Fourth Quarter 2020 Benchmark Results for Mystery Shops and Resident Surveys Executive Summary

Since 1984, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions has specialized in helping customers 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.

For years, our anticipation for 2020 was the transition in the workforce and how the Millennial generation would transform everything in the workplace.  We studied it, listened to speakers share their knowledge, read the books, and prepared, yet what we received was a huge curveball: COVID-19. Quickly, we realized that so many of the things we counted on were simply not as true or sure as we had always believed. Our focus changed. Our needs changed. We changed.

Stephen Covey once expressed, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  In an instant, the pandemic turned the multifamily industry upside down and inside out, yet we quickly realized that the main thing was still the main thing – the customer. Regardless of how the leasing presentation or customer service was delivered in 2020 – in-person, Zoom, video – the customer’s service expectations remained the same: professionalism, patience, compassion, kindness. When your own world is in turmoil, this is no easy task, yet many of our leasing teams put their own circumstances aside and they did hard things.

Join us at the back of this letter as we celebrate the stories of service excellence and those who kept the main thing the main thing.   


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 2019, the overall average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops1 was 85%, representing 45,449 shops and dipped to 83% for Fourth Quarter 2020, representing 4,981 shops. In response to industry needs and customer demands during the pandemic, we introduced the Ellis Virtual Shopping Benchmark in Q2 2020 based on 9 of the same key Benchmark questions plus an additional question on the effectiveness of the follow-up contact. In Second Quarter 2020, we conducted 3,229 virtual leasing shops and the average score was 59% (based on a 100-point scale). During Fourth Quarter 2020, the average Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark score increased to 60%, representing 2,049 virtual shops. These results reflect the continued efforts put in place to drive numbers back up and are a testament to the resilience of our teams. The Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark score remained steady at 3.6 for the Fourth Quarter 2020.

Due to COVID-19 circumstances, Ellis is not publishing mystery shop performance by Tier/Rank or Top-Performing Companies for Fourth Quarter 2020.

As we compare similar questions on the Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark and the Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark, we can see areas which are consistent in the delivery and areas that can be improved.


Mystery Shops Overall Average Performance


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.

The overall average Ellis Loyalty Benchmark score in 2019 was 75%, and it increased slightly to 77% for Fourth Quarter 2020. In 2019, the onsite response rate averaged 88%; Fourth Quarter 2020 showed improvement to an 89% average response rate. The response time was 4.7 days in Third Quarter 2020. It increased slightly to 4.8 in the Fourth Quarter 2020.

Note: Ellis is not publishing Resident Surveys Top Performing Companies for Fourth Quarter 2020.

Resident Surveys Overall Average Performance


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




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 Fourth Quarter 2020. This data provides a roadmap to success, which in most cases means 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 Fourth Quarter 2020, as well as the combined overall loyalty score and average accountability performance results.



In 2020, the pandemic wreaked havoc throughout the multifamily industry, yet through it all, we witnessed tiny and grand victories despite the chaos, confusion, and panic. When the “virtual tour” became the main modus operandi, our teams and customers slowly adapted to this new COVID-19 way of doing business. As with any struggle, some faltered while others gained strength, paved new roads, and achieved excellence. Many familiar modes of doing business were forced into change, but as John Wooden, a hall of fame basketball player and coach once stated, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do,” and that is how our industry rolled in 2020!

We operate in a story business. Unlike any other industry, we share life with the customer 24/7/365 days a year, and with each contact, we listen, attend to their needs, and record a mental story. When they wake up with water dripping from the ceiling overhead, we are there. When their neighbor’s dog barks all night, we are there. When their roommate walks out on the lease, we are there. When COVID-19 sent a shock through their home, career, education, and social life, we were there, and we are still there. 

In every moment of darkness, there are countless opportunities to be a light, showing small and great gestures of compassion and kindness that allow people to see who we are, how we want to serve, and what matters to us.

So, we invite you to grab a cup of coffee as we close out 2020 with a few stories that we hope will inspire you and bring a smile to your face.

Celebrating Excellence in the Multifamily Business Through Stories

1. Collaboration

“Feel Goods” was the title of the email we received from Bridge Property Management. Their story is a great reminder that we need more feel goods to fill our daily interactions at work, home, and in the world around us. Sometimes those feel goods can be compounded when partnering with those with like-minded goals. This is exactly what Bridge Property Management and their team at Spring Forest Apartments in Raleigh, North Carolina, were able to accomplish. When the pandemic forced everyone back home, the word “home” took on a new meaning. Bedrooms operated as home offices, parking lots transformed into play areas, and kitchen tables quickly turned into homeschool classrooms. Like many others, the team at Bridge Property Management realized early on that the disruption in the educational system for their young residents went far beyond the learning.

Their relationship with Project Access, whose mission is “to be the leading provider of vital on-site health, education, and employment services to families, children, and seniors living in affordable housing”, increased Bridge’s ability to support their residents during COVID-19. In a January, 19th, 2021 Bridge Investment Group podcast, Rich Stayner, CEO of Bridge Property Management, shared, “This collaboration enables us to be more nimble and responsive to our residents’ needs during challenging times. Our partnership with Project Access allows us to provide our residents with more than four walls and a roof.” 

