What I Learned from “Mystery Shopping”

Reblogger Bonnie Jean Hart
Real Estate Agent with Home Smart Professionals-La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Indio, CA BRE 01820249

Denise Lones was a mentor to me when I joined John L Scott in Bellingham in 1999.  She was and is a great trainer.  She knows her stuff and is good.  If you listen to her and follow her advice you will do well in this business.  

Bonnie Hart

(866)961-5597 toll free US

(760) 972-7520

 

Original content by Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc.

What I Learned from “Mystery Shopping”

Research tells us that mystery shoppers were first employed in the 1940s, when private investigators used mystery shopping to prevent internal theft, measure employee integrity, and anonymously evaluate customer service.

Today, businesses often mystery shopped include retail stores, restaurants, banks, movie theaters, car dealerships, and health clubs.  Actually, any situation which includes a consumer/business interaction is open to mystery shopping.

Over the years I’ve worked with many builders and developers.  And during the course of consulting with them, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of “mystery shopping”, both at open houses and on the telephone.  I’ve mystery shopped real estate agents all across the country.  Different states, different price points, different home styles, different markets.

But one thing was common – my goal was to see what kind of efforts agents made to either sell me the home they were holding open, or to follow up with me after I left.   

When I mystery shop, most of the agents I meet have the “Tigger” personality – they’re the “people people” – bouncy, energetic, friendly. (If you’ve heard me talk about personality types before, you’ll know I’m referring to “Promoters” and “Supporters”.)  They could certainly engage with me at an open house by chit-chatting.  In fact, sometimes there was way too much chit-chatting that was random and unfocused.  Often these “Tigger” agents were good at engaging with me “live” but they very, very rarely keep in touch with me after our initial contact.

Sometimes I would encounter other personality types at open houses – such as “Owl” (Analyticals).  Focused on providing data, Owls are rarely comfortable at open house settings, because they don’t find engaging with others as easy as the Tiggers.  And of course, because they didn’t “connect” initially, their ability to follow up was compromised too.   Same thing with “Rabbit” (Contollers) – a little bossy, a little overbearing, and very much expecting visitors to buy today, Rabbits are focused on a now transaction and rarely provide good follow-up.

Which brings me to this statement: Most agents treat open houses as a retail storefront … either buy what’s in front of you, or move on to the next “store”.  If you treat open houses (and your business!) in this way, you will continually have a one-deal-at-a-time, transaction-based business.

Stop treating people like they are retail shoppers … and focus instead on what someone’s bigger picture is!  Learn how to ask questions of open house visitors so that you get to the heart of what they want.  Don’t interrogate people.  Don’t oversell.  Instead, build a relationship with them by asking questions, listening, learning to read their clues (both verbal and non-verbal), and responding accordingly.

We all know that most people who visit open houses won’t buy that home.  So if you know that, why the huge sales push when they’re there?  And since they leave without “buying”, they obviously still have a want (or need) to buy.  Why aren’t you following up with them, providing them good information, and developing a relationship with them so that – when they’re ready to “buy” – they immediately think of you?  Of all the mystery shopping I did (and remember, I’m talking about hundreds of agents from all over the country) I found it almost impossible to find an agent that was still following up with me 90 days later. Follow-up at the 180 day mark was even harder … and one year later it was almost impossible to find an agent still in touch with me.

And now, a few words about a group of people who have taken “mystery shopping” to a whole new level!

Recently I’ve been watching the television show, “Undercover Boss”.  If you’re not familiar with the show, the premise is this:  a high-ranking executive or owner of a company who alters their appearance, changes their name, creates a fictional work history, and goes undercover in their own company and works as an entry-level employee.   The undercover boss spends about a week undercover in the company, working at several jobs under several different managers.  Along the way, they encounter typical scenarios for workers in the jobs they are pretending to hold and learn a great deal about both the managers and their co-workers.

At the end of the week, the undercover boss returns to his position, and calls in the employees he or she worked with over the course of the week.  The boss reveals their true identity … and then rewards deserving staff members through promotions or financial gains.  Other staff members are given training (or retraining!), or are provided better working conditions.

It’s a fascinating show, and it really proves the point that sometimes you have to get in someone else’s skin to really see how things work.  It’s fascinating for the CEO to see what’s really happening in the company.  And often, the CEO is transformed as a result of their experience going undercover … and the staff goes from being perceived as just “employees” to taking on the humanity of living, breathing people.

So now it’s time for the hard question: are you really doing the things you should be doing in your business … in the way they should be done?

