Welcome to the inaugural Ellis Benchmark article of the 2023 calendar year! As you may know, Ellis and Edge2Learn were acquired by Grace Hill on November 21, 2022. Our teams are working on multiple facets of integration, including the possibility of presenting quarterly benchmarking across both the Ellis and Grace Hill legacy platforms for shops and surveys. This quarter’s article focuses on Ellis Shops and Surveys data for First Quarter 2023. 

The year is predicted to be a tumultuous one in multifamily as Fannie Mae has forecasted vacancies to continue rising over the course of the year, following a major decrease in demand in Fourth Quarter 2022. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that people continue to be “on the move” post-pandemic. Glenn Brill, a managing director in FTI Consulting’s real estate practice, told Multi-Housing News that people are seeking a lower cost of living, better weather, and economic opportunity, among other things. Multifamily owners and managers can expect costly resident turnovers (not to mention employee turnover) and will be challenged to win new leases in an extremely competitive market.   

What will help us survive and thrive in 2023? Delivering a consistent, superior experience has never been more difficult than in today’s complex world. Our 2023 article series will discuss achieving leasing success in a dynamic market. This quarter’s article touches on the key role of customer experience in winning and keeping customers.


Mystery Shops

Ellis benchmarks apartment 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 2022, the average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops was 83%. Fourth Quarter 2022 was slightly lower than the annual average at 82%, and the average climbed to 83% for First Quarter 2023. In response to industry needs during the pandemic and customer demands, we introduced the Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark in Second Quarter 2020 based on 10 nearly identical key benchmark questions.

In 2022, the average Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark score was 65%. The average had climbed marginally by Fourth Quarter 2022 to 66%. The Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark for First Quarter 2023 dropped significantly to 52%. The Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark was 3.7 for First Quarter 2023, where it has remained for most quarters in recent years.

Mystery Shops Overall Average Performance


Ellis wishes to congratulate the companies below for their Ellis Shopping Benchmark performance for First Quarter 2023.

First Quarter 2023

Tier 1 (70 or more completed shops)

Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers

·        Wood Partners

Tier 2 (30-69 completed shops)

Ellis Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level Achievers

·        IMT Residential

 Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers

·        IMT Residential

·        Lewis Management Corp.

·        Morgan Group

·        RangeWater

·        TA Realty

Companies are listed in alphabetical order within each category.

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 five 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.

The overall average Ellis Loyalty Benchmark score in 2022 was 78%. Fourth Quarter 2022 remained at 78% and increased slightly to 79% for First Quarter 2023. In 2022, the onsite response rate averaged 86%, dropping to 84% in Fourth Quarter 2022 and declining further to 82% during First Quarter 2023. The average response time in 2022 was 5.6 days, showing improvement to 5.4 days in Fourth Quarter 2022 and notable improvement to 5.2 days in First Quarter 2023.

Resident Surveys Overall Average Performance

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


Ellis wishes to congratulate the companies below for their Ellis Surveys Benchmark performance for First Quarter 2023.

First Quarter 2023

Ellis Best in Class Achievers

Tier 1 (1,600 or more units)          

·        F and F Realty

·        Fore Property Company

·        FPI Management

·        Friedman Realty Group

·        Guardian Management, LLC

·        Lincoln Property Company

·        Manco Abbott

·        Olympus Property

·        Quarterra

·        Reside BPG

·        Russo Property Management

·        Simpson Property Group

·        Sparrow Partners

·        Steadfast Management

·        Sunrise Management

·        Woodmont Properties

·        Zaremba Management Company

Ellis Best in Class Achievers

Tier 2 (1,599 or fewer units)

·        Evolve Management Group, LLC

·        GDC Properties, Inc.

·        Ghertner & Company

·        Longboat Enterprises

·        O’Brien Realty Group

·        Samuels & Associates

·        Southern Land Company

·        Sunrise Management & Consulting

·        TM Realty Services

·        United Financial Group, Inc

Companies are listed in alphabetical order.


Mystery Shops

How did we do?

The charts below reflect the average score of Ellis’ entire database for each of the 10 key benchmark questions and the Customer Experience by category, as well as the combined overall benchmark scores for First Quarter 2023. This data provides a roadmap to success which, in most cases, is returning to the basics of sales and customer service.

Resident Surveys

How did we do?

The chart below reflects the average scores across all Ellis Resident Survey companies for each survey touch point for First Quarter 2023, as well as the combined overall loyalty score and average accountability performance results.


