First Quarter 2018 Benchmark Results for Mystery Shops and Resident Surveys Executive Summary

Happy New Year! We are excited to be your industry partner, offering an integrated customer experience program backed by outstanding customer service, sophisticated technology, and ethical business practices. The programs we offer can be used independently to address specific needs or together as a turnkey program for ongoing employee performance optimization. Our program allows you to boost the customer experience at key touch points from initial visit to move-out through our Apartment Mystery Shops, Resident Surveys, and Training solutions. Your employees will learn how to best respond to the customer. As a result, the more successful you will be at developing loyal customers who invest more, stay longer, and refer friends and family. The more you know about your customers and what they have to say about your people and product, the better you can react to their needs. Our goal is to help you achieve yours.

Our 2018 theme will focus on “Developing the Outstanding Employee into a Leader”. Back in the day it was easy to be marked as a “good” employee. You only had to show up on time, work hard all day, be nice to everyone, avoid breaking the rules, and be loyal to the company. Times have changed. Good is not good enough, and while admirable, unwavering loyalty is not the hallmark of an outstanding employee. Outstanding employees take initiative, form opinions, and are eager to act on ideas to make improvements, which means they can be perceived as difficult or overly anxious. The employee who uses their voice and seeks out opportunities to learn or do something new is many times an upcoming leader. Our 2018 letter will focus on identifying future leaders and developing four teachable leadership skills that can be instilled in your eager outstanding employees: Wearing Multiple Hats, Decision Making and Problem Solving, Conflict Management Skills, and Dealing with Change.

We thank you for joining us each quarter as we convey combined Benchmark results and sales trends and offer practical improvement ideas.

First Quarter 2018 Benchmark: Overall Results

Mystery Shops

Ellis benchmarks mystery shop 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 2017, the overall average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops1 was 85%, representing 43,606 shops, compared to 86% for First Quarter 2018 representing 11,117 shops. In 2017, the overall average Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score was 3.6, versus 3.7 for First Quarter 2018.

* Tier 1 = 70 or more shops

** Tier 2 = 30-69 shops

Resident Surveys

The Ellis Loyalty Benchmark identifies and recognizes the customer experience performance of companies subscribed to the Ellis Resident Surveys Program. It evaluates performance on 5 key touchpoints of the prospect and resident journey. The percentage of surveys responded to by the onsite team and the average number of days it took for the team to respond are also measured because these two factors impact the customer relationship and overall loyalty. Utilizing customer loyalty as a metric allows customer-centric companies the ability to forecast three specific customer behaviors: likelihood to convert/renew, willingness to pay more, and likelihood to recommend.

Ellis’ customer loyalty score is based on a scale of 0%-100% (see chart below):

The overall average Ellis Loyalty Benchmark in 2017 was 74%, compared to 75% for First Quarter 2018. In 2017, the onsite response rate averaged 87%; First Quarter 2018 remained steady at 87%. Teams took an average of 5.0 days to respond in First Quarter 2018 versus an average of 6.3 days in 2017.


Mystery Shops

Ellis Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level Achievers

Tier 1 (70 or more completed shops)

  • Gables Residential Services
  • Western National Property Management
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID

Tier 2 (30-69 completed shops)

  • IMT Residential
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.

Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers

Tier 1 (70 or more completed shops)

  • AMLI Residential
  • Cortland Partners
  • Gables Residential Services
  • Mill Creek Residential Trust
  • Olympus Property
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID

Tier 2 (30 – 69 completed shops)

  • Altman Management Company – FL, MI & TX
  • Berkshire Communities – PRIVATE
  • CWS Apartment Homes, LLC
  • IMT Residential
  • Irvine Company Apartment Communities
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Richman Property Services, Inc.
  • The Carlyle Group
  • The Worthing Companies
  • Trammell Crow Residential
  • Wood Partners
  • ZRS Magagement, LLC

Resident Surveys

Ellis Best in Class Achievers

Tier 1 (1600 or more surveys received)

  • Affinity Property Management
  • Block Multifamily Group, LLC
  • CWS Apartment Homes, LLC
  • Guardian Management, LLC
  • Lincoln Property Company
  • LMC, a Lennar Company
  • Manco Abbott
  • Middleburg Management, LLC.
  • Olympus Property
  • R & V Management Corporation
  • Simpson Property Group
  • The Tomanek Group

Tier 2 (1599 or fewer surveys received)

  • Carlisle Property Management (CPM)
  • Dolben
  • Dranoff Properties
  • First Communities
  • HRI Properties
  • Longboat Enterprises
  • Mack Urban Communities
  • Mountain States Property Management
  • PVGV Management
  • ResideBPG
  • Reybold Venture Group
  • Sunrise Management
  • Sunrise Management & Consulting
  • TM Realty Services

*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

How did we do?

