Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2016

Second Quarter 2016 Benchmark Results Executive Summary

Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions strives to deliver the most modern and efficient tools to help you monitor and evaluate onsite leasing engagement and marketing effectiveness, as well as compare your team’s performance to others in the industry from the prospect experience throughout the resident lifecycle. We are proud to offer our Mystery Shopping and Resident Survey programs as sources for an integrated solution to your sales, marketing, resident retention and business process improvement needs. For 32 years, we have been helping apartment management companies and owners evaluate employee performance, and we remain committed to the growing needs of our customers.

Our theme for the 2016 Ellis Benchmark is “Think Differently and Take Action”. This year we are highlighting four selling areas that speak to both potential customers and existing residents: Lead Conversion, First Impressions, Selling Value, and Closing. We continue to share the customer feedback data from Ellis Shopping Reports and Ellis Resident Surveys conducted for the calendar quarter to present a complete picture of the customer experience inside and out. At Ellis, we believe that ACTION changes everything. Join ‘Anna Leaser’ and ‘Franc Buyer’ via our Ellis Training Video (ETV) series, as they share practical and executable ideas regarding First Impressions for your leasing team. We hope you will join us each quarter as we convey Benchmark results for mystery shops and resident surveys and offer performance improvement ideas designed to inspire and ignite your team to action.

Ellis’ Second Quarter 2016 Benchmark: Overall Results

Mystery Shops

Since 2000, the Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark quarterly ranking and comparison has been our way of identifying and recognizing the leasing performance for the prospect experience. For mystery shops, Ellis benchmarks performance on the 10 key Benchmark questions and the Customer Experience. Companies can qualify for platinum, gold, silver, or bronze level based on their company’s overall Benchmark score for the quarter.

In 2015, the overall average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops1 was 86%, representing 41,342 shops, compared to 85% in Second Quarter 2016. In 2015, the overall average Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score was 3.5, versus 3.6 for Second Quarter 2016, representing 10,435 shops.


* Tier 1 = 70 or more shops

** Tier 2 = 30-69 shops

Resident Surveys

In 2015, the Ellis Loyalty Benchmark was introduced as a way of identifying and recognizing the customer experience performance of companies subscribed to the Ellis Resident Surveys Program. The basic premise is evaluating performance on 5 key touch points (lead conversion, move in, maintenance, renewal, move out) of the prospect and resident journey. Ellis also measures the percentage of surveys responded to by the onsite staff and the average number of days it took for the staff to respond, as these two factors impact the customer relationship and overall loyalty. Utilizing customer loyalty as a metric, customer-centric companies are able to forecast c three specific customer behaviors: likelihood to convert/renew, willingness to pay more, and likelihood to recommend.

The customer loyalty scale ranges from -100% to 100% (see chart below):


The overall average Ellis Loyalty Benchmark score in 2015 was 17.5%. For 2016, Ellis Benchmark data will be based on Ellis’ entire database of eligible surveys1 that are conducted for the calendar quarter. (Note: No tier is provided if minimum requirements2 are not met.) The Ellis Loyalty Benchmark Second Quarter 2016 is 22%, with a 76% response rate by the onsite staff and an average of 6.8 days for the staff to respond.


Congratulations To Ellis Benchmark Top Performing Companies Second Quarter 2016

Mystery ShopsEllis Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level AchieversTier 1 (70 or more completed shops)

  • Gables Residential Services
  • Western National Property Management

Tier 2 (30 – 69 completed shops)

  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.

Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level AchieversTier 1 (70 or more completed shops)

  • AMLI Residential
  • Bozzuto & Associates
  • Gables Residential Services
  • Monogram Residential Trust
  • Post Properties
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID
  • Wood Partners

Tier 2 (30 – 69 completed shops)

  • Cardinal Group
  • Griffis Residential
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Simpson Property Group
  • ZRS Management, LLC

Resident Surveys

Ellis Best in Class AchieversTier 1 (1,600 or more units)

  • CWS Apartment Homes, LLC
  • Lennar Multifamily Communities
  • Manco Abbott

Tier 2 (1,599 or fewer units)

  • Bluestone Development
  • Greystar Management Services
  • Richmark Properties
  • Simpson Property Group

*Companies are listed in alphabetical order

** Customer Experience Benchmark gold level achievers are recognized as there were no platinum achievers for this period


Mystery Shops


The charts below reflect the average score of Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops1 for each of the 10 key benchmark questions and the Customer Experience by category, as well as the combined overall Benchmark scores.


Resident Surveys


The chart below reflects the average scores across all Ellis Resident Survey companies for each survey touch point for Second Quarter 2016, as well as the combined overall loyalty score and average accountability performance results.



From the new customer to the existing resident, their journey is marked with multiple first impression stops. Fascinatingly, a new customer will develop an impression about your employee and your company in their first seven seconds with them. In fact, studies have proven they will judge your employee in many different ways (knowledge, authenticity, professionalism, etc.), all of which affect how likely they will be to do business with your company. Depending on the results, they will package their perceptions into one snapshot of your business which will establish how likely they are to become a new resident or a repeat resident. Their conclusion will be: 1) They adore your employee and company; 2) They loathe your employee and company; or 3) They are indifferent.

While it is obvious loathing is bad, an indifferent customer is merely a temporary customer. They are not loyal and are with you only until something better comes along. Strong first impressions, whether good or bad, influence how a customer perceives the rest of their experience with you. Impressions are quick to form and slow to change. The more knowledge you have regarding the first impressions made by your team, the more you will be able to positively impact and potentially alter the journey of the customer. During the Second Quarter 2016, the following data insights were derived from the feedback received from the Ellis Shopping Report and the Ellis Resident Survey.