Are customer service and customer experience the same thing? No. Customer service is one piece of the customer experience puzzle. Customer experience is an overarching perception of you and your company, and your customer service is a contributing factor. Why is a great customer experience important? First and foremost, it’s a sure way to stand out from the competition in this competitive market. So, where do we start?

Provide Customer-First Service.

Have you heard the phrase, “Design with your customer in mind”? Your sales process should have guiding principles that lend itself to making the customer feel welcome, heard, and a desired addition to your apartment community. Those first impressions — when you answer their phone call, respond to their email, or greet them when they arrive at your leasing office — are the foremost reasons they have for continuing to do business with you. 

When a prospect calls in the last half-hour of the day, are you answering the phone? If you get a lead from your website during office hours, how quickly are you responding? And if a customer walks through your door at lunchtime, do you offer to assist them or ask them to return later? These are everyday examples of how we can put the customer first to provide a superior experience with your company. 

Develop Rapport and Seek to Understand.

Are you just following a script in your engagements with prospects? Your training may require that leasing professionals always wear a nametag, and it’s important to measure if expectations are being met. Yet it might be (read: probably is) more important to your customers that associates are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. Established learning and development programs offer necessary job aids to help with customer conversations. And that’s a good thing. But as your team interacts with customers on a daily basis, you know they cannot always stay on script without coming across as, well, scripted. 

When everything is by the book, your prospects feel it. So do your residents. Going off-script does not mean you have to go completely off the sales path. It is about opening the opportunity for personalized sales while building trust with the prospect, communicating that you care about their needs and are committed to finding the best solution for them.

Offer Self- and Full-Service Options.

Even if you offer options for self-service to address short-staffing or to build in efficiencies, keep in mind there is no substitute for friendly, personal customer service. If you have an app for self-guided tours, automation for responding to internet sales inquiries, and an offsite center that handles calls, do you know if and how these processes are working? Are they leading to leases? Much like the process of buying a car, some customers are happy with a hands-off approach, and others prefer human interaction. Like the old Burger King slogan, let them have it their way.

Personalize Benefits.

It’s all about what the customer wants, which is why getting them to feel comfortable talking with you is vital. Does your customer work from home some or all the time? Sell the benefit of free Wi-Fi or access to computers, printers, etc., in your clubhouse business center. Mention how convenient your package acceptance and/or delivery will be for them. 

The services you offer can be a large part of why the customer chooses your community. It’s important to share service options and emphasize any that your prospect may have expressed interest in or needs. If they are bringing a pet, ask their pet’s name and point out all the benefits for Fido. As you show genuine interest in what’s important to them, they are choosing you just as much as the home in your community. Make sure your messaging and your actions are consistent – the last thing you want is to leave a new resident disappointed by a broken promise.

Assess Your Team With Mystery Shopping.

Mystery shopping is the avenue for collecting customer feedback by which you can dig the deepest into successes and opportunities. It helps you understand the “why” in the data you’ve uncovered about your typical customer journey; for example, why they chose to lease or not, if they felt a connection throughout the sales interaction, and whether the presentation focused on understanding and solving for their specific needs. Consider the key “moments of truth” you find in a shopping report (or in trends across your shop program). Yes, the mystery shop is a performance evaluation, but it is also your tool to learn how to delight your customers and develop a best-in-class customer experience.

May 1, 2023

About The Author

Lisa Ford, Director of Mystery Shopping Services, Grace Hill

Lisa began her career with Ellis in 2003, where she has served in many capacities throughout her tenure, including various leadership roles within the organization. Currently the Director of Mystery Shopping Services, Lisa is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the shopping assessment side of our business, supporting team members and working directly with customers to ensure we are providing the best product and service available in the industry.

About Ellis

Since 1984, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions has specialized in helping customers achieve their business goals. Acquired by Grace Hill in November of 2022, our company remains proud to offer a turn-key integrated customer experience program backed by outstanding customer service, cutting-edge technology, and longstanding ethical business practices. 

Ellis | Grace Hill apartment mystery shops, resident surveys, live training, e-learning, and policies and procedures are resources that can be used independently to address specific needs or jointly for ongoing employee performance optimization. 

Footnotes: 1 See Ellis website for Mystery Shop Benchmark and Resident Surveys Benchmark eligibility, tier level, and recognition requirements for apartment mystery shops and resident surveys.