Third Quarter 2023 Benchmark Results for Mystery Shops and Resident Surveys 

Executive Summary

As summer and peak leasing seasons have drawn to an end, Fannie Mae is predicting mild vacancy increases through the end of this year due to an anticipated economic downturn before the end of the year or early in 2024. Catalyst Capital Partners reports that elevated mortgage rates and inflation, in general, have contributed to sustained demand for rentals and are encouraging a positive turn in rent growth as we edge toward the end of 2023. As we move into the fourth quarter amid the uncertainty of the multifamily market, one thing we know is that our teams must remain at their best and seize every lease and renewal opportunity at hand. In this quarter’s letter, we discuss the value of relationships in the customer experience journey.

Under Grace Hill, the Ellis and Edge2Learn teams remain focused on product and service integrations, 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 Third Quarter 2023.

Overall Results

Mystery Shops

Ellis benchmarks apartment mystery shop performance against the 10 key benchmark questions and the customer experience for telephone/onsite presentations. Companies can qualify for platinum, gold, silver, or bronze levels based on their overall benchmark scores for the quarter.

In 2022, the average Ellis Traditional Multifamily Industry Benchmark score across Ellis’ entire database of eligible shops was 83%. Second Quarter 2023 declined slightly to 82%, and the average remained steady at 82% for Third 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 the nearly identical ten key benchmark questions. In 2022, the average Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark score was 65%. The average had dropped significantly as of Second Quarter 2023 to 52%. The Ellis Virtual Leasing Multifamily Industry Benchmark for Third Quarter 2023 fell again to 49%. The Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark remained at 3.6 for Third Quarter 2023, marginally lower than its average of 3.7 across recent years.

Ellis Benchmark Top Performing Mystery Shops by Company – Third Quarter 2023

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

*Companies are listed in alphabetical order

Tier 1
(70 or more completed shops)
Tier 2
(30 – 69 completed shops)
Ellis Traditional Benchmark
Platinum Level Achievers
– IMT Residential
Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers**
– Wood Partners
Ellis Customer Experience Benchmark Gold Level Achievers **
– Continental Properties
– Grade Management, Inc.
– IMT Residential
– Morgan Group
– TA Realty

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 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%. Second Quarter 2023 reflected a slight uptick to 80% and remained unchanged at 80% for Third Quarter 2023. In 2022, the onsite response rate averaged 86%, dropping to 81% in Second Quarter 2023 and regaining slightly to 82% during Third Quarter 2023. The average response time in 2022 was 5.6 days, improving to 5.3 days in Second Quarter 2023 but declining significantly to 5.8 days in Third Quarter 2023.

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

Ellis Benchmark Top Performing Resident Surveys by Company – Third Quarter 2023

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

*Companies are listed in alphabetical order

Ellis Best in Class Achievers Tier 1
(1,600 or more units)
Ellis Best in Class Achievers
Tier 2 (1,599 or fewer units)
– Avanti Residential
– Cathcart Property Management
– Cloud Ten Residential
– F and F Realty
– Fore Property Company
– Friedman Realty Group
– Guardian Management, LLC
– Manco Abbott
– Olympus Property
– Quarterra
– ResideBPG
– Simpson Property Group
– Sparrow Partners
– Steadfast Management
– Willow Bridge
– Woodmont Properties
– Zaremba Management Company
– Akara Property Management, LLC
– Ghertner & Company
– Longboat Enterprises
– O’Brien Realty Group
– Samuels & Associates
– Southern Land Company
– StarPoint Properties
– TM Realty Services
– United Financial Group, Inc

Question/Touchpoint Results: How Did We Do?

Mystery Shops

The charts below reflect the average score of Ellis’ entire database for each of the ten key benchmark questions for telephone/onsite and virtual leasing shops for Third Quarter 2023, as well as the customer experience for telephone/onsite shops by category for this quarter.

Resident Surveys

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

The Value of Relationship in the Customer Experience Journey

Over the past several years, we have seen a resurgence in the importance of building personal connections with our prospects and customers. The isolation experienced during the pandemic has heightened the need for genuine human connections and meaningful relationships, especially in day-to-day customer interactions. Based on data collected in the past year from over 200,000 Ellis shops and surveys, we’ve identified strong correlations between establishing a relationship with the onsite team and willingness to lease, renew, and recommend your community.

Where the Recommendation Score was the highest possible (10/10 on Surveys and 5/5 on Mystery Shops), the data surprisingly reflects that relationship was more highly correlated than feature benefit selling (i.e., the value proposition):

In understanding the importance of relationship building as a part of recommending your community, it also becomes important to understand the significant impact to lease/renewal as willingness to recommend declines:

How Building Relationship Impacts Multifamily Sales and Resident Retention

Relationship building remains critical to sales success as people remain more likely to make a purchase when they feel a connection with us. Trust and understanding play an essential role in decision-making, especially when choosing where to call “home”, even as technology evolves and time feels in short supply. 

