If You Can’t Say Something Nice – Offering Constructive Criticism

You already know the point of apartment mystery shopping is to offer feedback on your apartment shopping experience. Most of the time, you’ll have a good experience with good service. However, once in a while, the experience will be…less than desirable. It is in these instances that you need to be especially thoughtful about how you deliver your feedback. Clients want to know the facts, but they expect to receive that information with courteous, professional language.

For starters, remember that you’re not really looking for an apartment – you’re only pretending! This will go a long way to help you remain neutral and not rely on emotions to evaluate the shop. Sure, the apartment you’re looking at may be way out of the price range you would spend in real life or maybe it doesn’t look at all like the type of apartment you would choose. Keep in mind that your primary objective is to rate the service performance of the agent, not rank the actual apartment in terms of which looks nicest or has the best price. This way, you won’t feel indignant if the apartment is “too expensive” or “not new enough”.

When you complete a shop and the agent isn’t very friendly or helpful, do your best to stick to the facts instead of fixating on one specific behavior or statement. It’s okay describe your experience in terms of how you felt (i.e. “I felt like I was interrupting”, “I was not offered any refreshments”, or “I did not feel like the agent was motivated to help me”), but try to avoid making assumptions about the agent’s intentions or reasons for behavior. To state, “I was not greeted when I entered the office and waited several minutes until I was noticed” versus, “The agents were all very rude and completely ignored me when I came in because they were too busy chatting” is a more professional, non-emotional way of telling the story. Keep this in mind when listing areas for improvement, as well. For example, try saying, “She could have taken more time to ask about my needs before ending the call” instead of “Next time she could try to actually do her job and find out what I wanted”.

One other area where it is important to exercise tact is when you are describing the actual community. If a particular community is older and possibly in need of updates, but is otherwise tidy and well-kept, avoid making derogatory statements like, “The community was old and outdated”. Instead, try being more specific, like “The community grounds were free of trash and the landscaping was well maintained. The buildings looked like they could use a fresh coat of paint.”

All in all, remember that this is a business interaction. You are essentially working for the apartment management companies on a contract basis, so when you write a report, think of it as writing an email to your boss. You can share your concerns, but do so in a polite, professional manner. Doing this will help you to be a 5-star shopper!

Open Sesame – What to Do When You Can’t Log In

The time has come; you have some space in your schedule and are ready to earn extra cash doing some apartment mystery shopping! You click on the EPMS website to log in and find the shops you want, but – ACCESS DENIED! You can’t log in! Now what? Your first step should be figuring out why. There are several reasons you may not be able to get logged in, so let’s take a look at what they are and how you can solve the problem:

1. You Forgot Your Password or Entered the Wrong One

This one is usually easy to address just by clicking “Forgot Your User ID or Password”. From there, you can enter the email address you used to set up your EPMS account and then a reset link will be emailed to you. From there, you can create a new password to get logged in. If that doesn’t work, you can always contact us at support@epmsonline.com and we can help you take care of that password reset manually.

2. Your Account Was Inactivated

When you complete a shop, you are required to report on whether or not you receive follow-up from the person you shopped, either email, telephone or written note. The system will reach out to ask you to provide the follow-up details if you haven’t already. (If you did not receive any, you will still need to go into the shop and mark “No” for each type of follow-up.) If the answers to follow-up are not received within the time limit, the system will automatically inactivate your account, causing you to be unable to log in. In those cases, you can contact your follow-up person or scheduler for help. You can also email us at support@epmsonline.com and we can reactivate your account. However, you’ll still need to go and take care of the follow-up info to prevent the account from being automatically inactivated again.

3. Your Account Still Needs to Be Activated

If you only recently set up your account, you may have missed a step or two required to activate your account. Typically, this involves checking the boxes acknowledging you understand you are an independent contractor. When you log in, make sure you complete the links at the top of the shopper homepage to activate the account and remember:

  • Enter your complete profile details – leaving parts of this blank will automatically disqualify you from some shops.
  • Enter your direct deposit details as this is the only method we use for payment.
  • View the “Best Shopper Practices” and the video equipment reference to ensure you’re fully prepared.

