Hook, Line and Sinker – Catching Your Target Onsite

Every shop has its challenges, but a shop with a specific target person can be even more difficult. Once you’ve finally reached your target by phone, you’re halfway there. To successfully complete the shop, however, you’ll also need to meet with this person for the onsite visit. So how do you work to ensure you meet with that person when you arrive? Here are a few tips to help make sure you hook ‘em onsite:

1. Set an Appointment During the Call

Unless the specific shop instructions state otherwise, your first line of defense is to agree on an appointment time with the target during the call. You’ll need to wait until you’ve been invited to visit and then you can work on narrowing down a time. A great way to do this is to respond to the invitation to visit by saying something like, “Sure! When would be the best time for me to come in and meet with you?” Be careful not to press too hard on the call about meeting with them or you might give yourself away as a shopper. If they don’t invite you to visit and it looks like the call is coming to a close, you can ask how you can go about taking a look at something.

2. Call Ahead

If you end up scheduling your visit for a different day than the call, you should call ahead briefly on the day of the visit to make sure they are in the office. You can use an excuse such as wanting to confirm the address or say that you will be a few minutes late or early. When you call, you can ask to speak to your target, stating you have an appointment with them for that day. If you are told they are not in the office that day, you can say you were calling because you need to reschedule and say that you can call back. This will give you an opportunity to call again to reach the target and reschedule.

3. Ask for Them When You Arrive

You may be greeted by someone other than your target when you arrive for your visit. Make sure to let that person know you had spoken to the target person and that you have a scheduled appointment with him or her. This way they will not assume you are a walk-in prospect and attempt to help you instead.

4. Appear Open to Waiting

Sometimes you’ll follow all the steps above and be told that your target is not back from a tour or lunch or is on a call. In these cases, the key is to appear easygoing and open to waiting. Let them know you don’t mind to wait for his or her return. In the event someone else insists on helping you even after you offer to wait, go ahead with them so you don’t jeopardize your identity as a shopper.  (Of course, you’ll want to review the shop’s special instructions to make sure there are no other client directives on how to handle the visit.)

If you do end up having to meet with someone else, be sure to note in your report that you were passed off, noting the reason you were given. Then, make sure to score the onsite portion of the report for the person who ended up providing the tour.

Be Prepared for Success!

If you’re new to mystery shopping, you might feel a little nervous getting started; there’s a lot to remember! When you ensure that you are properly prepared, you’re sure to complete a successful shop. Here are several tips to make sure you have everything you need for smooth sailing.

Before you even pick up your first shop, you can lay the groundwork. You will probably want to create a couple of extra email addresses through Google, Yahoo or another free site. You’ll be asked for your email address when you shop and some apartment management companies need you to use a new address if you’ve shopped one of their properties before. Be sure the address handle you create doesn’t give you away as a shopper!

You should designate a notebook (or file on your computer, if you prefer) to keep track of your shop assignments. You can include the shop number, name and address of the community, name of the target and any special instructions to keep in mind. Another good idea is to jot down the name, phone number and email address you plan to use as well as the specifications of what you’re looking for. That way you won’t get confused if you’re working more than one shop at a time or if you have to wait for a call back.

Take time to spend a few minutes looking over the community website before you begin calling. This way you can get an idea of the prices and apartment sizes available so you’ll know what to say when you’re asked about your price range. Remember, you’re not really looking to live there, so your price range is whatever fits the community profile. Be prepared to be flexible with your desired apartment size in case they don’t have any available in the size you ask about.

Finally, it is imperative that you read over all of the special instructions for the shop. Once you’ve shopped for a while, you may feel like you’re already familiar with the instructions, but some shops have unique requirements that must be followed in order to be paid.

Following these tips will help you to avoid the awkward situation of pricing yourself out of the community or asking for a type of apartment they don’t have. Plus, if you’re making calls once you’re fully prepared, you’ll feel more comfortable and the conversation will flow smoothly.

Tips for Meeting Your Deadline

One of the challenges you face as an apartment mystery shopper is managing to complete your shop and shop report by the deadline on top of everything else you have to manage in your day. Here, we’ll discuss some tips and tricks you can use to help you stay on track and get your shops completed on time as well as what to do if you’re running behind. After all, the more reliable you prove yourself to be, the more often you will have access to better and more profitable shops and the more money you can make!

