What We Say Matters

I recently participated in an industry forum discussion about mystery shopping.  I was surprised by the number of participants who spoke negatively about mystery shopping programs and even more surprised by the way that shopper evaluations were being perceived by a handful of people.

Although predominantly used as a training tool, some apartment leasing professionals revealed that they felt as though shops were unfair and being used as a form of punishment.

I thought about this for a while and remembered back 20 years ago when I was getting started in the industry as a leasing agent.   I remember my first shop, and I remember very clearly how I felt when my manager sat down to review it with me.  Some of the thoughts that ran through my head were, “ I failed.”,   “I didn’t even try to close!”, “I never followed-up”, “I’m going to get fired!”

“ I failed.”  “I’m going to get fired!”  

As I reflect back to how I felt during those first years in the business,  I remember feeling badly as I read through the mystery shopper’s comments about my performance and what mistakes were made.   Naturally, my technique improved as I grew in my profession, but since I am still able to recall that initial feeling of failure, I try to remember how my comments on evaluations can impact the leasing professionals that I shop today!

As with any industry, performance evaluations are not something most people look forward to, and when performance is based on the evaluation of one person and on a single specific presentation, there is a tendency for negative feelings to arise due to circumstances the leasing agent feels affected their performance.

You know it – Bad days just happen!

People get sick, cars break down, the boss is in a bad mood.  Multiple  things  can  contribute to an unfavorable evaluation.  If the shop is not going well and the agent ‘s performance is far from outstanding,  make it a point as their mystery shopper to find something good to say. Don’t just submit a report that says the leasing professional had no strengths – surely there was something you can focus on positively.

Find anything worthy of a compliment or recognition and make sure it is written in your report.  If the agent knows a lot about the neighborhood around the community, acknowledge it favorably.  If the only thing right was that the agent was dressed professionally, make note of it in your report and recognize that their appearance was an obvious positive reflection on the company that they represent.

I truly believe that as shoppers, we have a tremendous responsibility to report with detail, accuracy, and OBJECTIVITY so that the leasing professional will benefit from the results of the evaluation. So when the shop did not go favorably and you note areas of weakness, do so with a gentle touch. The leasing professional will already be penalized for the low score, and listing their failures in a harsh, defensive, or blaming tone is like kicking them when they are already down.

Just because they missed the mark doesn’t mean it was intentional. They probably did not purposefully forget to show you the pool or let you on the patio to see the storage room. It’s likely they just forgot to ask if you had a floor level or view preference. And if they hurried you out the door and didn’t ask you for a deposit, it could have just been that they weren’t confident enough in their closing skills.

The shopping report is a tool that is used for training and development and often times these leasing professionals make lifelong careers for themselves in the industry.  We are responsible for our comments and how we phrase things in the mystery shopping report.

What we say and how we say it matter!

How do you keep your shopping reports objective when your shop did not go so great?

J. Slawson