In the recent AIM Conference webinar “Take a Journey Through the Eyes of a Renter,” leading apartment professionals discussed how to keep mystery shopping effective and relevant to today’s leasing environment. Webinar participants Jessica Fern, Director of Training and Development, FPI Management; Joy Zalaznick, Director of Training and Development, Kettler Enterprises; and Darcey Forbes, Senior Director of Field Sales, Grace Hill agreed the pandemic has had a major impact on the leasing process, and mystery shopping needs to change with it. Here are their top recommendations for making mystery shops even more effective moving forward.
Focus on People, Not Scores
Participants all noted that in the past there has been an overemphasis on mystery shop scores, whereas today’s leasing environment requires emphasis on customer experience. “How was the human interaction?” asks Fern. “That’s critical, because…our teams are wearing masks, they are using videos; the way they communicate to prospects is different. You don’t capture all of that in just one score.”
Use Shops to Support, Not to Punish
Mystery shop assessment is best used to identify areas where associates need more training, not to make hiring or firing decisions. “You never want the shops to be perceived as punitive,” says Forbes. Zalaznick added that she doesn’t reveal the score with the associate until the end of the meeting.
Capture a Video Record
Video recorded shops give you critical insight into the leasing process. Unlike a flat “report card,” video allows you to see what the renter sees. Capture body language, tone of voice, attitude. It’s a powerful training tool that can be used like a game film to demonstrate expectations.
Look for Improvement Opportunities
Mystery shops can be a great way to identify necessary tweaks to the customer interaction, the tour process, or the property itself. Maybe you need a more clearly marked path and better guideposts to keep prospects from getting lost. Maybe more attention to cleaning is needed.
Everyone agrees the entire team should learn from the shops and practice what they learn. Says Fern, “It’s never one person who wins the game or one person who loses the game. It’s a team effort all around.”
Read more from Dennis Cogbill, Managing Director of the Joshua Tree Conference Group, and view the full recording.