  1. Know What’s Going On: The first, most important piece of advice is not to overload yourself! Take some time to evaluate your schedule before picking up shops. Do you already have several other shops you’re working on? Are you scheduled for additional hours at your other job? Are your kids going to be out of school for an extended break? If you look at your overall schedule and see that your plate is already full, it may be best to be conservative about how many assignments you pick up at one time.
  2. Don’t Delay: Once you’ve confirmed you have the time in your schedule to give your attention to shops, make sure to get started right away! Read the special instructions for the shop so you are familiar with what’s expected and then begin making calls the same day. Be sure to make between 3 and 5 calls per day and work to space those calls out across the day so you have a better chance of reaching the person you need to reach. For some shops, especially those with a specific target agent, you may have to make calls for a couple of days, so the sooner you can get started, the better.
  3. Fill in As You Go: When you complete the phone call, unless you’re visiting right away, go ahead and fill in the phone portion of the report. This way the information is fresh in your mind and you’ll already have a great head-start! (If the call was recorded, be sure to listen to the call as you complete the report to make sure it’s accurate.) When you get home from the visit, get the backup documentation scanned and uploaded first thing so it doesn’t get lost and you don’t forget.
  4. Tie Up Loose Ends: Find a quiet time during your day to finish up the visit portion of the report. Maybe at the end of the day when the kids have gone to bed or first thing in the morning as you sip that cup of coffee – anytime you’re able to focus best. The more reports you write, the better you will be at composing a concise summary that still provides all the important details. Remember to save each page before moving on to the next and also update the shop checklist to mark each section complete as you work your way through.
  5. Keep in Touch: When you find yourself struggling to meet the deadline either because you haven’t reached the target, you needed to reschedule the meeting, or you just have too much on your plate, make sure to update the shop through the white envelope icon to let the EPMS person assigned to your shop know. This way they can move the date when appropriate or help get the shop removed if it’s more than you can handle at the time.

3 Tips for a Great Mystery Shop Phone Call

Most apartment mystery shops include a phone call either before or after completing the on-site visit. You will want to be sure carefully review the shop instructions every time to make sure you are confident in all the specifications for when the call should be made and who you should speak to. Once you’re ready to make the call, you can use these three tips for a smooth process.

Step 1: Know Who You Are Talking To

Make note of who you are supposed to speak to – is the shop for anyone or is there a specific target agent? If the shop is for anyone, do the instructions prohibit speaking to the call center? If so, there will usually be details in the instructions to help you determine if you’ve reached a call center representative. Also, if you are allowed to shop anyone, don’t forget to write down the name of the person who answers and then confirm their name once more before ending the call.  

Step 2: Have a List of Potential Excuses to End Call Early

When you are working to reach a specific target, you may reach the wrong person several times. Clients ask that you not simply hang up but make some excuse to end the call instead. It’s helpful if you have a list of excuses ready so the call will sound natural. Some suggestions include:

  • What time does the office open/close?
  • Is the office open on Sunday?
  • I’m sorry, I dialed the wrong number.
  • Do you have breed restrictions for pets? (Most places do, so this makes an easy excuse to end the call.)

Step 3: Know the Apartment Details

Research the apartment community before calling so you will be prepared to give a believable price range if asked and so that you can work the details into your shopper story. This means knowing the pricing, bedroom size availability and general location of the apartment community. While you are on the website, check availability for the apartment size you plan to mention if possible. If availability is not listed, be prepared to be flexible with your desired apartment size in case you are told your requested size is not available.

When you are prepared before making your call, you will sound natural and you will be ready to go with the flow as needed. A smooth, successful phone call will set the stage for a great shop!

Navigating Mystery Shopping During COVID-19

You may be new to apartment mystery shopping or maybe you’re a pro! Either way, you’ve certainly found yourself in uncharted territory as you navigate working from home as a mystery shopper during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are so many new procedures and precautions to remember, not to mention all the new terminology and technological interventions that come with virtual shopping. So what does it all mean? We’ll break down some of the main terms and answer some of the common questions you may have in today’s shopping environment.

First, let’s look at the different types of shops available right now. There are:

Recorded Call Shops: These shops only require you to complete a telephone call with the community. You don’t need to schedule or complete an on-site visit for these shops.

Telephone/Onsite Shops: These are the traditional shops which require you to complete a telephone call as well as schedule and complete an on-site visit. Some of these have a recorded call and others do not.

Audio Shops: These shops usually require a telephone call and will definitely include an on-site visit. For these shops, you will need to capture a secret audio recording of the on-site visit using your smartphone.

Video Shops: These shops are similar to the audio shops, except that you will capture a secret video recording of the on-site visit. If you don’t have your own hidden camera equipment to use, EPMS can send you a set to use for your shop and you will return it using the pre-paid FedEx label we provide. Don’t worry; these shops can only be ordered by communities where the employees have signed consent to be secretly filmed.

Virtual Tour Shops: These are one of our new shop formats. For a basic virtual tour shop, you will complete a telephone call and the leasing professional should offer to provide a virtual tour of the apartment. This means you do not have to actually visit the site in person. Instead, you will view it virtually through one of several different platforms.

