The results and findings from the first Build to Rent viewing experience benchmark was revealed recently by hereSAY – the new mystery shopping service line from SAY Property Consulting.
Park Central West, by Lendlease, a development in Elephant and Castle, achieved first position in the benchmark. This scheme received a well-deserved ‘excellent’ rating overall, with high scores in all eight categories. Mystery shoppers were particularly impressed by the passion, professionalism and enthusiasm of the team they met, which separated them from other schemes.
“We are beyond thrilled that Park Central West took the number one spot in the mystery shopping benchmark. Our ethos at Living by Lendlease is ‘service is our signature’ and this is a great way to ensure that we are achieving the high standards of customer service we set for ourselves. It is also a testament to the hard work of the entire team who worked tirelessly to launch this product during a global pandemic without compromising on those standards. We will certainly use the report in the future as it is an invaluable tool to help us continually improve and make sure we are going that extra mile for our residents.”Stephanie Barbabosa, Head of Build to Rent, Lendlease
Over the past year, hereSAY’s mystery shoppers visited 22 Build to Rent schemes across the UK – three times each – posing as potential residents, then giving detailed accounts of their experiences viewing the developments. Each shopper responded to over 100 questions across eight categories, providing in-depth and exclusive insight into the quality of the customer service, the offered services and amenities, and the quality of each development. Each scheme was then given a total score and a score for each of the eight categories.
“The guide was fantastic, and I really wish I could move into the apartments. She was friendly and professional and had a great turn of phrase when taking me on the tour. She is clearly really happy to be working there and you can tell she appreciates the place she is marketing and selling. The tour felt bespoke and personalised and she was a fantastic brand ambassador for the development. I felt that nothing was too much trouble and I was in safe hands.”Mystery shopper at Park Central West, May 2021
Learnings from the mystery shop
Across all 22 schemes, the most significant findings were:
- There was no correlation between price of rent and total score in the benchmark. The top five schemes fell across every rental band, proving that more expensive doesn’t always mean better quality.
- The pre-viewing experience, which rates communication and interaction prior to visiting the scheme, achieved the highest scores across all schemes.
- The greatest failure was the follow-up – 50% of shoppers did not receive any follow up within seven days of their viewing. In the top five, 42% of viewings were followed up within seven days.
- 40% of the guides explained who the landlord is and the benefits of Build to Rent. This is a missed opportunity for both the individual schemes but also the wider industry which is not well-known or understood by consumers.
- 90% of shoppers considered the quality of the apartments to be high, so the viewing and customer experience has emerged as the main differentiator between schemes in the rankings.
Other schemes achieving a place in the top five – in no particular order – include Fizzy Walthamstow by Fizzy Living, Blackhorse Mills by Legal and General/Urbanbubble, 10 George Street by Vertus and New Makers Yard by Get Living.
For these developments, 93% of shoppers agreed that the development lived up to their expectations and the guide took an interest in their needs. By comparison, in the bottom five developments, 53% of shoppers agreed that the guide was friendly or took an interest in them.
“Considering the overarching positivity on the developments and with more Build to Rent coming into the market and many locations offering a choice of scheme, operators need to understand that the customer viewing experience is what can differentiate their scheme from the competition. This is the next phase of progress for the sector.
“As Build to Rent begins to be understood by the sector and as consumers recognise that it stands for quality accommodation and exceptional customer service, expectations will be high, so operators will need to understand what is being delivered on the ground to keep up with these expectations. We anticipate that as the Build to Rent industry matures, it will become more like the hospitality and retail sectors where Mystery Shopping is commonplace, as is the case in the United States.”Debra Yudolph, Partner, SAY Property Consulting