Is Multifamily Mystery Shopping Misunderstood? - Grace Hill
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Is Multifamily Mystery Shopping Misunderstood?

Posted on June 16, 2021 by Julie Gardner

Validate Mystery Shopping

Multifamily mystery shopping needs a makeover — stat.

We at Grace Hill found out first-hand. After more than 20 years of collaborating with multifamily leaders, we’ve discovered that a lot of property management organizations have a skewed perception of mystery shopping. Many are less than satisfied with the results—not to mention the fact that the practice has become the subject of unwelcome jokes by onsite teams.

This feedback is what inspired us to create Validate, our current mystery shopping solution, designed to bring a higher level of value and integrity into onsite assessments.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll explore 4 of the most common missteps in multifamily mystery shopping and share best practices and tips on how to avoid them.

Misstep #1: Using Mystery Shopping as an HR tool


One of the biggest mistakes multifamily organizations make is to use mystery shopping as a tool to course correct employees. In this scenario, leaders focus on specific behaviors of underperformers and/or new hires, revisiting those who “failed” and subsequently, targeting individuals for retraining.

This often leads to negative culture implications where employees feel as though they’re being “spied” on. Because new hires and underperformers have the highest turnover rate, money spent shopping these employees can quickly deplete ROI. It contributes to an organization’s inability to establish meaningful internal benchmarks: they may overlook the fact that improvements to policies and training are needed versus only identifying underperformers. In addition, the tendency for onsite teams to be able to spot the mystery shoppers leads to unnatural behaviors by targeted employees and results in inaccurate and invalid results.

Before we can change all this, we first need to change minds.

Excellent Customer Experience is the Goal


A good place to start is to understand the difference between customer service and customer experience.

A widely accepted definition of customer service is “an interaction limited to specific, measurable sale-related instances,” while customer experience is “everything the customer has ever experienced, believed, thought, loved or hated about the brand.”  

The end goal, of course, is to have an accurate—and actionable—assessment of what you need to do to improve the overall customer experience—not just customer service. When properties use mystery shops solely to help pinpoint individuals who may be underperforming (as an HR tool), they overlook everything else that goes into creating a positive, memorable—and lease converting—customer experience.  

So how do you achieve exemplary customer experience?

How to Get There


As we’ve explored before, there are companies in many other industries demonstrating the overwhelming value of mystery shopping. Our solution, Validate, follows the best practices of the most successful mystery shopping programs:

  • Conducting randomized assessments focused on evaluating customer experience and looking for ways to improve both employee behavior and operating standards, thus driving intent to lease and customer loyalty.
  • Analyzing the customer experience as a whole, monitoring all channels where a customer interacts with the brand—online, via phone or email as well as in-person.
  • Examining whether or not employee behaviors and operating standards deliver the promises the brand makes.
  • Focusing on a broader application of the results.

Overall, these tactics improve ROI and long-term performance outcomes for the entire organization by aggregating results and using them to identify and fix systemic breakdowns between customer expectations and what is actually delivered.

Technology Changes the Game

By following the best practices above, you can avoid this common misstep. But you can’t stop there.

You’ll need state-of-the-art technology to make it all easier to manage from initial implementation through reporting to robust, multifamily focused training. Finally, apply findings as part of an entire “performance loop” which takes into account company policies, learning opportunities, and assessing whether or not the results are what was originally intended.

Validate, Grace Hill’s mystery shopping solution, amplifies these best practices with cutting-edge technology and industry-leading content resulting in improved customer experience, a healthier ROI, greater integrity, ease of use and optimized performance. 

Check, check, and check.

More Missteps — and Their Solutions — To Come

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how to get more out of your mystery shopping program: aligning it with your company culture, optimizing ROI and best practices in using the results and refining/retooling your shop assessments to continue to drive improved performance for your properties.

We’ll also talk to some of your peers in the multifamily community about their approach and how Validate has impacted their organization.

During the last week, we’ll invite you to a live Webinar to tour Validate, and see how we’ve applied these best practices, with technology to make administering the system more efficient and content that makes the biggest impact on your employees in the shortest amount of time. 

Don’t miss the next 3 revealing missteps!


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