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.