Multi-Housing Communities Use Mystery Shoppers to Evaluate Customer Service

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorFindlay, Ohio–Kelly Carmichael’s job is to walk into an apartment leasing office pretending to be someone looking to rent. It is also her job to ask a few questions about the apartments, wait for a member of the leasing office to take her around the community, and finally go back and wait for a follow-up call from the leasing office. Carmichael is a secret or mystery shopper in the Atlanta area who evaluates the quality of customer service at multifamily communities. She works for Findlay, Ohio-based Corporate Research International, a mystery shopping company that serves close to 100 multifamily communities including Vancouver, Wash.-based Holland Residential.Multifamily communities are not new to mystery shopping. Big multi-housing companies have been using shoppers since the 1980s. “The majority of the owners/managers want to know the quality of customer service of a leasing agent, the state of amenities at the property and the general appearance of the property,” Brad Holdgreve, vice president of sales at Corporate Research International, tells MHN. “Most of our clients are rental communities.”There are some clients who like a “shop” to be conducted once in a few months, and there are other who ask for up to 50 “shops” a month. In this case, a shop is the process of a mystery shopper conducting an evaluation. “Most clients use the evaluation for training purposes, others use it to recognize the offices/people for their extraordinary efforts,” says Holdgreve. The company is currently transitioning most of its multifamily clients into a self-managed mystery-shopping product called Eye On Your Business. This product gives clients the ability to build their program to their exact requirements and manage it themselves. “This is an effort to save money from the typical high costs involved in mystery shopping multifamily locations. As an example, a typical mystery shop would cost a multifamily housing client $80 to $120 per shop. With Eye On Your Business, the base price is $23 per shop plus shopper commission, which is determined by the client,” explains Holdgreve.