your front line. Are they team players, order takers, or lone rangers? While the goal is always to sell and retain, today’s leasing consultants must serve a variety of purposes. Says who?—the customer. In the past, the successful leasing consultant was a persuader, a featured expert in a market where customers had little information, were eager to lease and had limited sources of supply. Today’s leasing consultant is a business consultant and partner, providing maximum value to their customers. Not every person is well-suited for this business or qualified to be the face of your company. Sometimes changes need to take place.

  • Engage employees and encourage them to be passionate about their work. By doing so, you are establishing a system of ownership. When employees take ownership they often feel as if they have a larger stake in your company’s success and will strive to perform their best. Their job becomes more than a paycheck.
  • Cultivate a culture in which your associates feel appreciated. Promote a positive atmosphere not only for customers, but for employees as well. Happy and engaged employees are critical to the customer experience.

It is important to monitor and improve service quality and at the same time provide accountability for employee performance. When leasing consultants, who are the public face and voice of your company, know what their customers think of them in their own words (and also know that you know!), it can be a powerful motivator.

Share customer feedback with employees and then…

Look for Trends—Good and Bad.  

  • More than 14% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey). This statistic along with many more that support this idea requires us to look for patterns that might reveal the root causes of customer dissatisfaction. What is causing them to feel dissatisfied? Being familiar with weak touch-point areas in your company will help you determine what changes need to be made to improve performance and ultimately customer satisfaction. Then it is time to determine which bucket they fall into (tactical, annual, or transformational).

Discuss the Issues.

  • Teach your team to learn from all customer feedback rather than taking it too personally. Do not use customer feedback as a clobber—it does not work. Instead listen to the employee’s side of the story, too. Did they perform to the best of their ability? Do they need more training? Were they simply having a bad day? Has poor performance become a habit? Let the employee know what he/she did wrong and put a plan in place to improve performance. Take action. According to a study conducted in 2009 by the Peppers and Rogers Group, 13.81% of companies motivate employees to treat customers fairly, while only 65% provide effective tools and training to gain trust with their customers.

Make Operational and Personnel Changes

  • If a customer complains, treat it as an opportunity to improve the service. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report (CEI) revealed that 79% of consumers who shared complaints about poor customer experience online were ignored by the company. The 21% remaining who did get a response shared a positive experience. When you act on any negative comments and keep your customer informed about the changes you are implementing to avoid a repeat, they will notice. A customer who believes their complaint has been handled efficiently and that they have helped to rectify a problem will recognize that you are listening to them and may become more loyal as a result. Implementing procedures to address poor performance more promptly can minimize the damage to your company’s brand.

Improve Employee Job Satisfaction

  • The recent Well-Being Index shows that Americans are increasingly unhappy with their jobs and work environments.
    This is costing companies a shocking $300 billion per year in lost productivity. When people are not happy with their jobs or their employers, they do not show up consistently, they produce less, the quality of their work suffers, and the customer experience suffers. If your employees enjoy their jobs, they are more likely to deliver a better customer experience.  
    • Do you frequently ask your employees about their level of job satisfaction and what you can do to improve it? You might be surprised how simple their requests might be.
    • When you receive a compliment about an employee’s customer service, do you tell them in a timely manner? This gives the employee a more balanced perspective of how customers view the company and their own performance. They will realize that performance matters and how they personally impact the customer experience.

The 1849 California Gold Rush was sparked by the discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley area. It is arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. Today, 165 years later, we have a new Gold Rush—“Understanding the Customer”. In many ways it is a treasure hunt. Businesses all around the world are trying to mine their customers’ thoughts, feelings, ideas, needs, wants, etc. to build customer loyalty. Yet, only a few translate that feedback into meaning, and an even smaller fraction of companies actually take action.

Today, understanding the customer’s journey through their eyes is the “gold” that property management companies are after. If you want to strike “gold” in the 21st century you must have the right tools. We have found the companies who consistently achieve high shopping report scores, positive resident survey results, and raving ratings and reviews not only have the right tools, but they also have the right plans and they take action. The chore is not in the listening but in the implementation.

Taking action and driving change is not easy, but once you have communicated to your employees and they understand and support the motivation driving the changes, you will notice your company’s operations become much more streamlined and effective. At the end of the day, job satisfaction will soar, a transformation will take place, and the true stars will shine even brighter.

We thank you for your ongoing participation and feedback, which help make this report informative, fresh, and a reliable resource. We hope you will find Ellis Partners in Management Solutions, a feedback company and multifamily partner since 1984, to be not only the finest source for mystery shopping but also a training and feedback resource for your organization. Additional support and information can be found under Training and Articles on our website.

Prepared by Joanna Ellis, Chief Executive Officer

January 15, 2014