Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2013

Welcome to our Second Quarter 2013 Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Benchmark. In January 2014, Ellis will celebrate our 30th year as a feedback company and multifamily partner. 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 industry. The buying decision of today’s renter – in fact, any customer – is impacted significantly by the customer experience. The value of the customer’s perception of their experience is something we cannot ignore as we continue to help our customers better understand and manage the lead conversion and resident retention processes.

Panning For Gold:  Using the Shopping Report as Your Recognition, Reward, and Accountability Tool

Last quarter, we took a step back in time and compared the 1849 California Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century, to a new kind of ‘gold rush’ – Understanding the Customer Experience Journey. As you continue to mine your customers’ thoughts, feelings, ideas, needs and wants, we would like to turn your attention to the internal customer, your leasing professional. Is their current leasing performance contributing to or compromising the success of your company? Some of these answers can be found within the pages of a Shopping Report. As you sift through the details of the customer’s journey, the Shopping Report can help you determine your next step. Using the Shopping Report as a training tool is always at the top of the list, reinforcing core values and objectives, but its purpose goes beyond training. It can be a valuable Recognition, Rewards, and Accountability tool.


Did you know that mystery shopping has been used as a tool for measuring employee performance since the 1940s? Back then, it was used primarily in banks and retail stores to assess the integrity of the employees working there. Private investigators would pose as employees in an attempt to discover if any other store employees were stealing or compromising the success of the company. A tool is a device designed to assist you in carrying out a specific function, improving or fixing something. The Shopping Report is your tool. You are the prospector!   Mystery shopping programs today are valuable because…

  • Most customers who have unsatisfactory experiences will not complain; they will just never come back.
  • Dissatisfied customers are likely to tell many others about their experience.
  • They provide independent and impartial feedback.
  • They allow you to evaluate employee performance and leasing skills in a way that you could not do otherwise.
Quarterly Trending Graph

Using the Shopping Report effectively can help ensure continuous quality improvement and resident satisfaction, while measuring actual results against your company’s established standards of service.

The trending graph [right] provides us with a snapshot of Benchmark average scores since 2000, which reflects that leasing performance overall has been slowly edging up over time.


Timing is everything! When it comes to recognition, assume too soon is never soon enough. The longer you wait, the lower the impact. Applaud employees immediately when their Shopping Report results meet or exceed your expectations.  Do not wait for “the right time,” because the only right time is right now.

A man doesn’t live by bread alone. He needs buttering up once in a while.”

— Robert H. Henry

Too many official recognition programs only pay lip service to praising employees for their individual efforts. Recognition is about acknowledging individual accomplishment. The biggest misconception about recognition is that we need to treat everyone the same. Why would we treat underperformers the same as top performers? Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise while others run from the attention. Avoid passing out only “boxed” praise; recognize each employee in the way that produces the greatest impact for that person. That is how you strike gold!

Not sure how to individualize recognition? Have you considered asking your employees questions like these?

– From whom do you most like to receive recognition or praise?

– What form of recognition or praise do you like best? Do you prefer public, private, verbal, written, or other kinds of recognition?

– What type of recognition motivates you the most?

– What is the greatest recognition you have ever received?

Here are some proven “public” and “private” forms of recognition:

  • Personal letter from CEO/President of company (private)
  • Company-wide e-blast (public)
  • Picture and achievement posted on company Facebook page (public)
  • A handwritten note to their family, sharing how important their contribution to the company has been (private)
  • A certificate of appreciation signed by all team members (private)
  • A handwritten thank-you note from their direct supervisor (private)

Since 2000, the Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Benchmark has been a public way to recognize the leasing performance of participating companies. The basic premise of the Benchmark is evaluating performance on 10 key questions in the Shopping Report. Participants qualify for Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Recognized Participant – Group 1 or 2 level based on their company average Benchmark performance scores during the quarter. The score ranges for each category were calculated based on average overall benchmark performance from the previous year.