The residents at Spring Forest Apartments in Raleigh, North Carolina, and other Bridge communities are reaping the benefits of this invaluable collaboration. Since the onset of the pandemic, partnering with Project Access has given them the ability to provide their residents free meals twice a week, food giveaways, and virtual afterschool programs to help their young residents with remote learning.

This partnership is a beautiful example of how leveraging multiple peoples’ expertise and resources allows you to solve problems faster and drive better outcomes long-term.

2. A Selfless Act

From the incredible efforts made by our frontline workers, to everyday people helping their neighbors, there are countless examples of people trying to do the right thing during an extraordinarily difficult time. Sometimes the selfless act of giving one’s time goes unnoticed, until someone shares their story. 

The Hanover Southhampton is a luxury high-rise apartment community located in Houston, Texas. As part of their design and amenity package, they offer a controlled-access parking garage for their residents which gives them convenient access to their home while protecting their vehicle from the outside elements. So, when the parking garage recently became inoperable, it was a big problem for everyone. The management team immediately contacted the local service contractor, but unfortunately their hopes of immediately correcting the problem did not go as planned. It would be the following day until it could be repaired. Without any request, Luis Barroso, an employee at the Hanover Southhampton, personally volunteered to stay awake all night and manually lift the gate for every resident needing to enter or exit the garage. While most people would probably nap in-between cars, Luis chose to use his downtime to clean the garage. With no complaining or demand for recognition, Luis started his day at 7 a.m. and did not leave until the following evening at 4 p.m. when the gate had been repaired.  

The pandemic at its onset made it difficult to hire new employees. When three out of four Hanover Company communities in Pennsylvania were operating with one maintenance supervisor, Jeff Jaffe, Assistant Maintenance Supervisor at Hanover Town Center located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, stepped up and left his home community to help. Jeff’s selfless act to help his fellow communities continued as he moved on to Hanover Exton Square in Exton, Pennsylvania for an additional month to walk new construction units.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, selflessness is defined as being more concerned with the wishes and needs of others than one’s own. When people see others performing selfless acts, they are more inclined to do the same. Such acts are contagious.   

3. Be the Good

TI Communities, based in Irving, Texas, was gifted $10,000 from Entrata Property Management Software in 2020 to continue to “Be the Good” in the world. In an inspiring company effort, TI Communities used these funds to start their “Project Winter Wish” in December of 2020. Their residents were able to apply for a “Winter Wish” by sharing how it could positively impact their families. As a result, TI Communities gifted 120 families with their wishes ranging from warm winter clothing for children, to bikes for residents without vehicles, to grooming for a service dog, to a car seat for a new baby.

Whether you call it good deeds, paying it forward, or random acts of kindness, these actions are very powerful. When you see the resident riding their new bike to work or the baby securely fastened in their new car seat, your perspective shifts. Even though the world did not change, your perspective helps you see it in a more positive light.

4. Compassion

Do you remember your 11th birthday? For one young boy and his best friend, the compassion of a sales manager turned what could have been a birthday disaster into one of the most memorable birthdays of his young life. This story was shared by one of our EPMS team members, and we can all learn from it.

His mother had it all planned out. She would pick up his best friend and take them to the local indoor entertainment center where they would spend the morning and afternoon bowling, playing mini-golf, laser tag, and arcade games. Sadly, it all came to a screeching halt when they walked up to the door and noticed that it was locked and all the lights were turned off. When she pulled up their website, it showed that they would not be open until 3 p.m.; it was 11 a.m. at the time. They had changed their hours mid-week. As she panicked and contemplated breaking the bad news, she felt the need to place a call and express her dissatisfaction. While sitting in the parking lot, she called the number on their website, and the sales manager answered the phone! She shared her story. He proceeded to explain how they had changed their hours mid-week due to COVID-19, which was not conveyed to her when she had called the facility in advance. For most customers, that would have been the end of the conversation, but not this time.

The sales manager met them at the front door where they expected they would receive some compensation such as a gift card or maybe a discount coupon. Instead, he created a memorable customer experience story driven by his compassion for the situation and a desire to make things right. He welcomed them into the facility and then he requested that the engineer “turn on the facility”. In an instant, all 30,000 square feet of fun came to life! For the next four hours, the two boys had the entire facility to themselves! When he realized they had planned to eat lunch in their dining area, he put on his ‘chef hat’ and made them a pizza! When it was time to depart, he accepted no payment. His response was simple, “We needed to make things right.”

Mistakes happen, and we do not always get things right the first time. While acts of compassion for people and situations are not outlined in policy and procedure manuals, we could certainly use more of it. We need more employees who believe in the need to make things right when things go wrong.

Now that the year 2020 is behind us, we can admit that it was not what we had hoped it would be. Yet, amid the global upheaval and suffering, many good things emerged. While we shared a few stories of collaborative efforts, selfless acts, moments of compassion, and a desire to be the good in the world, thousands of others remain solely in the minds and hearts of the people they touched. We are and will always be in the story business. The heartbeat of our industry sits on the frontline – the employees who experience life with our customer 24/7/365 days a year. We celebrate them and their excellence!

Thank you for your ongoing support, 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 training resource (including our partner Edge2Learn) for your organization. Additional support and information can be found on our website. Also, our free multifamily training resource library includes several virtual leasing training resources for you and your teams.

February 1, 2021

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