Five Reasons for Mystery Shopping Your Apartment Properties

All companies believe in measuring and monitoring a property’s performance through the monthly financials. Doesn’t the same concept apply to the sales and leasing efforts of the onsite staff? Shouldn’t you know for sure how your rental prospects are treated? And shouldn’t you know how your onsite team presents your community?

Mystery shopping has been a staple practice of the apartment industry for more than 20 years and is a valuable tool for evaluating and training onsite leasing personnel. It is the practice of sending a specially trained individual “undercover” to an apartment community posing as a qualified and willing rental prospect. The shopper participates anonymously in the leasing presentation and then completes a written report evaluating the leasing professional’s sales skills and compliance to company and fair housing policies, plus an assessment of the community.

Without shopping, you may not be aware of lackluster leasing efforts or poor resident relations at one of your apartment communities, costing you money in lost leases, lower rent offers, and lost renewals.

With that much at stake, it is critical that you monitor leasing and resident relation activity to identify those onsite team members who may need encouragement, training, reprimand, or dismissal (if necessary).

Aside from money (and it’s hard to avoid that reason), here are five reasons why many of our customers use mystery shopping as a management and training tool.

1. Obligation to Owners/Investors to Maintain High Standards

All companies have the responsibility to owner/investors to maintain competent onsite leasing professionals. It’s all about accountability! An accurate and comprehensive shop provides documentation of leasing excellence on all of the communities a firm manages. In other words, the shopping report is proof that the company is committed to providing a strong sales and leasing effort.

2. Document Ongoing Portfolio-Wide Leasing Excellence

More and more management companies are under a high-degree of scrutiny from investors, asset managers, and advisory groups. They must show they can and are performing. Again the shopping reports verify a dedicated and competent leasing staff.

3. Monitor Performance and Training Efforts

Mystery shopping allows a company or property to measure ongoing performance. Not just “How are we doing?” but “How well are we improving?” The test of any training program is the measurable results of the personnel who are shopped. In other words, does shopping result in better leasing skills and effectiveness? Using shopping reports along with additional training and positive recognition, many companies have vastly increased their closing ratios and have put more people into apartments!

4. Troubleshooting and Identifying Potential Challenges

A mystery shop can uncover problems and challenges onsite such as curb appeal concerns, office environment issues (i.e. staff attitudes), as well as poor sales and personal skills. A shop can identify one who might actually be creating sizable losses in revenue due to their poor leasing and overall indifference toward prospects.

5. Training and Feedback

Perhaps the best way to look at a mystery shop is that it is the quintessential training tool. An onsite professional can go to seminars for years, read all kinds of sales books, and discuss the subject forever. But until he or she gets into the heat of the battle and receives a complete written evaluation of their “real” presentation, you don’t really know the level of their sales ability.

Each shop a person reads is like a mini-seminar on leasing. And if one’s company already has an effective training program, shopping will further enhance that ongoing training. If a company does not have the luxury of a trainer, then the shop will become one of the most important training tools! Good employees respond to their shop by addressing their weaknesses and improving their presentation.

It’s clear that mystery shops are a reasonable tool to help measure, monitor, and control potential revenue loss. There is just too much potential downside if you do not monitor the activity of your onsite personnel throughout your portfolio. Yet, more importantly, there is so much to be gained from shopping the onsite personnel – so much more that can positively impact the economics of a property.

Are you employing mystery shops on your properties? If so, how have they benefitted you? If you’re considering employing mystery shops, what’s holding you back? Share in the comments below.