Shopping Report Data Integrity: 4 Reasons to Resist the Temptation to Take the Flawed Win

Lying businessman holding fingers crossed behind his back

Data integrity is the overall accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. Integrity is the starting point. When you have shopping report data integrity, you are working with accurate data that can be analyzed and measured. While the temptation to adjust the data in your direction can leave you feeling good in the moment about your accomplishments, in the long run this compromised data is not actionable and is of little use to an industry, a business, or an individual person. It is a flawed win.

Certainly, the stakes are high and winning is the goal, but just like the world of sports, the accuracy of shopping report data matters. As we kick off the spring baseball season, the stats will start rolling and players will be sharply measured by them. In fact, the player who leads the MLB league in highest batting average, RBIs, and homeruns is referred to as the “Triple Crown” winner. The pressure is on as these MLB players are judged by and ultimately paid based on their stats.

Now, let’s imagine that the player, a colleague, or a coach was allowed to interpret and change the calls on the field or adjust their game statistics.

  • I didn’t really mean to hit the batter with that pitch. No walk!
  • He tried his best to field that ball, but he didn’t get enough sleep last night, so he missed it. No error!
  • That ball went under my glove because the sun was in my eyes. No error!
  • Bad umpire. Everything is questionable and up for adjustment.

While these reasons might appear completely ridiculous, so are many of the excuses I have heard from leasing professionals (myself included) over the years who tried to dispute and change shops conducted through an independent mystery shopping provider. These were some of my favorites.

  • I knew it was a shopper, so I dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. Adjust score.
  • I am absolutely, positively certain that I asked for the deposit. It is checked off on my list! Adjust score.
  • The shopper didn’t like me. Adjust score.
  • The apartment was clean and smelled fresh; I walked it that morning. Adjust score.

Trust me when I say I understand the temptation to take the flawed win. In fact, I remember sitting in my manager’s office in the early 90’s attempting to convince her that I did not miss a particular point on my telephone shop, but then she pulled out the recording. When I was promoted to property manager, I was willing to go to battle for my employees, but scores were rarely changed by the training director. My point is that we all have good intentions and being passionate about our employees is a great thing until we let our emotions take over our good business sense.

Nationally known speaker and Certified John Maxwell Coach, Jeffrey G Duarte has said, “Some forget the valley is where they learned and grew the most and the peak they have reached will soon become another valley.” Sometimes even our best leasing professionals need a wake-up call, which often visits them in the form of a low or unacceptable shopping report score. While no one likes to be reminded of their weaknesses, quite often adversity leads to examination. Examination is key, and this should be our goal as supervisors and leaders: To examine the errors and improve, rather than to dispute or adjust scores for our employees. There is no long-term value in the flawed win.

Umpires make subjective calls. Leasing professionals have bad days. Mystery shoppers make judgments. Yet, it is rare for an umpire to reverse a call, and it should be rare that a shopping report score is adjusted because it is an evaluation of a customer’s first-hand experience. So, when the temptation to argue or adjust a shopping report overwhelms you, remind yourself of the goal – to examine and improve.

Here are 4 reasons to resist the temptation to take the flawed win.

1. Sometimes the Data Reveals the Obvious.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a manager regarding a shopping report she eagerly wanted to contest. The manager insisted that the shopper had made an egregious error on her employee’s report. All of the boxes were positively checked with the exception of “Would you lease the apartment,” so the report

was marked unacceptable. As the manager and I listened to the recorded call, we quickly realized that it was more about the manner in which the employee spoke and interacted with the customer, rather than the words coming out of his mouth. There are questions on shopping reports that are about perception, so they are designed to capture a response based on the customer’s experience and not necessarily a question that was or was not answered. In this case, the call revealed a leasing professional who was robotic, dry, boring, and sleepy. Ultimately in this case, there was no changing him; he was in the wrong business.

A friend recently shared another story about a manager who would instinctively drive around the potholes at her community and never think twice about it because she knew where they were. This continued until a shopper pointed out the potholes on a shopping report. Then the manager realized that she had been overlooking the obvious.

Sometimes we overlook the obvious with our employees because we are too close to them or the situation. It takes an outside eye to reveal what needs to be changed or improved.

2. You Don’t Have to Play Scorekeeper.

It is difficult to remain unbiased when it is your kid making the error on the baseball field or your leasing professional receiving the negative comment or unacceptable shopping score. Our natural response is, “We know what they meant to do or say. Let’s give them back that point.” I am pretty certain that’s why the MLB does not allow the player’s family, friends, or coach to score their game. When I was a training director, my phone would have blown up with calls from managers if they knew they could manipulate their shopping report scores, especially if there was an incentive attached to it! If scores can be freely changed, the credibility of the entire program comes into question. Partnering with a third-party mystery shopping provider takes the burden of the evaluation off your shoulders.

3. Shopping Report Data Integrity Helps Define Patterns.

We use data to reveal patterns and trends which help us to improve our performance and ultimately our business. At the leasing desk, these data patterns help us to identify areas of strength and areas which need more attention. Data provides the evidence we need to help inform better decision-making around goals and strategies. Most companies track this data against their own measures of success for their company. If the data is altered or flawed, then their measure of success will not be accurate.

4. Shopping Report Data Integrity Allows You to Set and Maintain Standards.

There must be a standard – the same set of rules – applied to everyone and every company in order for the data to be credible. If one business takes the shopping report data at face value, yet another manipulates some of their scores, then the outcome is questionable.

Current and accurate data about your customer’s experience with your product and employees helps your marketing efforts. It provides a snapshot of the entire journey and confirms that your marketing messages are reflected accurately and consistently in the leasing professionals’ presentations. When data quality is high, companies are better able to mitigate any obstacles on the customer journey, increase business efficiency, and make informed decisions.

Teaming up with a professional mystery shopping provider to increase your data accuracy is a certain way to success and trusting them to do the work for you is key to eliminating the risk or temptation to take the flawed win.

About Ellis

Since 1984, Ellis Partners in Management Solutions has specialized exclusively in helping our multifamily clients measure and improve the customer experience by teaming with customers to develop professional skills and behaviors in each team member. We evaluate customer service and performance of onsite leasing professionals through comprehensive mystery shopping reports, our multiple touchpoint resident survey program, and training. Our turn-key integrated customer experience program, backed by outstanding customer service, sophisticated technology, and ethical business practices, has made Ellis one of the multifamily industry’s most respected and sought-after providers of training and consulting services.