hereSAY’s Build-to-Rent (BTR) Mystery Shopping Benchmark Report reveals that although the developments still present high-quality amenities, apartments and communal areas, a drop in customer service at the enquiry and viewing stage could damage the reputation of the brands and buildings long term.
The professional mystery shopper team contacted and visited 50 BTR developments between October 2022 and February 2023. 68 per cent of shoppers rated their experience of contacting the scheme and attempting to book a viewing as ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ and 28 per cent of shoppers received no response to their enquiry. In contrast, the presentation of the apartments, amenities and communal areas was the highest rated part of the experience, scoring 88 per cent – an 11 per cent increase from the 2021 benchmark.
For those that secured a viewing, only 53 per cent were addressed by their name during the viewing, a 19 per cent decrease since the 2021 benchmark. Overall, the schemes received the lowest score for incentives and value for money, with 51 per cent of viewers not being told that WiFi was included in the rent, 44 per cent were not made aware of any onsite events, and 34 per cent were not told about maintenance being included.
Debra Yudolph, Partner at hereSAY, said, “Five years ago, the BTR market had to work hard for its residents, as such the customer service and attention to detail was exemplary. With the ‘race to rent’ demand far exceeding supply, people have less ability to shop around, so the BTR sector hasn’t had to work as hard and unfortunately, we have seen a a significant dip in customer service at the enquiry stage.
“Although BTR remains an extremely attractive proposition, the industry must not rest on its laurels and go back to getting the customer service fundamentals during the lead to lease process on point. If the sector wants to continue to grow at the rate and popularity it has to date, it cannot be seen to shun prospects simply because so many people need somewhere to live.”
The research also showed that there are still those that consistently deliver the highest standard in customer service. Across the top 10 developments, they scored 100 per cent on quality, cleanliness and tidiness.
Mystery shoppers were also asked if they received any information regarding environmentally friendly, sustainable features or initiatives of the development during the viewing (i.e. energy and carbon monitoring, green rent rebates, eco-friendly features) – 78 per cent of shoppers were not informed about environmentally-friendly or sustainable features or initiatives of the development and 90 per cent were not made aware of their role in the building meeting its sustainable objectives.
Given the amount of money invested into greener, smarter buildings this education of the eco-friendly credentials are not being shared with the staff selling the building, and the renters living in these homes.
“Young people especially are conscious of the environment, and the sector is rightly playing its part using tech and innovation to reduce their carbon footprint. Yet, despite this, it isn’t being communicated to the end user”, adds Debra Yudolph, Partner at hereSAY.
hereSAY is the first service of its kind for Build to Rent which benchmarks the ‘lead to lease’ customer journey. This provides BTR operators and developers with valuable insights into how their leasing team performs compared to their competitors.
The report covers eight categories, including; pre-viewing experience, building and apartment presentation, development, final thoughts, viewing experience, brand and marketing, post-viewing experience, incentives and value for money.