Email First Impressions: Let us assume that your customer successfully navigates through your website and customer reviews. The next impression should show that you care about the relationship you are developing. Customer service guru Peter Shankman agrees, “The best acts of customer service are the tiny things that reinforce the customer’s loyalty. They can be done daily, usually without any cost, and can foster customer retention, increase customer satisfaction, and yes, even grow your customer base.” One such way to demonstrate this daily is to respond to Internet leads quickly. While we find that two hours or less is widely considered an acceptable response time, some customers have set the expectation for their teams to respond within an hour. One thing is for certain, the customer’s expectation is accelerating.

The Ellis Shopping Report data reflects a stark contrast in the email response rates of top vs. poor leasing performers. Surprisingly, 83% of best in class companies (top performers) responded to leads in a timely manner (within two hours) while only 19% of poor performers did the same. Responding with adequate and specific information that meets the needs of the customer can positively impact first impressions. Once again, top performing companies outscored poor performers by a whopping 56% (78% vs. 22%) by addressing the customer’s specific questions. While auto responses can be a helpful tool as an initial confirmation of receipt of the customer’s inquiry, too often, they are overused and even relied upon as the complete initial response. This has a negative impact on customer impressions. Are your customer inquiries being answered completely and in a timely manner? Are your responses personalized or generic? Do they convey professionalism? (Source: Ellis Shopping Report)

Telephone First Impressions: Many customers base initial leasing consultant impressions by the tone of their voice and the way they answer the telephone. Their subsequent contacts support or conflict with that first impression. Create an excellent first impression and the relationship grows. Create an unpleasant one and the relationship can be an uphill battle.

Ellis data shows that top performers spend more time on the phone with their customers at an average of 7 minutes 35 seconds versus poor performers, who average a 3 minute 48 second telephone call. Top performers used their time getting to know the customer while leading with the right questions that result in the customer setting an appointment and visiting the community. Poor performers failed to focus on needs and resulting features/benefits, leaving little desire for the customer to visit. Response, responsiveness, and focusing on needs are fundamental to building positive impressions over the telephone. Are customer calls being answered by the third ring? Is enthusiasm being conveyed over the phone? Are leasing consultants prepared to take leasing calls? Are they actively listening to the needs of their customer? (Source: Ellis Shopping Report)

In-Person First Impressions: In-person first impressions count a lot more than you might think. The moment the customer engages face-to-face with a leasing consultant, his or her brain makes a thousand computations: Are they trustworthy, competent, likeable, and confident? Do they really care about my needs? Ellis data from 2nd Quarter 2016 gives us a glimpse into the first impressions that are being created by the front line with terms such as: outstanding, ridiculous, awesome, wonderful, horrible, and very happy. This invaluable data helps us define pain points and opportunities to improve customer impressions. (Source: Ellis Resident Survey)

First impressions are influenced by a whole range of factors, including body language, dress, manner of speech, and so on. How much does body language influence first impressions? Some research indicates it might be as high as 90% responsible. This will set the stage for further in-person interactions including the move-in touchpoint. Unfortunately, our survey results tell us that when a poor move-in experience occurs, it taints the remainder of the resident’s journey. The Ellis Resident Survey data reveals that within 30 days of a poor move-in experience, the resident’s likelihood to renew at the end of their lease term is only 45%. At that rate, the resident needs a near-perfect performance by your team for the remaining months of their lease in order to lead them to renew. Three specific survey questions had the greatest impact on the move-in impression score:

  • The condition of my apartment on the day of move-in satisfied my needs and exceeded my expectations.
  • My expectations NOW for these apartments are the same as when I initially leased the apartment.
  • My monthly rent is reflective of the value I am receiving in my apartment, community amenities and resident services.

When was the last time you conducted a first impression audit on your team? Do they stand out from the competition or blend in? Do they convey confidence through their voice and handshake? Do they greet their customers quickly? Do they inspect what they expect on move-in day? (Source: Ellis Resident Survey)

From the initial contact to all of the touchpoints in between, the first impression grows and evolves. The importance of having high performers on the front line cannot be overemphasized. Ellis data spotlights that high performers score 29% better on first impressions and customer experience than poor performers, with a 25% higher likelihood to rent. Customers described higher performers as: talented, pleasant, impressive, confident, and trustworthy versus poor performers being described as: pleasant, robotic, comfortable, and one-sided. According to a Harvard Research study, trustworthiness and confidence account for 80 to 90 percent of first impressions. In a nutshell, the customer experience drives the first impression and the first impression drives the likelihood to rent and renew.

Do your employees project a competent, confident, trustworthy and awesome image? Or, do they convey that they are stressed, unprofessional, overwhelmed and unreliable? In business, what potential customers think and how they judge is often determined by their first impression. Do not leave the first impression to chance. Take action and set your team up for success!


Now it is time to go online and join ‘Anna Leaser’ and ‘Franc Buyer’ as they share some practical ways to improve Lead Conversion performance via the latest Ellis Training Video (ETV). “Think Differently and Take Action.”


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 and resident surveys but also a training 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 and Francis Chow, Chief Strategic Officer

July 30, 2016


1 See Ellis website for Benchmark eligibility, tier level, and recognition requirements for mystery shops and resident surveys.

2 No tier or rank is provided when minimum requirements are not met.