Virtual Tour Shops + Video: For these virtual tour shops, the client has asked that you capture a video recording of the live virtual tour you are provided. This means you’ll view the tour on your computer and record the tour on your computer screen using your telephone camera.

Self-Guided Tour (SGT) Shops: These are very similar to the traditional telephone/onsite shops because you will complete a call as well as a physical visit to the community. However, for these shops, you will be directed to tour the apartment on your own without having the leasing professional accompany you. These vary from community to community, so the leasing professional will provide the specific instructions at the time of the shop.

Due to the nature of business during this pandemic, the specifics of a shop can change unexpectedly. You may pick up a telephone/onsite shop and then call only to find out the community has closed the office and is only offering virtual tours. You may start working on a self-guided tour, but arrive to find out the leasing professional accompanies you on the tour after all. Whenever possible, always reach out to your assigned follow-up person when you encounter an unexpected change to your shop for guidance on the best way forward before proceeding with the shop. We are here to support you and will help make sure the shop is completed in a way that is acceptable to our client.

A Needle in a Haystack? How to Get Your Target

Most apartment mystery shopping jobs require you to complete a telephone call before the visit. Some mystery shop jobs allow any person to be shopped, but others ask that you target a specific leasing agent. This means you’ll need to complete both the telephone call and the visit with this person, but clients usually prefer that you not ask for the target person by name. So how do you manage to get a specific person on the phone without asking for them by name? It sounds about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack, but it’s not that hard! Here are a few ideas to help you find that needle without compromising your identity as a mystery shopper.

1. Make 3 to 5 calls each day and space those calls about an hour apart. – You’ll have a much better chance of reaching the right person if you’re making more than one or two calls per day. Further, if you’re spacing those calls an hour or so apart, you’ll cover more of the workday, in case that person comes in later in the day or leaves earlier. Plus, it will help make sure your voice does not become familiar.

2. Don’t just hang up; ask a simple question. – When you call and you reach someone other than your target, don’t just hang up! Instead, ask or say something simple that will allow you to end the call without having to give your information. Things like “What time does the office open/close?”, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I reached the wrong number.” or “Does your community have breed restrictions for dogs?” are great ways to get off the call without having to begin a sales call.

3. Use a second phone for an “assist”. – Sometimes you’ll make several calls per day, but you keep reaching the same person, who ISN’T your target, every time. In these cases, a trick you can try is to enlist a friend or use a second phone. Make a call with one phone so that person will answer and will be tied up with that call and then call on the second phone at the same time, in the hopes the call will roll over to someone else.

4. Reach out to EPMS for help. – Don’t forget, EPMS is always happy to help. If you’ve made calls for a couple of days and still can’t catch the target, use the white envelope icon next to your shop to send a message to your EPMS follow-up person. Let them know you’ve made numerous calls and are still having trouble. They can either offer other suggestions or reach out to the client for additional help or schedule information.

The more practice you get with completing target shops, the easier it will become. You’ll find you even devise your own hacks that work best for you!

Effective Shop Schedule Planning

When you have multiple shops to complete, you will need to do some planning to get them all done on time. After all, mystery shopping is probably not the only thing you do on any given day. You can build a good reputation for yourself as a shopper with EPMS when you consistently meet your deadlines.  This will give you access to more and better shops!

Most apartment shops have a completion window of a few days. Therefore, it’s important to take note of the days and times each shop can be completed. Some can only be shopped on weekdays, some may include weekends and others may have specific days or times they are limited to. In order to make sure you compete the shops you are assigned, you should also make a note of the times the locations are open.

For shops that include a telephone call, you should begin making calls the day you are assigned the shop.  Some shops will take a couple of days of calling to reach a live person or the specific target (if one has been specified). After completing the calls, you will have a better idea of what order shops should completed based on due dates and distance. Obviously, you would want to complete the shops that have the soonest due dates first.

In the event you need more time, you can always reach out to the team at EPMS to see if it will be possible to have the shop date extended. However, keep in mind some shops are especially time sensitive and may not be eligible for due date extensions. In those cases, someone at EPMS can help with advice on how to make contact or get in touch with the client for more information.

Three Tips to Write the Best Shop Report

Your apartment mystery shop assignment includes writing a report to share your observations with EPMS and the apartment management company. This is your time to shine and show how awesome your mystery shopping skills are! Here are three tips to help you write the most effective report and ensure you will be awarded as many shops as you want. Continue reading “Three Tips to Write the Best Shop Report”

Finals, Projects and Reports

May is a busy time of year!  The school year is drawing to a close and there are finals and papers to think about, in addition to the shops you have picked up to earn that extra summer cash. It can be tough to juggle all the responsibilities. Here is some advice to help you process your shops in a timely fashion so you can be sure to get your paycheck in time for summer. Continue reading “Finals, Projects and Reports”