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

Happy New Year!  We would like to thank you for being our customer. For more than three decades, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions has specialized in helping customers like you achieve their business goals. We are proud to offer a turn-key integrated customer experience program, backed by our outstanding customer service, cutting-edge technology, and longstanding ethical business practices. Today, our Mystery Shops, Resident Surveys, and Training are resources that can be used independently to address specific needs or jointly for ongoing employee performance optimization. We believe that the more you know about your customers and what they have to say about your employees, product, and services, the better you can respond to and predict their needs. As a result, the more successful you will be at cultivating loyal customers who invest more, stay longer, and refer friends and family. Since 1984, our unchanging goal has been to help you achieve yours.

As we complete our 2018 theme, “Developing the Outstanding Employee into a Leader”, we encourage you to revisit the first three teachable skills we covered in our previous letters: Wearing Multiple Hats, Decision Making and Problem Solving, and Conflict Management Skills. Our final focus is Dealing With Change which is very timely as we all delve into the new year.

We thank you for joining us each quarter as we pass on combined Benchmark results and sales trends and offer practical improvement ideas for your company and employees.

Fourth 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, and remains steady at 85% in the Fourth Quarter 2018, representing 11,364 shops.  In 2017, the overall average Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score was 3.6, and is unchanged at 3.6 for the Fourth 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 score in 2017 was 74%, compared to 74% for Fourth Quarter 2018. In 2017, the onsite response rate averaged 87%; Fourth Quarter 2018 dipped slightly to 86%. Teams took an average of 6.0 days to respond in the Fourth 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)

  • Western National Property Management

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
  • Irvine Company Apartment Communities
  • Matrix Residential
  • Mill Creek Residential Trust
  • Olympus Property
  • Preferred Residential Management

Tier 2 (30 – 69 completed shops)

  • Bozzuto & Associates
  • Buckingham Management, LLC
  • Draper and Kramer
  • IMT Residential
  • Lantower Residential
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • Morgan Group
  • Richman Property Services, Inc.
  • The Carlyle Group
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID
  • ZRS Management, 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.
  • R & V Management Corporation
  • Simpson Property Group
  • Sparrow Partners
  • TriBridge Residential
  • Zaremba Management Company

Tier 2 (1599 or fewer surveys received)

  • Carlisle Property Management (CPM)
  • CLMS Management
  • Evolve Management Group, LLC
  • GDC Properties, Inc.
  • HRI Properties
  • Longboat Enterprises
  • Mack Urban Communities
  • Mountain States Property Management
  • ResideBPG
  • Rock Companies
  • Russo Development
  • Samuels & Associates
  • Sunrise Management & Consulting
  • TM Realty Services
  • Woodmont Properties

*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 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 for Fourth Quarter 2018.

Resident Surveys

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

Developing the Outstanding Employee into a Leader – Part IV: Dealing with Change

There is nothing more constant in our lives than change. It is dynamic and it is disruptive. Some people thrive on change while others are crushed under it. Your new leaders should know that leadership is all about managing this disruption because the reality is that in property management it will be an hourly occurrence. The best piece of advice you can give your new and upcoming leader is that change is on its way, it is here right now, or it just left. They must learn to transition into, live with, and manage change. While experience is the best teacher, the ability to deal with change is also a skill which can be taught.  While we all wish we had a crystal ball to tell us exactly what change is lurking around the corner, the next best teaching tool available to us is understanding and preparation.

In the book, The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change, the author Jeanie Daniel Duck reveals the five phases of any change initiative, and the emotions each phase typically triggers in people. While the new manager is learning how to deal with change, their employees are also caught up in the chaotic disruption. The points below are not the typical topics you would discuss with a new manager, or that a new manager would discuss with their employees during change, yet they should become acquainted with them because they can quickly derail any change initiative. The goal is to stay involved in the process of change.

Let us assume that you decide to make a management change at one of your apartment communities. The current manager is not performing and has shown clear signs of burnout. Everyone sees the writing on the wall, but no one wants to upset the apple cart. Does this sound familiar? You release the current manager and promote your outstanding employee into this new role. Now, we apply the five phases Duck mentions in her book. Point one has already been addressed, so you are most likely in the middle of the preparation stage.

  1. Change is necessary and those who are aware of it begin to push while others go into denial. The stagnant nature declares that everything is on track and they brush off any necessary change.
  2. Leaders decide to make a change and announce the decision. Emotions range from fear to relief to excitement.
  3. Leaders announce the change. In addition to the feelings revealed during the preparation, confusion, resentment, apathy, worry, and anticipation begin to set in. Some people struggle with the current state while trying to move into the new one.
  4. The newness of the change can cause confusion. People will make mistakes which can slow down the change process. The change initiative is at its most vulnerable point during this stage.
  5. Ideally, all the hard work starts showing tangible results. New emotions begin to rise such as confidence, optimism, and a spike in energy.

Interestingly, these phases apply both to the remaining team and the new incoming manager. Remember, change is disruptive. There are many insightful quotes on this topic, but one of my favorites is from author Robert C. Gallagher who once said, “Change is inevitable. Except from a vending machine.”

The fact is that change will come at rapid speeds for your new leader. Give them the tools they will need to deal with change, and then leave the rest up to experience. Like anything else, everyone has an opinion on change and how to best deal with it. If you Google the words ‘How to teach new leaders to deal with change’, it will reveal 35,100,000 results. Most of us do not have that much reading time on our hands, so here are three skills you can pass along that will help your new leader deal with change.