I challenge you to go undercover and mystery shop your own company.  Look at your habits, your energy, your work, and your attitude.  Are you really doing what it takes to achieve success?  And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your clients from time to time.

Every real estate business could use a little bit of undercover.  It’s time to go undercover in your business!

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry. With expertise in strategic marketing, business analysis, branding, new home project planning, product development, and agent/broker training, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things “real estate”. With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.

The Lones Group, Inc.
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Rainmaker
422,371
Catherine Ulrey
Keller Williams Capital City - Salem, OR
Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist

What  a brilliant idea!  I would love to be a mystery shopper, might as well start on my own business!

Nov 20, 2011 05:57 PM #1
Rainmaker
1,019,354
Tim Lorenz
TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team - Mission Viejo, CA
949 874-2247

I think that I could use some mystery shopping.  I already know my positives and negatives.  Guess I need to work on the negatives.

Nov 20, 2011 06:14 PM #2
Rainmaker
1,551,345
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

That lack of follow up is something I don't understand.

A couple of years after I let my license go, my son decided to buy a house, and I learned about real estate from the customer's side.

IF we could get an agent to show us a home, we never heard from them again. It was crazy.

They had a potential buyer with a good job, good credit, and some money in the bank... but they wouldn't lift a finger to help him find what he was looking for. In fact, the times I was along, I never even heard one of them trying to find out exactly what he wanted. They'd just show the house - take it or leave it - and then they'd drive away.

This was at the same time that agents were crying because "Nothing is selling." I could see why!

As for mystery shopping - If I lived in or near a big city I would love doing that. As it is, anywhere they'd send me would be a long drive.

Nov 20, 2011 06:21 PM #3
Rainmaker
156,244
Cheryl Dickson
Retired Realtor / Retired Home Inspector - Oklahoma City, OK
Retired Realtor, GRI / Retired Home Inspector

Very good article! I just don't get it either. When looking for a home I contacted several agents, and NONE of them made ANY attempt to connect with me. I would ask square footage, and it would not be what I wanted, and they would just say OK, BYE. No one tried to help me, or connect to make me their client. Back when I was a Realtor, I worked very hard on follow up, and keeping contact, so it's hard to see how people just let a buyer walk away. Even when I found the home I wanted, it took me calling numerous times in a week to get  a hold of the agent that had it listed. She NEVER ever attempted to contact me back. I ended up getting the OWNER's info from the accessor's office and contacting her DIRECTLY to view the home!!!!!

Nov 20, 2011 06:38 PM #4
Ambassador
1,370,620
Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co. - Prosper, TX
Real Estate Agents

I'm going to take away the outcome of her research: that the follow up in the business is bad. However, how she made suggestion of finding out this information - pretending someone she's not (a buyer) is no reflection of how she should has suggested finding out this information.

I hope her clients/ people who read the original article will not take her advice to be pretentious. That's not how one should live an honorable life.

By the way, she's also violating COE we all should abide by.

Nov 20, 2011 10:38 PM #5
Rainer
64,104
Bonnie Jean Hart
Home Smart Professionals-La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Indio, CA - Indio, CA
Bonnie J. Hart - 25+ yrs Exp - Real Estate - L

Loreena,

I understand what you are saying but this writer is a teacher not an agent...not condoning the act of "mystery shopping" just sharing the lessons to be learned...and it appears according to Marte and Cheryl's comments there is truth to the lack of follow-up.  

Thank you all for your comments.

Bonnie

Nov 21, 2011 05:20 AM #6
Rainer
273,282
Emmary Simpson
Las Cruces Homes and Land - Las Cruces, NM
Serving Las Cruces, NM

From my research, she is listed as holding a Broker's license. I do not understand how people cannot see how she is violating the Code of Ethics!!!!!!!! It is mind boggling.  I challenge any agent considering this mystery shopping thing to bring it up with their local boards for their opinion. I'd bet they'd bring up the fact that not identifying yourself as an agent is W R O N G.

but I guess if you all want to do this, go right ahead. I'll have no problem reporting any agent trying this at one of my open house events to my board.