Once you have completed those steps, your account will automatically activate. Please note – this may still be the issue with your account, even if you opened it a long time ago, but never shopped before.

If none of these work and you still can’t get logged in, please email any one of us and we can help.

Want the MOST Money? Ask the Expert How!

If you’re new to shopping (or even if you aren’t), we want to help you fine-tune your shopping game and maximize your income. We took some time to interview one of our veteran shoppers, Phillip, to get advice on how he makes the absolute most of the time he spends shopping to walk away with the biggest paycheck possible.

Phillip is a shopper who likes to travel and he makes sure to plan ahead. He’ll log in and look for shops that are available along his planned route and then pick up the ones he’s interested in. Once he’s decided on all of the shops he’s planning to complete on his trip, he checks to see which of them may be eligible for a route bonus. If you didn’t already know, EPMS will add an additional $5 bonus to shops when you’re choosing 3 or more and the following conditions are true:

  1. All of the shops are at least 20 miles away from your home address.
  2. There is not already an existing bonus of more than $15 on the shop.
  3. You reach out to a scheduler to ask for the bonus before accepting the shop.

Next, Phillip says he decides what order the shops need to be completed in based on his travel plans. He begins making calls for target shops right away, even if he will need to plan the visit on another day so that he can plan the rest of the shops around those more difficult target shops. (Of course, you’ll want to check the specific instructions for your shops to make sure they do not require a visit on the same day as the call.)

Once the calls are made and the visits begin, Phillip told us he completes the onsite visit and when it’s finished, he leaves the community parking lot and pulls into a nearby parking lot (out of sight of the community, of course!) so that he can take out his laptop and type in some quick notes while the information is still fresh in his mind. He also take that time to upload his backup documentation so he can keep everything organized. At the end of the shopping day, Phillip will go back and, using the notes he made as well as any recordings that accompany the shop, complete the report and get it submitted ASAP.

Any shops completed and accepted by EPMS by the 7th of any month will be paid on that same month’s deposit on the 22nd (unless that date falls on a weekend or holiday – then it would be the next business day). Therefore, the more shops you can get completed by that date, the bigger your check will be for that month. Knowing this information will help you plan around your expected income and make the most of your time!

Great News! You Can Now Video Shop with Your Phone

Have you heard the news? You can now complete onsite recorded video shops using your own smartphone! No longer do you have to wait for us to ship equipment, then figure out how to modify a shirt, and then package it all up and send it back. There is now an app you can purchase called Mystery Media Pro. You have a couple of purchase options; it can be purchased for a monthly fee of $9.99 or a one-time fee of $34.99. The cost of the app is not directly reimbursed by EPMS, but you will receive an additional $10 bonus for using your own equipment on every video shop you complete. That means you’ll have more than made up for the cost after completing 4 video shops!

Essentially the app is designed for you to be able to hold your phone (in airplane mode) and video record the interaction. People are used to seeing folks carrying their phones all the time, so it won’t seem suspect. However, you’ll want to be sure to disable the “auto-lock” feature on your phone because the recording will stop if your phone goes into lock screen mode. More than anything, you’ll want to take some time to practice with this feature to figure out the best way for you to hold the phone to capture the recording while still appearing natural.

You can find out more and get some great help and suggestions when you visit the app creator’s Tip Sheet. Once you’ve practiced and you feel ready to try it on a shop, you can assign yourself a video recorded shop when you log in to the EPMS site and click “I Want to See Shop Contracts Near Me”. If you aren’t able to assign video shops because your account has not yet been marked eligible, just respond to any email offering video shopping jobs to let the scheduler know you’ve downloaded and will the app and your account can be updated to reflect that you have your own equipment and then get ready to make the BIG BUCKS!

Don’t Be Shy – Take All You Want!