Second Quarter 2013 Benchmark Placement Levels

2nd Quarter 2013 – Participating Companies Representing 3,453 Total Shops

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

Congratulations to the 2nd Quarter 2013 Platinum Level Achievers!

  • Carmel Partners
  • Gables Residential Services
  • GHP Management
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Post Properties
  • Venterra Realty
  • Western National Property Management

Companies are listed above in alphabetical order

The Average Benchmark Overall Score among all participants for Second Quarter 2013 was 91%. A breakdown of the averages for all 10 key questions is included below:

Overall Score for 10Key Benchmark Questions 2nd Quarter 2013


Rewarding employee leasing excellence is an important part of keeping quality employees and encouraging them to grow and improve their sales skills. It may seem like just saying thank you would suffice – any reward is better than none – but that is not the case. Who has not been on the receiving end of a “lame” reward? If you want to show the world that you value an employee’s leasing contributions, you may need to get more inventive.

”We will receive not what we idly wish for but what we justly earn. Our rewards will always be in exact proportion to our service.”

 –Earl Nightingale

Go beyond the framed “leasing consultant of the month” photo. Rewarding employees for positive leasing performance is an opportunity to give them something to recharge on, but a reward is only truly rewarding if it is something the person values. You have to know your team and what motivates them.  Have you considered asking employees to complete a questionnaire that includes items about their favorite food, candy, music and local restaurants? As with gaining buy-in from any customer, it is all about personalization. Here are a few ideas:

  • A gift card to their favorite restaurant or store
  • Have their car washed or their home cleaned
  • A prepaid gas card, oil change, or car tune-up
  • Deliver a family meal to their home after work
  • A personalized ‘free pass’ [aka a day off] to go to the movies, mall, beach, etc.

Give employees alternatives for rewards. Keep them exciting, different and creative. Create an environment where they never know what to expect. An effective employee reward can trigger something inside of the individual, resulting in their desire to return to the leasing desk and repeat their stellar performance!


Every manager enjoys recognizing and rewarding employees just as much as the employees like receiving it.  The problem is that many companies are heavy on the rewards and recognition but fail to include the accountability tool.

Accountability means people can count on one another to keep performance commitments.

You can have a focused strategy, a great plan, and qualified and talented employees, but without a culture of real accountability, your teams will not achieve the levels of success or results they are capable of.  It sounds like a cliché but accountability does start at the top. It does not work from the middle, and it should not start from bottom. How executive leaders communicate their leasing goals and performance vision to their team members is critical to creating an organization in which all levels are connected and pulling in the same direction.

Accountability must be the unifying theme that draws training, recognition, rewards, and personnel evaluations together.

  • Accountability is not a big stick used to create a leasing environment full of fear and anxiety.
  • Accountability is being held answerable for accomplishing a goal.

If approached correctly, accountability can produce positive, valuable results including:

  1. Reducing the number of complacent “C performers”
  2. Increasing the number of “A performers”
  3. Releasing employees who are only there for a paycheck
  4. Releasing employees who are in the wrong job

If a company’s leasing culture is steeped in clearly communicating roles and expectations, measuring results, recognizing success, and rewarding goal achievement, then it has been successful in creating a culture of accountability. When a company can hold up a mirror and actually say, ‘Our employees did a great job and we know why!’ then they can reproduce that success and continue to flourish.

Positive or negative, mystery shopping results should be thought of as a win-win that provides beneficial customer insight while directly impacting top line revenues and bottom line profits. Having true unbiased feedback is invaluable for success. The key is to make sure that employees understand the big picture and the role mystery shopping plays in providing excellent customer service and ultimately achieving business goals. The Shopping Report should be viewed as a performance improvement instrument.  It is a training tool, a recognition tool, a rewards tool, an accountability tool, and a tool that measures the customer’s perception of the experience.

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.

As an addendum to this letter you will find our SHOPPING REPORT CONSEQUENCE / REDIRECTION PROGRAMS [July 2013], compiled from data submitted by your industry peers.  Additional support and information can be found under Training and Articles on our website.

Prepared by Joanna Ellis, Chief Executive Officer

July 15, 2013