Fourth Quarter 2019 Benchmark Results for Mystery Shops and Resident Surveys Executive Summary

Since 1984, 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. Our apartment mystery shops, resident surveys, live training, and e-learning partner (Edge2Learn) 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 anticipate 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.

Our 2019 multifamily training theme is “Transitioning from Learn to Work to Work to Learn”. Time, geography, technology, budgets, and generational changes have brought us to a point where we can no longer leave all learning to multifamily training departments. Learning is mobile. It is available everywhere we turn, and it should also be taking place where the work is being done – in the leasing office. In a work to learn culture, employees are encouraged to take on the responsibility of understanding rising situations, recognizing patterns, and co-solving problems daily. There is no time to pause, contact the multifamily training department, and then develop something to address learning needs, because the problem will have mutated by then.

In our First Quarter 2019 Benchmark letter, we covered that the transition from a learn to work to a work to learn environment must begin with a workplace transformation. Leaders must make a deliberate effort to shift expectations for employees and to shape the cultural forces which give voice to the culture. In the Second Quarter 2019 Benchmark letter, we tackled the critical thinking/problem solving skill and how it can be nurtured in the leasing office on a day-to-day basis. In the Third Quarter 2019 Benchmark letter, we focused on cognitive skills development which is the ability to learn, process and apply knowledge, to analyze, reason, evaluate, and make a decision. Virtually all jobs require employees to exercise these “thinking” skills while they learn and grow from their daily work experiences. In this final letter of 2019, we focus on social skills.

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.


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 2018, the overall average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops was 86%, representing 45,560 shops and has representing 45,560 shops and has fallen slightly to 85% for Fourth Quarter 2019, representing 10,955 shops. In 2018, the overall average Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score was 3.6 and remains steady at 3.6 for Fourth Quarter 2019.

* Tier 1 = 70 or more shops
** Tier 2 = 30-69 shops
(Note: Grid reflects the rankings of the companies that fell within that placement category for the respective Tier for the current quarter)


Ellis Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level Achievers

Tier 1
(70 or more completed shops)

  • Western National Property Management

Ellis Traditional Benchmark Platinum Level Achievers

Tier 2
(30 – 69 completed shops)

  • IMT Residential

Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers **

Tier 1

  • AMLI Residential
  • Mill Creek Residential Trust
  • Pegasus Residential
  • RangeWater
  • Windsor Property Management Co / GID
  • Wood Partners

Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers **

Tier 2

  • Holland Residential
  • IMT Residential
  • Legacy Partners Residential, Inc.
  • LMC, a Lennar Company
  • Morgan Group
  • Preferred Residential Management
  • Richman Property Services, Inc.
  • ZRS Management, LLC

*Companies are listed in alphabetical order
**Customer Experience Benchmark gold level achievers are recognized as there were no platinum achievers for this period

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 2018 was 75%, and remains steady at 75% for Fourth Quarter 2019. In 2018, the onsite response rate averaged 87%; Fourth Quarter 2019 reflects a decrease to 86%. The response rate has improved significantly, with teams taking an average of 5.2 days to respond in Fourth Quarter 2019 versus an average of 5.7 days in 2018.


Ellis Best in Class Achievers
Tier 1 (1,600 or more units)

  • Affinity Property Management
  • Block Multifamily Group, LLC
  • Fore Property Company
  • Guardian Management, LLC
  • Lincoln Property Company
  • LMC, a Lennar Company
  • Madison Apartment Group, LP
  • Manco Abbott
  • Olympus Property
  • Simpson Property Group
  • The Tomanek Group
  • TriBridge Residential
  • Woodmont Properties
  • Woodward Management Partners
  • Zaremba Management Company

Ellis Best in Class Achievers
Tier 2 (1,599 or fewer units)

  • Carlisle Property Management (CPM)
  • Cathcart Property Management
  • CFH Partners
  • Dolben
  • Eastern Property Real Estate
  • GDC Properties, Inc.
  • HRI Properties
  • ResideBPG
  • Reybold Venture Group
  • Samuels & Associates
  • Sparrow Partners
  • Sunrise Management & Consulting
  • TM Realty Services
  • Woodside Village Management

*Companies are listed in alphabetical order


Mystery Shops
How did we do?
The charts below reflect the average score of Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops 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 2019.


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 Fourth Quarter 2019, as well as the combined overall loyalty score and average accountability performance results.



social skills

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trend research, critical thinking/problem solving, cognitive abilities, and social skills will be the top three most in demand capabilities for the future. Because not all multifamily training can be forced into the traditional training model or even captured in an LMS, we need to nurture the lifelong learner and meet them where they are: in the leasing office, where employees practice the sought-after skills they will need to be successful in any role and any industry.