The chart below reflects the average First Quarter 2018 score of Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops1 for each of the 10 key benchmark questions, the Customer Experience by category, and the combined overall Benchmark scores.

Resident Surveys

The chart below reflects the average scores across all Ellis Resident Survey companies for each survey touchpoint for First Quarter 2018, and the combined overall loyalty score and average accountability performance results.

Developing the Outstanding Employee into a Leader – Part I: Wearing Multiple Hats

The best leaders share certain attributes. They are visionaries, assertive, able to connect with others, persuasive, resilient, get things done, and are willing to take risks when necessary. But these qualities alone do not make you a leader. The best leaders confidently identify themselves as leaders, yet they do not get caught up in that label. They are constantly seeking to perfect themselves. You will find that many of your outstanding employees tend to be irritable or impatient at times, just like many great leaders. They are not satisfied with the status quo. They want to be heard. They have ideas. They are learners. It might surprise you to know that the future leaders walking around your office are not always your top performers. Likewise, your top performers are not always cut out to be leaders. Your leadership radar should be focused on an employee’s aptitude, desire to grow, and overall future potential rather than performance in their current role.

Even when individuals naturally exhibit typical leadership qualities they do not become outstanding leaders overnight. They must be developed through on-the-job-learning, training opportunities, and trial and error. In this letter, we focus on teaching and developing the leadership skill of wearing multiple hats.

Leaders are changing hats all day long, and their hats come in a variety of sizes, fits, and styles depending on the situation in front of them. Developing in others the skill of wearing multiple hats requires that you build on their natural ability, discover what they do not know, and guide them to their full potential. While leaders have access to a closet full of hats throughout the day, we will uncover three in this letter: Coach, Delegator, and Listener.


A coach goes beyond merely sharing their knowledge of procedure and position. They also impart valuable life lessons while they “coach the gap”. The gap is the space between where the employee is today and where they want or need to be in the future. How do you coach the gap? Coaching the gap means that you do not assume what your outstanding employee already knows, but instead you determine what they need to know. One leadership hat is removed and is replaced with the coaching hat. A coach shows the employee how to do something they have never done before or have not previously applied in a consistent manner. They provide a new foundation, process, and a starting point for moving forward. Then the coach continues to work the gap as they show the employee how to do what they already do even better.

Let us assume a very talented leasing professional joins your team. You send them to a training class to learn the mechanics of their new role. They move to the leasing floor where they begin to apply their new knowledge, develop best practices, and achieve consistent success. They begin asking for more growth and opportunity, feeling like they have met the challenges of their current role. You, being the wise community manager you are, take notice and identify them as an outstanding employee. They need you to coach the gap. You quickly put on your coaching cap. Your role now is to uncover where the employee wants to be. What is their ultimate goal? That is the measurable destination you both need to use as the gauge for success. Now, you intentionally watch from the sidelines observing the employee’s performance, then make gentle tweaks and help refine their skills. Essentially, when you put on the coaching cap, you actively work with the outstanding employee to leverage their strengths and talents, to keep them on top of their game, to help them see their potential, and teach them towards an even higher goal.


A delegator realizes they cannot do it all and must don the delegating hat to keep the team moving forward. Despite how painful it may be to not be in total control of something, delegation is a critical leadership skill and one that your outstanding employees must master to be a successful and effective leader. Great leaders not only gain more time by using the delegation tool, but they also empower their team. Those who have mastered the skill of delegation realize that they can accomplish much more with others than on their own. Here are a few tips to share with your outstanding employee:

  • Choose wisely. Delegation should not be seen as a task that you have to accomplish but rather as a tool you can use in your daily routine. Identify the tasks you have on hand and assess which ones are not utilizing your time and skills to their fullest. The next question is, “Who will be best suited for this task?” Delegation should be a natural part of your existing on-the-job training processes and team development plan.
  • Confirm understanding. Once you have defined the task or project, next carefully communicate any and all additional expectations for complete understanding. No one can read your mind, so if the finished project needs to be exact, be very clear in the requirements of the task and communicate it face-to-face if possible. If you skip this part, when the task fails it will be evident that you did not confirm understanding.
  • Get out of the way. Once you delegate the task, define the task, and set your expectations, then get out of the way! Do not expect others to do the work exactly the way you would do it because they will not. Albeit difficult, respect and appreciate the varied approaches your employees use to achieve the desired end result. You may even learn something from them in the process.
  • Be prepared for a malfunction. Recognize that teaching and learning is not always a linear process, and the person you delegate to might not comprehend exactly what you are saying. Sometimes they will fall short of your goal. Do not fall into the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” trap. Avoid using a temporary setback as a reason to seize responsibility from the person to whom it was delegated. Instead work to identify what got lost in translation and use the experience as a learning tool.