1. Reframe the Change

Teach them to reframe the way they think about change. Too often, when the word change rears its head, people shy from it and negative feelings begin to spin in their minds – fear, confusion, anger, anxiety, etc.  When you reframe the change, you choose to give positive meaning to the change rather than negative, regardless of the reality. We have all been on the giving and receiving end of change at some point in our career. It does not always initially feel good, yet in every change there is a positive result somewhere.  Ironically, even a positive change can cause feelings of doubt and fear. The key to reframing change is to help make any transition feel like a benefit rather than a deficit.

Consider the following benefits of change:

  • Fresh Approaches. It is so easy to get comfortable in our daily routines. Stagnation can set in very quickly. Albeit disruptive, change can bring refreshing new approaches to the everyday workflow that we did not even know we needed. Consider something common like a change in policy. At first it can cause frustration and confusion, but as it settles in, you begin to see the benefits. In the end, it is a refreshing change, speeds up a process, and hopefully improves efficiency.
  • Fresh Faces. You tend to get very comfortable with the people you work with. Even if you are not the biggest fan of the person you work for, you still get used to their habits. While a new face means a new learning curve, it also means that you have a fresh set of eyes and ideas. A new face can be the antidote a team needs to bring life and energy back into a stagnant office. New ideas can lead to merging old processes with new ones.
  • Fresh Opportunities. Change often translates to opportunity for those who are willing to embrace and take advantage of it. Let us consider a typical scenario where your talented leasing consultant or assistant manager is promoted to property manager. This one change then opens an opportunity to fill their position with a new fresh face, who could be someone internal or external. When they transition into their new role, it opens an opportunity for someone else, and so forth. In his 2015 commencement address at Naropa University, author and scholar Parker Palmer shared the following with the graduating class, “This world is a surprising, startling, beautiful place. Don’t get to the end of your day, or week, or life and say, ‘Dang, I missed it.’”

Leaders who can reframe change are often more successful than those who cannot. Instead of being crushed by change, they see it with different eyes. As a result, their teams become more confident and gain more flexibility. They develop a resilience which will carry them through the next change that is certainly heading their way. I tend to reflect on a sentiment from American inventor Ken Hakuta: “People will try to tell you that all the great opportunities have been snapped up. In reality, the world changes every second, blowing new opportunities in all directions, including yours.”

2. Guide the Change

Change management is a leadership requirement that plays into everything leaders do every day, and how they go about getting things done. Every new leader must embrace this very strategic goal-focused approach. If your new leader does not set goals for the community or their employees nor have a plan to accomplish those goals, their intentions do not really matter. Too often, leaders do not take the time to guide the change they seek; they leave it up to chance.  You must teach your upcoming leaders to guide the change they want by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and tangible.  S.M.A.R.T. goals will help to visualize the change and recognize the success. In 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company, published a paper “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” He introduced S.M.A.R.T. goals as a tool to create criteria to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal. The best way to guide change is to write out the goals and the plans to meet them.

  • Specific. What exactly do you want to achieve? Think about this as the mission statement for your goal, and answer these questions: What exactly do I want to achieve? Where? Where? How? When? With whom? What are my limitations? Why exactly do I want to reach this goal? What are possible alternative ways of achieving the goal?
  • Measurable. The goal should be measurable. Break it down. Without measures, how will they know that they have been successful?
  • Attainable. Is the goal attainable? Goals are meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement. What knowledge, skills, or tools are needed to attain the goal?
  • Relevant. Goals that are relevant to your owner, community, team, and company will receive the most support. Is it worth the cost and resources needed? Does it fit in with the big picture goals?
  • Tangible and Time-Based. Deadlines drive action. Encourage your new leader to set deadlines for themselves and their team as they pertain to the goal. They should keep the timeline realistic and flexible. Setting a goal with tight time constraints can have a negative impact on morale. S.M.A.R.T. goals are best designed in marathon mode rather than sprint mode.

Being able to recognize when a goal has been achieved is a sign that a S.M.A.R.T goal was set. When a leader clarifies the goal and its defined measures and relevance to the big picture, then the entire team knows exactly what is required of them and when.  Zig Ziglar had a great point when he said, “A goal properly set is a halfway reached.”

3. Don’t be a Victim to Change

Teach your upcoming leader that they do not have to be a victim to change, especially when they are not in control of the change. While it is important to set goals for the community and employees, the unexpected will happen. If your new leader is not able to work around the change, they will find it hard to accept and so will their team members. The best way to avoid the victim trap is to teach them to always consider alternatives and to remain flexible. As I mentioned earlier, change is not always a bad thing. When a team member leaves the community, it might not be convenient at the time, but it could open a promotion for the next employee. Change is not the end of the world. Instead it is often the beginning of a new journey for all involved if you embrace the change.

When changes occur, encourage your new leader to face it head-on, look to the future, and encourage everyone involved to see the positives in the situation. They must always be moving in a forward direction versus remaining stagnant or heading backwards. Lead from the front.  Dealing with change is arguably the most important and hardest part of being a leader.  When dealing with change, the new leader should be able to communicate the following internally (self-talk) or externally (to their team).

  • The change is _____.
  • It will impact me/you by _____.
  • It will make me/you and/or our team stronger by _____.
  • It will benefit the team through _____.
  • This is how and when the change will take place: ______.

Finally, remind your newly promoted leader that they should never succumb to the belief that it is all just “happening to them”. Seeking advice from their peers can give them the courage they need to press on and through the change. It is highly probable that someone at another community is dealing with a similar change, is on the other side of it, or is about to face it too. And remember these words by the great Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Dealing with inevitable change in any company typically involves transitioning to a new way of working. Change can be intimidating and stressful for new leaders because of the uncertainty often associated with new situations. If you supply employees with the tools they need to reframe change, guide change, and avoid becoming a victim to change, you can reduce the  change disruption in your leasing office.

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.

January 31, 2019

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.