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”

Show Some Love

The main purpose of an apartment mystery shop is to evaluate the leasing agent’s performance and ensure he or she is following the training provided by their employer. They should work to move the interaction forward toward the end goal of securing a lease, but occasionally you will encounter an agent who seems nervous or shy. Here are a few suggestions for creating an environment to give the leasing agent the greatest opportunity for success.
Continue reading “Show Some Love”

Comeback from Complacency: Get Back Your Mojo!

Complacency can hinder your efforts to develop as a mystery shopper. Are you ready to come back from complacency and get back your mojo!

Once you tackle and learn the job of mystery shopping, it is easy to become complacent on just filling out the evaluation report and submitting it for payment without pursuing a desire to improve your skills.  Working at a satisfactory level for a regular paycheck may suffice for a while, but to ensure higher-pay job opportunities, you should set aside a small amount of time to focus on your job proficiency.


There are numerous areas a shopper could improve, but an important one is submitting better reports.  This can include better proofreading, increasing your vocabulary, or working on your typing skills. When you submit well-written, well-edited reports in a timely manner, it can improve your reputation as a shopper, making the mystery shopping company trust you with better or more frequent job opportunities.

Keep in mind, there are many free proofreading tools you can download which are far superior to the regular proofreading software that usually comes with your computer system.  A quick search on the Internet for free proofreading software can easily upgrade your available tools in a few minutes.  You could also consider investing in a small dictionary or thesaurus to help keep you out of a vocabulary rut.  There are even free online writing exercises to improve your sentence and grammar structure as well as typing skills.

You can set yourself up to earn great supplemental income through mystery shopping if you are able to stay on top of your game. Come back from complacency and get back your mojo today!

Get Your Ducks in a Row

You’ve made the wise decision to start earning money working from home as a mystery shopper and you are about to perform your very first apartment mystery shop! Follow these tips to help you do your best. After all, if the shop goes smoothly, you will feel better about accepting more jobs and making more money.


One of the first things you should do is get a good night’s sleep. You will need to be alert and observant on the shop, so try to get the rest you need. In the morning, have a bite to eat and then start making your calls to the apartment community. Most apartment communities start answering their phones around 9:00 AM, but this can vary a bit by location.

When you call, make sure you already have a timeline in mind for your move. Don’t hesitate when asked for that information! Doing so will make the agent will wonder why you don’t immediately know when you will be moving and that may compromise your identity as a shopper. Remember to also have a reason why you are moving. Most people move because of a job or because their lease ended. Just be sure your reason for moving is plausible.

After the call has been completed, you are ready to complete the on-site portion of your shop. Wear better clothes to make a good impression, but dress comfortably as well. You will likely have to walk to the model or empty apartment. Make note of the time you arrive at the shop and the time you leave.

Lastly, when you have finished your shop and return home, you will want to write the report ASAP, while the information is still fresh in your mind. If you took notes during your visit, you will be ahead of the game and your report will be accurate.

Once you’ve completed a few shops, you’ll find that most of these practices begin to come naturally!