One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. This is especially true for those employees who promote through the ranks, because it is common to want to hold onto old tasks and work. But as the responsibilities become more complex, the difference between an effective leader and a person with a leader’s title is painfully evident. In order for the outstanding employee to reach their own potential, they must put on their delegating hat.


Listening is an overlooked leadership skill. Few do it well. Most of us engage in listening only as a way of waiting until it is our turn to speak. While the other hats might fit loosely, this one must fit tightly because you wear it underneath all of the other hats all of the time. Have you ever been speaking to someone and found that they were distracted by something and not really listening to you? You probably considered this to be disrespectful behavior. Great listeners are fully present and listen to the whole person. They not only listen to what the person is saying but how they are saying it, and maybe even more importantly in some cases what they are not saying. The journey to becoming a great listener begins with quieting our minds, closing our mouths, and focusing on the other person. This can be a difficult task in the fast-paced on-site environment. Understanding the difference between passive and active listening is a great launching discussion point for new leaders. “If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.” -Robert Baden-Powell

  • Passive listening refers to hearing something without the intention of responding to it. It is similar to hearing. When you are a passive listener your mind may drift from the topic of discussion from time to time. We are mostly in passive listening mode when sitting in a presentation or a meeting.
  • Active Listening refers to hearing something with the intention of listening to understand what is being said and to provide feedback. It is a two-way conversation where you listen to understand and ask questions or provide feedback when needed.

The listening hat only comes in ‘active’ style because it plays such an important role in determining the success of any communication process. Unless the employee fully understands the message being communicated by their leader, the task cannot be completed. Active listening ensures that the message being transmitted does not become mere background noise to the listener. Here are a few quick tips you can pass along to your outstanding employee and future leader:

  • Engage others. Engage yourself in matters important to your employees. When they share their opinions, ask them questions and encourage them to elaborate. Engage yourself more actively, hold yourself accountable and follow-up with your employees so they will know that you are listening, paying attention, and attempting to understand them.
  • Focus on the person in front of you. Do not allow other thoughts, people, or sounds to distract you. Set down your phone. Close your computer. Be present.
  • Watch their body language. Most of the communication that takes place between a leader and employee is non-verbal. In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published Silent Messages, in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication, wherein he observes that 55% of communication is through body language, 38% through tone of voice, and only 7% from actual words spoken. Observing more will help you gain a better understanding. Listen with your eyes.
  • Embrace the awkward silence. When coaching your employees or sharing feedback, increasing your use of silence shows that you are listening and attentive to what has been said. Pausing before responding shows that you are reflecting on how best to reply rather than rushing to say what you have been thinking while your employee has been speaking. Demonstrate that you value what they have to say.
  • Do not interrupt. It is fair to say this is a common occurrence and is rooted in human nature as a natural defense mechanism. In the book Leadership Blindspots, the author shares: “Many leaders have a healthy degree of ego and are invested in being viewed as being decisive…action oriented.” But we must avoid dominating or disrupting the conversation. Taking notes is a great way to overcome this tendency. Interrupting disrupts the flow of dialogue, and with every interruption comes disengagement. Teach your new leaders to stay in the current conversation and in the moment.

There are great rewards waiting ahead for those who listen to their employees. It is believed that 85% of what we know we have learned through listening. Listening is an important hat to wear on a daily basis and in all situations. It is the gift that will keep giving back.

Outstanding employees do not transform into outstanding leaders over night. They must be nurtured and coached by a leader who understands the importance of wearing and teaching others how to wear multiple hats. Jack Welch sums it up beautifully with this quote, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Outstanding leaders wear big hats!

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 to be not only the finest source for mystery shopping and resident surveys but also a training resource (including our partner Edge2Learn) for your organization. Additional support and information can be found on our website.

April 30, 2018

Prepared by Joanna Ellis, Chief Executive Officer and Francis Chow, Chief Strategic Officer

Footnotes: 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.