In this final 2019 letter, we focus on social skills. Social skills are the skills we use to interact, influence, and communicate with other people. In his working paper, The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market, David J. Deming presents that social skills are important in the modern labor market because computers are still very poor at simulating human interaction. Deming sets forth that productive work teams play off each other’s strengths and adapt flexibly to changing circumstances, supporting a common position that this type of non-routine interaction is at the heart of the ‘people over machines’ advantage.

In fact, research shows that poor interpersonal skills are the number one reason why people cannot get along, do not get promoted, or even worse, lose their jobs. There are many skills that fall into the social skills category, but for the purpose of this letter, we will focus in on three common social workplace challenge areas: playing well with others, engaging in conversation, and communication.


Let us go back in time to kindergarten. There were many assessment areas on your report card, but there was one that did not have anything to do with memorizing facts or listening to your teacher: Did you play well with others? This was the question that assessed a skill that would eventually influence your life and career success. Adult situations are more difficult to navigate without this skill than those we encountered as children, and the consequences are much greater. No matter how good a person is at leasing or the administrative side of their job, if they do not play well with others, their presence will not be well-received, and the team will begin to show signs of breakdown.  Here are two ways to improve our ‘play well with others’ skills.

  • Give your full attention. Have you ever had the experience of talking with someone whose mind was obviously somewhere else? Maybe they kept glancing at their phone, looking through you, or checking their email. Whatever they are distracted by, it is apparent in your mind that it is more important than talking to you. We are all guilty at one time or another of not giving our full attention to someone. It is tempting to think that if we appear attentive in a conversation, it is okay to let our mind continue to work on other things. But when we are not fully present, people notice.
  • Practice mindful listening. There are a variety of ways we can show our sincere interest in others, which includes becoming a mindful listener. What is mindful listening? It is focusing our attention on what another person is saying, without judging or having an agenda. It is fully listening to understand, not just to respond. This is rarely practiced, so start off the new year right and try this in your next one-on-one conversations.


In How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie points to the importance of actively showing interest in other people by engaging in conversation. Merely listening to what someone has to say and asking them to tell you more makes you more liked and the person more receptive to you. Interestingly, most people can tell if you are faking it, so you really need to find pleasure in learning about others. Before the term emotional intelligence was coined, Henry Ford said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” You accomplish this by asking questions and relating to people at their level.

  • Surveys continue to show that the number one reason employees leave a company or stay is not the work or even the paycheck, but instead, it is the relationship employees have with their supervisors and co-workers that makes the difference. It is easy to leave a job when you feel like you work with strangers. We build relationships through communication and quality engaging conversations.
  • It is difficult to engage in a conversation with someone who works in a box. Too often, we box our co-workers into a title such as manager, leasing consultant, service manager, etc. and do not see them as real people with real lives, interests and skills outside of work. Get to know them better by asking engaging questions and inquisitive questions.

You will be amazed by how engaging conversations can not only improve social skills but also help strengthen the bond between co-workers.   


Communication is one of the most important interpersonal skills in any job. Whether you work in customer service, leasing, management, or another role, you will need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with others. Communication skills are the key to building relationships and strong social support networks. People are not born with good communication skills. They are learned through trial and error and repeated practice like any other skill. The great news is that effective communication skills can be exercised within your leasing office in the simplest of ways. Speaking in a clear and concise manner, asking open-ended questions and being a good listener are just a few readily apparent ones. Here are two areas which might not be so obvious.

  • Communicate Across Teams. The relationship and communication between the leasing, management, and service teams are crucial for success. Check in with others on your team and become a liaison to improve the flow of communication and keep productivity high. Be the person who is willing to coordinate the efforts between groups. Exercising this skill will show a company cohesiveness to the customer which gives them more confidence in your brand. There is nothing worse than tossing a customer from one department to another to get their problem solved.
  • Master Conflict Resolution. Conflict resolution is not fun, but it is a highly in-demand skill. In some teams, employee productivity is noticeably affected by the extent of workplace conflict. Certainly, there is a potential conflict in any workplace when people of different backgrounds and experiences come together. Unfortunately, many people ignore it and hope that it will go away, because they do not have the skill to help resolve it. As noted in an article published by Forbes, this is a skill that can be practiced in the leasing office.

Conflict can also be an internal struggle. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion or something else over which you are holding a grudge or cannot let go. It begins to negatively impact current and future performance. While there are a wide range of useful skills for handling internal conflict, possibly the most important is gaining the assertiveness to express yourself in a clear, open and reasonable way.

Social skills play an important role in almost everything we do. They define our ability to navigate every situation that involves more than one person, which is every situation in the leasing office. They also greatly influence group performance and drive the effectiveness of teamwork. Great interpersonal skills are held with high regard in the workplace, and being able to demonstrate them will help us and our team to stand out from the crowd.

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 apartment mystery shopping and resident surveys but also a multifamily training resource (including our partner Edge2Learn) for your organization. Additional support and information can be found on our website.

January 31, 2020

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 apartment mystery shops and resident surveys.