Nov 21, 2011 02:37 PM #7
Rainmaker
437,737
Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding

Emmary, the comments you’ve made on this issue on other blogs, and here, show me that you continue to not understand the issue.  You are correct in your statement that I hold a Broker’s license; I have for many years.  However, I have not managed an office or overseen my own agents for years, as my current role involves coaching and training agents, and acting as a consultant to builders, developers, and real estate companies.  Unfortunately, you still clearly do not understand the article I wrote.  The mystery shopping I performed was on behalf of those builders and developers; THEY were the client who requested I shop THEIR agents.  In this capacity I was acting as an outside consultant, not an agent.  It’s very clear that this is in no way, shape, or form a violation of the COE.  I don’t know if your research also showed you that I am a M.I.R.M through the National Association of Home Builders and mystery shopping is absolutely a part of the sales training process.  My goal when I write an article or blog post is to share my 23+ years of industry experience to HELP agents.   I am very disappointed that my article has resulted in you actually stating in writing that I have violated the Code of Ethics.  Not only are you not correct, I would suggest you have a closer look at the Code of Ethics.  The comments you have made are, in and of themselves, violation of the Code.  Finally, your research probably didn’t show you that I actually am a licensed instructor – one who teaches the Code of Ethics to real estate agents.  Not only do I teach the Code, I  make it my practice to live by it. 

Nov 22, 2011 07:03 AM #8
Rainmaker
525,704
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Denise,

Is the chair broken or is the floor warped?

Are dozens of Realtors misunderstanding your article, or is there something wrong with your content?

Nov 22, 2011 07:28 AM #9
Rainer
273,282
Emmary Simpson
Las Cruces Homes and Land - Las Cruces, NM
Serving Las Cruces, NM

Denise I understand the issue completely. You hold a broker's license. You continue to hold that broker's license when you 'mystery shop'. Is that license put on hold when you mystery shop? I doubt it.  I don't care what alphabet soup follows your name. You say that you haven't managed an office for years but you still hold a broker's license. You are still required, until 2013, to uphold the standards and practices of having that license.

Your original post stated that you have shopped agents across the country.  I think it's shady and very illegal. And, as i said in my previous posts, I would report you in a heartbeat if you shopped any of my open houses. 

Nov 22, 2011 07:55 AM #10
Rainmaker
437,737
Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding

I am going to put to bed the discussion regarding mystery shopping.  It’s well past time to do so.

 

Like many other real estate professionals on the Active Rain site, I offer my advice here for free of charge to anyone who is interested.  I do so because I’ve spent most of my adult life in the world of real estate – first as an agent, then as a broker, and currently as the owner of a company which provides marketing materials, training, and coaching for real estate agents/brokers, builders, and developers.

 

When you come across an article I’ve shared, it’s up to you to decide whether to read it or ignore it.  If you take the time and spend the energy to read it, you then can determine whether to apply the ideas I’ve shared.  It’s really that simple.

 

What isn’t appropriate is for any member of our community to attack others.  And it’s particularly not a good idea to do so if you haven’t read the article in question, or don’t understand some aspect of it.  As Active Rain members, our community guidelines dictate that we be respectful of one another, and not conduct ourselves in the forum in a way that disgraces our fellow members on the network.  Many of you who have weighed in on the post have made comments that are clearly disrespectful.  Our guidelines also prohibit personal attacks, and slander.  Some of you have stepped very close (if not over) those lines.  And some of you seem to have forgotten that there is zero tolerance on this sight for threats. 

 

I want all of us to remember that, according to information provided on the site itself, over 80% of the visitors to Active Rain are members of the buying and selling public.  Frankly, I’m embarrassed for our industry.  So many of you were vicious in your comments.  While a very small number of the thousands who read the blog chose to criticize what I had said, the ugliness that emerged was not a good reflection on our industry.

 

I will not be responding to additional comments regarding the mystery shopping blog.  Most of you who responded – or complained – clearly did not understand the point of the article.  While I’m very open to having agents disagree with me and share their points of view, the comments on the Active Rain site are from a small group of dissidents hell-bent on portraying a common industry practice as something altogether sinister.   Rather than continue to engage with a small group of people who aren’t open to listening to my point of view (even though I was happy to listen to theirs), I am going to disengage from the discussion and return to what I do best – helping my clients and serving the real estate community.

 

Bonnie Jean, I apologize for the ugliness that has erupted over this issue on your blog, and I very much appreciate your kind words. La Quinta is very lucky to have you.

Nov 22, 2011 12:54 PM #11
Rainer
64,104
Bonnie Jean Hart
Home Smart Professionals-La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Indio, CA - Indio, CA
Bonnie J. Hart - 25+ yrs Exp - Real Estate - L

Denise,

Well said!  And thank you for your kind words!  I have always benefited from your teaching!  

Thank you, Bonnie

Nov 23, 2011 06:59 AM #12
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Bonnie Jean Hart

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