As things are beginning to return to some kind of “normal”, more and more apartment mystery shops are becoming available. There are so many, in fact, that we could use your help getting them secured with a reliable shopper – you! We still have opportunities for you to work from home if you’re not quite ready to get out in public yet and we also have tons of higher paying in person shops ripe for the picking. All you have to do is get in there and grab what you want! There are a couple of ways you can go about claiming shops for your own:

Respond to the solicitation emails sent out by our scheduling team or by our automated system.

Our system will regularly send emails that may interest you based on where you live. In addition, our dedicated scheduling team will look over shops and curate other lists based on shop urgency, premium shop pay or convenient geographic location to where you live or other areas you’ve indicated an interest shopping in. Anytime you receive those emails, you can respond directly to them and one of our scheduling clerks will get to work on assigning any shops you are eligible to complete.

Log in to your shopper account and self-assign the shops.

When you log in to your shopper account, you’ll find a menu of options. To search for a shop, click “I Want to See Shop Contracts Near Me”. This will take you to another page and you’ll notice at the top, there are two tabs – “In Person Visit Required” and “Telephone/Virtual”. The In Person Visit Required” tab will allow you to enter a zip code and find nearby shops. You can set the distance from that zip code you want to search and there are several ways to filter the results, based on distance, pay or shop type (target or anyone). The other tab, Telephone/Virtual, will show you shops you qualify for that do not require you to leave your house at all! This helps make sure you find a shop that is just right for you.

Some other things to keep in mind when assigning shops:

What if I get an email about shops, but then I don’t see them when I log in to self-assign?

Sometimes you may receive an email with us offering shops, but then you’ll log in to assign and find they’re not there! There are a couple of reasons this may be the case. First, it’s possible the shop was already picked up by someone else. In this case, the shop will either not show up at all (assuming a backup shopper is assigned as well) or it will show up with a “B” on the icon, meaning you can assign yourself as the backup shopper. The other reason is that you do not qualify for that shop for some reason. Most management companies have rules regarding how long you have to wait before you can shop a particular location again. Some also regulate how many of their properties a shopper is allowed to complete within a 30 day period. Also, certain shop types have some additional requirements to qualify, such as having completed a certain number of in person shops or having submitted your drivers license info (for video shops).

What if I don’t see many shops or I don’t qualify for the one I really want?

You can always reach out to someone on our scheduling team for extra help. Let them know what shop in particular you were hoping to pick up and they can take a closer look. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances or a shop is particularly urgent and the client will allow us to relax the the rules to get it completed.

I’m thinking of traveling and spending some time in another city or state. Can I still shop?

Yes you can! Remember when we talked about entering your zip code to find shops nearby on the shopper login page? Well, all you need to do is enter the zip code for where you’ll be and you’ll be able to see everything available in that area. This is also helpful if you’re planning a road trip and may want to do some shops along the way to make sure that bank account doesn’t run dry!

Remember, our team is always available to help and we’re happy to do what we can to help you find the most and best shops to suit your specific needs.

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.

Welcome to the Team! – Getting Started with Mystery Shopping

If you’re looking for a simple, flexible way to make some extra money this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place! Apartment mystery shopping is a great way to supplement your income on your terms. Shop compensation is paid via direct deposit once a month. You can find shops in your area (or in any area, if you’re planning to travel) and you can choose which shops you want to complete.

Before you can start shopping, you’ll need to visit our website to apply. You’ll complete the application and then review the reference materials to help you understand how it all works. Once you’ve completed the application process and have a shopper profile established, you’ll find we have multiple helpful resources on the home page, including several instructional videos. In addition, our staff is just an email away to help walk you through the application and shopping process.

Make sure you have access to a telephone as well as a computer with an Internet connection as most apartment mystery shops require you to complete a phone call and an on-site visit followed by an online report to evaluate the service you received. If you don’t have a computer at home, check out your local library to see if there are computers available for your use. You may also want to consider creating an extra email address or two that you can use for your apartment shopping.

Once you’re ready, you can log in, enter your zip code and find shops near you to work on. When you accept the shops, you will have a follow up person assigned to the shop who is there to help you. Anytime you are not sure how to proceed or have difficulty, you can use the little white envelope to send a message to your follow-up person for help. We’re looking forward to having you join our team!

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!