Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 3rd Quarter 2013

Gold Nuggets

Welcome to our Third Quarter 2013 Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark. We pride ourselves in providing the most current 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 multifamily industry. Our goal is to help our customers better understand and manage the lead conversion and resident retention processes – both of which are impacted significantly by the customer’s perception of their experience.

Last quarter we focused on a variety of ways industry leaders use the Shopping Report as a Recognition, Rewards, and Accountability Tool. Keeping with our 1849 California Gold Rush theme, we continue to dig deeper into the new ‘gold rush’ – Understanding the Customer Experience Journey. In this quarter’s letter, we investigate what steps to take when we receive those golden nuggets of customer feedback.

During the Gold Rush, miners would commonly yell “Eureka!” when they struck gold, then ride their horse to town to celebrate. They took immediate action!

Good, bad, or ugly, allcustomer feedback is equivalent to mining a nugget of gold. What will you do next?

1. Will you hide it in your safe?
2. Will you just sit and stare at it?
3. Will you celebrate, take action, and turn it into something even more precious? 

How much value do you place on customer feedback?

While the Ellis Shopping Report presents one customer’s perspective, there are additional customer feedback tools such as one-on-one conversations with residents, resident surveys, ratings and reviews sites, social media, etc.Each communication channel presents a different customer perspective at different stages of the relationship. The end result is a 360-degree view of their experience—the big picture.

But tools are just tools; they cannot act on their own. It takes action to increase the value of customer feedback and truly reap all of the benefits. Customer feedback can be extracted, categorized, and sorted in a variety of ways. While each company might have its own philosophy on how feedback should be addressed, the majority will begin by sorting it into the following two categories:

1. Requires Immediate Action—the quick wins
2. Requires Long Term Action—next year’s agenda

In both instances the key word is “ACTION”.

Driving Action:  Immediate Action

Every customer experience measuring tool should tell us something. It might be positive. Sometimes it is negative. Either way, we must act promptly. When we receive enough information, we may begin to recognize some trends. This is a good thing!

Feedback Examples:

  • “Mary was not friendly or welcoming.” – again.
  •  “John was very friendly, but he failed to ask for the deposit.” – again.
  • “The community was extremely difficult to locate.” – again.
  • “The 1-bedroom model is very outdated.” – again.

There will be items that demand immediate attention or further exploration. If we hide these nuggets of gold in our safe or just sit and stare at them, they could grow into bigger issues. What is the next step? Start with asking some pointed questions. Questions result in answers, and answers often inspire us to take needed actions.

In the above examples, there could be three distinct types of challenges – personnel, marketing, or visual design.

  • Personnel Issue – Do they not know, or do they not do? Why can they not do it consistently? Impartial customer feedback allows us to evaluate employee performance and leasing skills in a way that we could not do otherwise.
  • Marketing Issue – Why is the community difficult to locate? Are there trees obstructing the signage? Is the signage too small? Are the directions on the website incorrect?
  • Visual Design Issue – Why does the model appear outdated? Can we make a few minor changes or will it require a complete makeover?

Collecting feedback is of no value unless the result is action.

 3rd Quarter Benchmark Results

Speaking of results, do you know where your company has ranked among your competitors over the last 13 years? The trending graph below provides a snapshot of Ellis Benchmark averages since 2000. This tells us that leasing performance has been slowly edging up since the inception of the benchmark. Has yours?

Trending Graph 3rd Qtr 2013

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

Q3 2013 Benchmark Performance

3rd Quarter 2013 Participating Companies Representing 3,224 Total Shops

AMLI Residential; BH Management Services, Inc.; Bozzuto & Associates; BRE Properties; Carmel Partners; 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 Properties; 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; ZRS Management, LLC

Congratulations to the 3rd Quarter 2013 Platinum Level Achievers!

  • Gables Residential Services
  • IMT Residential
  • Western National Property Management

* Companies are listed in alphabetical order

Achievement Levels and Overall Average Performance for 3rd Quarter 2013

The qualifying benchmark score ranges by category were calculated based on all of the shops included in the Ellis Benchmark for 2012.  The median score in 2012 was 92. The 3rd Quarter 2013 Overall Average score of all participating companies is 91.

Driving Action: Long-Term Action Items

All feedback is important – internal and external. In fact, one in every hundred will give you a brilliant idea! Long-term action items are different from immediate action items. They do not always fall under the “get it done now” category, although depending on the nature of the problem, it can quickly turn into someone’s emergency.

Feedback Examples:

  • “Our shopping scores are consistently below our potential. We need to move from 85% to 90%!”
  •  “There is no play area for children. They would have to play in the parking lot.”

When feedback like this is presented to an apartment manager they might be thinking something like:

  • “It takes time to fix these issues.”
  • “Our customers always have something to complain about.”
  • “I really would like to change that, but it’s not in the budget.”
  • “There are a lot of bad shoppers out there.”

It is easy to fall into the “excuse” trap when it comes to items that most likely cannot be resolved in a short period of time. It is only when we embrace the feedback and dig deeper that we can create an action plan – albeit long-term – where even a small gold nugget can be transformed into something of tremendous value. In these hypothetical feedback examples, we can extract two different challenges – performance and product.

  • Performance Issue – Why are our shopping scores consistently falling below expectations? How can we move our scores from 85% to 90%? Do we have an accountability plan in place, and are all employees informed? Are managers holding individuals accountable? Do we need to change a policy or procedure? Should we adjust our training focus or process?
  • Product Issue – Do our competitors offer a play area for children? Are we losing customers, and if so, how many?  Do we have an existing location or unused amenity that we could convert? What would it cost? Could we budget one improvement this year and another next year?

Nuggets of customer feedback come in all shapes and sizes – compliments, recommendations, questions, complaints, concerns, etc. – and from many sources – shopping reports, social media, phone calls, apartment reviews, resident surveys, and more. When you accept, analyze, and categorize this feedback, it can provide you with tremendous insights about what your customers need, want, and value most. But remember, feedback is of no value unless the result is action – whether immediate or a long-term plan, we must act.

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, resident surveys, and ratings and reviews but also a training ally for your organization. Additional support and information can be found under Training and Articles on our website.

Prepared by Joanna Ellis, Chief Executive Officer
October 15, 2013