Guest Columns

The things that matter: 5 tips for welcoming prospective residents and families

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Michelle Seitzer
Michelle Seitzer
So much of a senior living provider's marketing dollars and staff time is devoted to getting people in the door: glossy brochures and advertisements, eye-catching websites highlighting all the community's best features and amenities, informative blogs, engaging social media channels, and perhaps even TV and radio campaigns.

But what happens after these messages go out -- and particularly when they prompt an in-person visit -- is equally important.

Think about how the community shifts to accommodate a visit from the state inspector: every staff member is at his or her best, records are organized, lingering paperwork is completed and filed, and hallways, resident rooms, and common areas are sparkling. The best meals make the dining room menu and fresh flowers are placed in a vase at the reception desk. Everyone works extra hours to ensure that the inspector is thoroughly impressed.

Yet providing optimal care and service should be part of your community's everyday operations, right? If a prospective resident walks through your doors today and requests a tour, will she like what she sees right then and there? Before or after a tour takes place, will your visitors say good things to friends, neighbors, and family members about your community, or will they encourage people to explore options elsewhere?

These questions, along with the following five practical tips, should serve as a guide for creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to new and current senior living residents alike:

Tip #1: Give potential residents (and their families) the greatest peace of mind about their pending decision by simply telling the truth. Don't make promises you can't keep or exaggerate about services. As a former activities director, I observed my fair share of community tours. I can't tell you how many times I heard the marketing director say, “We offer transportation for daily shopping trips,” when in reality, it was more of a once-a-week or every-other-week trip as interest directed. On another occasion, when I gave an impromptu tour because the marketing director was not in, I told the woman and her family that the food was mediocre (they asked). They immediately thanked me for my honesty... and the woman still moved in.

Tip #2: Roll out the red carpet only if you can consistently deliver the same high level of service every day, for current and future residents alike. There is nothing wrong with making a good impression, with putting your best foot forward for visitors, but there is something wrong when you only do so for a one-hour tour.

Tip #3: Get in your customers' heads and on their level. See the community from their eyes, not yours. You may be extremely proud of your facility's thorough record-keeping methods, or the brand new Olympic-size swimming pool, but if they're looking for a place where their Dad, who has advanced Alzheimer's, will be comfortable, safe and well cared for, those things are less than important.

Tip #4: Welcome questions with open ears. In other words, don't talk too much. Listen, observe, and serve as a guide, not a sales person. Let family members and prospective residents make their decision based more on what they see and less on what you say.

Tip #5: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Check in about a week after each visit and them know you enjoyed meeting them (maybe even send a thank-you card). Find out if they have any feedback to share -- or unanswered questions -- and ask if there is anything you can do to help them make their decision.

Michelle Seitzer is a senior blogger for SeniorsforLiving.com. SeniorsforLiving.com recently partnered with Xerox to streamline the connection between prospective residents and communities of interest. Beginning this fall, after a request for more information comes through the site, a Xerox representative will follow up. Learn more here.

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