Many shopping companies conduct ‘telephone-only’ shops and therefore you may be shopping in different times zones other than your own. I like to take a few minutes before I place the call to gather a little information about the area and to ‘create’ a scenario that is cohesive with the mystery shopping assignment details and one that fits the resident profile at the community.
When calling communities that are out-of-state and unfamiliar, I have found the following mystery shopping tips can be helpful with the overall successful completion of the shop contract.
- Mystery shopping tip #1 – Pay attention to the time zone differences! Since I am on the West Coast, I often accept shop contracts that are located on the East Coast. Because of the time difference I can start my calls much earlier in the day and I can gauge potential ‘lunch hours’ and opening/closing times by effectively factoring in the time difference.
- Mystery shopping tip #2 – Google search the community. Making sure that you verify the address, Google the community and visit their website. If you know who the management company is, it is often helpful to look at the company website as well. Be able to identify an accurate traffic source regarding how you learned about the community – unless the shop contract specifications indicate otherwise.
- Mystery shopping tip #3 – Research major employers in the general vicinity of the community. As with other mystery shops, you will more than likely be asked where you are working. Be able to provide the agent with an answer that would make sense and fit the overall profile of the community. I was recently asked this question and fortunately I was able to state the name of a major marketing company nearby. Because the agent had not heard of the company, I was even able to let her know where it was located which solidified my credibility even further.
- Mystery shopping tip #4 – Utilize web sites like ApartmentFinder.com and RentersVoice.com. By searching online locator services for the community and surrounding neighborhoods, you will find out what other apartment competition is nearby. By glancing over some of the community descriptions you will get a better feel for what types of things are typically offered in apartments. For instance, there are some regions where it is not common to provide all major appliances – as a knowledgeable renter in the area, you will know this type of information and you will be able to present yourself as a credible prospective resident. I was recently asked by an agent what other communities I had been looking at ~ I was relieved that I had done my research and that I could name one or two nearby competitors!
- Mystery shopping tips #5 – Have a story! If the agent asks you where you are living now, be prepared to answer the question in a way that will not jeopardize your identity as a mystery shopper. When asked ‘why’ you are looking to move, be prepared to answer without hesitation. For example, when asked this question recently, I told the agent that my roommate was getting married and that I was looking for my own place. If you are asked for a mailing address, be able to provide something valid where any follow-up information will be received. This question was also asked of me and I responded by letting the agent know that I was actually moving within the week but planned to put my things into storage so that I could go back home for vacation to visit family for a bit before moving into a new place. I provided the agent with my “family’s” address – which essentially was my own current address.
The ‘telephone-only’ shops are relatively simple reports to complete – which makes the mystery shopper job easier than ever. By taking just a few minutes to do some general research prior to making the call, it is easier to present yourself as an actual potential renter thus laying the foundation for an honest presentation by the agent, without any indication that they are being shopped.
In addition to being convenient because there is no on-site visit to conduct, these ‘telephone-only’ shops are relatively quick and the reports usually take very little time to complete. Nevertheless, telephone performance is vital to the overall leasing process of any management company and it is our responsibility as mystery shoppers to do our part so that we get the most accurate results from the agent. If you have not yet participated in this type of shop contract, I would encourage you to find out more about them or inquire as to how you can get involved. These shops will not only enhance your shopping experience, but they will give you a chance to interact with people from all over the country – something we don’t get a chance to do every day!