Fore years my colleagues and I have debated the pros and cons of secret shopping property managers and leasing staff. On the one hand it can lead to better performance and often to higher occupancy, increased rents and better customer satisfaction. On the other hand, it is often easy to detect making it’s value suspect at best and may cause distrust among staff and low morale at worst.
Notwithstanding the potential pitfalls I have seen the benefits far outweigh the costs in terms of higher professionalism, customer satisfaction, team building, higher rents and lower turnover of both residents and staff. What makes this practice so effective is the underlying messages that secret shopping communicates.
1. Secret Shopping puts your staff on Notice: Professional leasing personnel will appreciate a company culture that values secret shops. They understand that performance must be based on measurable factors and that company training will put them in a position to succeed rather than fail. Secret shops, give them an opportunity to show their mastery over the training.
2. Secret Shopping exposes weaknesses and pinpoints training opportunities: How else would you have any idea of the areas needing attention among your staff if you don’t measure the effectiveness of your staff in a real world scenarios. Secret Shopping is the only way to accomplish this. If done properly with the idea of helping your manager or leasing agent, they will see the secret shops as an opportunity to grow with the company.
3. Secret Shopping documents efforts to maintain fair housing practices: If you have ever been shopped by a fair housing advocacy group you know the necessity to be consistent across every tour in every property. Secret shopping is a very effective way to train this consistency and provides written documentation of your company’s efforts to periodically train and test your staff. Having a consistent, measurable and goal directed shopping program will get you miles ahead if ever questioned about your fair housing practices.
4. Secret Shopping ensures consistency across teams and properties: Multi-Family Management is by it’s nature, difficult to homogenize. Policy manuals can go only so far when the training director or regional manager is miles away. Secret Shopping can provide an element of consistency across many different communities because the measurement and expectations of the professional shopper are the same regardless of the community. The shopper does not give concessions for a new person or someone who is going through a rough patch. They report on each shop in the same way allowing the property management firm to assess the needs of each property.
5. Secret Shopping provides documentation for employee evaluations: Employee evaluations are critical to the staff improvement process not to mention the basis for giving increases and promotions as well as reprimands and terminations. Secret Shops, because of their inherent objectivity, make excellent backup for personnel decisions that need to be made.
Although it is important to acknowledge and understand that there are risks associated with secret shopping; it is equally important to understand the significant advantages that secret shopping offers to progressive property management firms and apartment building owners. Properties are better run, residents are better served and rents are maximized by staff members who are well trained and tested in real world applications. Now go Shop your people and reap the benefits!
Peter Blogs regularly as The Apartment Sage on his website www.freerentsurvey.com/find-us/. With over 20 years of property management experience to draw from Peter enjoys sharing his knowledge and insights with others in the industry. Peter is always looking for ways to help industry professionals and is available for sharing articles and blog posts and speaking on a variety of topics important to the industry at no cost. You can reach Peter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (949) 613-1044.