1. I work as a marketer in a retirement community in California. Part of my job is to evaluate mystery shopping reports with the marketer in question. I agree that we have a lot of room to improve with this vital part of our business. However, it has been my experience that mystery shopping is a flawed evaluation. The callers often don't have questions prepared to ask, which leads to uncomfortable and awkward conversations. They are also very easy to detect, and lead to the sales person knowing they are being mystery shopped and not taking the call seriously.
    I find that most of our sales force do a very good job on the phone (otherwise they wouldn't have a job), and get high praise from real callers. Please take this report with a grain of salt.

  2. I work with the marketing folks daily and I believe part of the issue here is the high rate of turnover in these communities. Seasoned community sales people will ask the right questions, while newbie's, especially those who have never had a personal experience of looking at a community for a loved one, have no idea how to ask the "leading" questions to get potential residents in the door for a tour. I agree with Troy as well, mystery shoppers are easily identified when you spend your day talking with overwhelmed adult children and spouses who are burned out.

  3. Trying to understand how:

    1. You think professional mystery shoppers don't have prepared questions to ask when, in fact, mystery shops are literally a pre-prepared assessment instrument.

    2. Someone could know they were being mystery shopped – the purpose of which is to specifically evaluate their performance – and then respond by intentionally NOT taking the call seriously.

    Wonder how your company feels about paying for these shops with staff with such a lack of basic understanding…

  4. In my 12 years of being an assisted living sales/marketing director, I have been "shopped" dozens of times. I agree with CJ and have always taken these evaluations seriously because, albeit irritating, ultimately they are MY tools. However, being that senior housing companies are paying a big nickel for these services (and the expense usually hits the individual community's bottom line), I would encourage EDs to speak up to corporate when there are problems with the vendor's performance. There are better qualified mystery shopping vendors who understand both the customer and the assisted living model. This is not a "retail" environment and most vendors cater mostly to retail. If it is lucrative for vendors to capture this market they should be more selective in hiring and training appropriate shoppers (age, experience, ACTING ability – a thought just came to me – perhaps go after amateur actors?? Easier said than done. I have worked as a mystery shopper and know that the pool is minimally screened and the pay is pocket change). Most of my shoppers were so inept and obviously fake that it was difficult for me to "play the part" and perform my due diligence. Examples: College aged shoppers looking for an apartment for "grandma" who is independent and on Medi-Caid, overuse of technical "industry" language, failing marks for things the shopper didn't even catch and my biggest pet peeve – the shopper on a whim deciding to really get into it and robbing me of literally hours of time and energy. (Granted, the ones who got down and dirty with their stories were the best at fooling me). But my time is money for my employer. They should be strictly under an hour.

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