We must educate our teams to prioritize relationship building in their interactions to improve closing and renewal ratios, ultimately creating a more loyal customer base. In multifamily, there are intrinsic ways to incorporate facets of relationship building into what we already know is essential to the sale.

Ways to Build Relationships in Apartment Leasing and Management

  • Create a Connection: We won’t be the first to say it; small talk is a BIG deal. Some come to conversations with a world to share, and others are more trepid, moving slower through “social waters.” Small talk can help initiate conversation with those who are naturally introverted and those who may be feeling stress or anxiety about an impending move or lease renewal. Making small talk can help us build our confidence before we move on to the really BIG thing — helping a customer find a home or continuing to grow a resident’s reasons to stay. 
  • Place Emphasis on Empathy:  The challenges and uncertainties brought by the pandemic have underscored the importance of empathy. We foster stronger connections when we convey that we genuinely care about our customers and understand their unique situations. Hint: Sharing a relevant personal or company story can create a memorable experience and a sense of connection. Whether asking about how their apartment search is going, how they are enjoying their new home, or what they are looking for, it’s important to listen to understand first. Then, respond in a way that communicates empathy and the desire to help.
  • Engage in Active Listening: In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to listen to respond so we can move to the next thing we need to check off from our to-do list, the guest card, responses to surveys, and more. Using Yes/No or one-word answer questions makes it too easy to listen to respond versus listening to understand. What if you expanded on those answers with curiosity, whether or not those answers became directly tied to the sale? Try questions like: What do you do at [their employer]? How long have you had [pet’s name]? Would you be open to a higher floor if we have elevators? Are you hoping to park fewer steps from your door? Conducting and responding to surveys emphasizes your focus on the resident experience and builds trust in the intention to create a positive living environment.
  • Personalize the Experience: Tailoring your sales presentation to a prospect’s preferences can significantly increase the likelihood of making a sale. It shows that you understand their needs, which builds trust and rapport. Personalized experiences create a more positive and memorable interaction, making customers feel valued. As our data revealed, not being able to meet all of a customer’s specific needs is not a deal-breaker. Use the opportunity to sell the advantages you can offer. How you acknowledge the ask and respond, even if unfavorably, is important to creating relationships. 
  • Address Objections: Be proactive in addressing potential concerns or objections. If you’ve listened actively and given the customer the space to tell you their story through open-ended conversation, you can head off objections before they’re clearly stated. Starting with “You may be thinking…” and ending with a potential solution to an unstated objection clearly tells your customers that you are focused on them and are hearing them. Solving concerns is a solid push to closing the sale, but remember that sometimes, people simply want to feel heard even if their problem cannot be solved. A strong relationship and trust between you and the customer will likely result in their willingness to compromise.
  • Enact Ongoing Communication: Mystery Shops and Resident Surveys are both quite telling with respect to communication. Customers expect you to follow through on what you say, be consistent in your messaging (whether in person or on social channels), and follow up with them timely and appropriately. Conducting surveys demonstrates that you value residents’ opinions, and responding to them shows you are committed to communication and engagement. Further, a quick response time demonstrates professionalism and a strong desire to address resident needs. When responding to surveys, customers tend to have positive perceptions — despite the outcome — when communication is transparent and proactive solutions are sought. Before a prospect leaves your property, discuss when and how you should follow up with them and WHY you want to do so. Hint: It’s not because sales rarely happen on the first try. It’s because you are committed to supporting them however you can through the buying process. And remember, with the increased reliance on digital communication, finding ways to add a personal touch to follow-up interactions and being thoughtful in your messaging will contribute to building a more personal connection.

The Ultimate End Goal of Building Relationships in Sales

Remember, the goal is not just to close the deal but to establish a relationship that extends beyond the signing of the lease. By focusing on personalized, transparent, timely, and helpful communication, leasing professionals can create a positive experience that encourages resident satisfaction and long-term loyalty.

The fundamental aspects of human connection in sales persist today. Your professionalism and dedication (or not) to delivering exceptional customer service are highly visible to customers. Building trust is an ongoing process; even a short presentation can lay the foundation for a long-term, beneficial relationship. Make the most of the time you have by being genuine, customer-focused, and responsive to customer needs.

We thank you for your ongoing support, participation, and feedback, which helped make this report an informative, fresh, and reliable resource. We hope you find Ellis | Grace Hill to be not only the finest source for apartment mystery shopping and resident surveys but also a training resource for your organization. Additional support and information can be found on our websites: Ellis – A Grace Hill Company, Grace Hill, and Edge2Learn.

October 31, 2023


Prepared by Lisa Ford, Director Mystery Shopping Services

Ellis – A Grace Hill Company (EPMS)
4545 Fuller Drive | Suite 406
Irving, TX 75038
888.988.3767 telephone
[email protected] | [email protected] |

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