As customers, we have certain expectations when we buy a product or pay for a service. Based on how we feel about our purchase, we are likely to tell that story to others. If our expectations are exceeded, we will tell a great story and recommend. If it falls below our expectations, we will tell a negative story and not recommend. If our expectations are simply met, we will not tell any story. Sometimes a bad story can turn positive, depending on how a complaint is handled.
So how do you know what your customers are saying about you? You ask! Between compliments and complaints, and feedback from social media and review sites, you can get a good idea of what your clientele is saying about you. Put this all together, and it is known as Voice of the Customer.
What are the voices of 97-year old’s saying?
Recently, I had the honor of moderating a panel of senior living residents and family members at the Argentum Symposium. The panel consisted of three residents (ages 97, 97, and 85) and their adult daughters (one of whom is 72 and a resident in the same community as her mom!). It’s rare to get customers to talk in a candid forum, but it’s rewarding to hear their honest feedback.
The story they are telling others about their experience is so positive, I said to the audience that I’d like to hire a motorcoach and take them on the road!
Three takeaways directly from residents
The most predominant theme that they all discussed was the importance of staff on their overall experience. It was an awesome reminder of how important associates are to both residents AND their family members. Each resident and adult daughter specifically mentioned associates who felt like family and make a huge impact in their daily lives. They could be dissatisfied with the food (which they are not) and still recommend. According to these panelists, staff is the #1 factor in recommending a senior living community.
The second theme was community. When residents move into a community, they thrive off the sense of belonging and inclusiveness. We call the building a community for just that reason but hearing them talk about what a “community” is extends far beyond those four walls. In our business, where the customer lives with the brand 24/7/365, the staff can feel like family. As the residents all reminded us, “this is our home!”
As senior living leaders, we all inherently know about the importance of staff. But hearing this directly from the voices of residents is a very powerful reminder. Walt Disney once said, “You can design, create and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
The third theme that we heard was that this is the beginning of a chapter for residents, and oftentimes, a renewing of purpose in their life, not the end. At the same time, they reminded us how big of a change it is to move into a retirement community—that it is a major life event.
This was an amazing group of wise people, who are so full of life and spirit. The session lasted one hour, but I think we could have all sat there for several more hours listening to them. The Symposium ended with the quote of the conference, from 97-year old Marge: “Don’t be afraid of the future” which led right into a standing ovation by 150 senior living executives.
Brookdale can move into the future keeping the Voice of our Customer top of mind. Feedback really is a gift.