Senior care reviews: The impact on the family decision

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Shelley Laurell
Shelley Laurell

Last spring, I wrote about why senior care reviews are here to stay. I outlined how they are important for senior care providers and made some suggestions on ways you could join the conversation. Since then, more senior care review sites have been launched and families have posted tens of thousands of new reviews. If you are a senior care provider who hasn't yet tapped into this growing trend, you're missing an opportunity to connect with families and to manage your online reputation.

The consumer voice is so loud, it has to be addressed,” explains Amy Foster Trenz, VP of Marketing & Strategy for G5. “Adult children are looking for and reading reviews.”

Visitor behavior on Caring.com, which has nearly two million visitors per month, supports that assertion:

  • Online reviews are changing the search process. Family caregivers used to click on search results in Caring.com's Senior Care Directory from the top of the page to the bottom. Now they click on the senior care listings that have reviews, skipping those without. (G5 notes that reviews are also helping with ranking and clickthrough on search engines like Google.)
  • Assisted living and memory care listings with reviews – both negative and positive ones – are five times more likely to earn a prospective family inquiry than those without reviews.

 “Family caregivers consistently cite online reviews among their top considerations in researching and selecting senior living communities for their loved ones,” says Andy Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Caring.com, which has had online reviews for several years and currently hosts about 45,000. “In our consumer survey, we found that 94% consider online reviews to be trustworthy and helpful to their search for senior care providers.”

Provider engagement with consumer reviews

While families facing this difficult decision are finding value in senior care reviews, some providers have been less than enthusiastic about this trend. And despite recent rapid growth in the availability and volume of senior care reviews, some have argued that they don't have enough of an impact on the family's decision.

The Gilbert Guide, the first senior care directory listing site, first added reviews in 2006.  Founder Jill Gilbert believes reviews contribute to the larger picture in making the senior care decision.  But she cautions “Visiting a community on a few occasions, getting feedback from other residents and doing some good research will never be completely replaced by consumer reviews.”

Whether reviews are the primary factor in the family's decision process or just one component, providers ignoring them do so at their brand's peril. With more sites and more reviews being completed by families, your brand is likely being talked about online. “I can give you a laundry list of horrible reviews that are out there unaddressed by providers,” guarantees Foster Trenz. “One you can't forget. It is an unaddressed review that states, ‘If you're looking for a place to dump someone off and be forgotten, this is the place.'”

Families understand that our industry provides care for some of the oldest, most frail members of the population. Things will go wrong. What families won't forget is how providers respond to those incidents. If they see a negative review quickly and appropriately addressed online, a provider can turn a bad review into a positive. Families see how the provider reacts when things go wrong - important insight to have when making a decision.

Providers who have embraced reviews believe they help engage families, drive decisions, and present an opportunity for service enhancements. “Quality caregivers use the intelligence they get from review analysis to improve the resident or client experience,” says Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com. “That's why they focus on getting more reviews from real people – for the best data possible.”  

How can senior care providers best take advantage of this opportunity?

Even if you recognize the importance of online reviews, you may not know how to get started or where to direct your resources. These tips should help:

  • Monitor and respond to reviews, particularly on sites where Google is crawling the reviews and exposing them to prospective families.
  • Focus on sites with the most traffic, highest volume of reviews, and resources to pull in families. Ask your residents and their family members to share their feedback in reviews on these sites.
  • Circulate and utilize reviews feedback within your organization. Leverage these consumer insights to reinforce your commitment to high quality senior care.

 

Shelley Laurell is a senior care veteran, Certified Senior Advisor and SEO certified copywriter.

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