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Modern-day senior living communities emerged in North America as part of a paradigm shift during the early 1980s that called for a more consumer-centered care philosophy. Fortunately, this remains the prevailing philosophy present in the senior living industry today and one can assume that the primary goal of a senior living community is to help its residents live a well-rounded and happy life as they age. But a senior living community is also a business, and in order to keep your residents happy, you need to reach your maximum occupancy level. This will ultimately contribute to your bottom line, and allow you to continue improving your customer care and service levels, thereby promoting a healthy cycle of growth.
Growing your occupancy level can be a complex matter, affected by many variables, some external and out of your control, such as geography, government policies, economic states, demographics, and competing companies. Luckily, there are also many variables that are in your control, and those will be the ones discussed in this article. Boosting your occupancy rates can be whittled down to a few key elements: marketing, engagement, and at the core, the satisfaction levels of all stakeholders involved, including staff, family members and last but certainly not least, your residents. All of these elements can be positively influenced by technological innovations designed to do just that. Improve marketing, promote engagement, and increase resident, family member, and employee satisfaction. Growth in these three areas can directly increase your occupancy rates and contribute to your bottom line. Now let’s dive in and boost those occupancy rates!
Take Full Advantage of Your Online Platform
In today’s day and age, if you don’t have a strong online presence as a business, you’re missing out on a ton of growth potential. Building a beautiful online website is now so incredibly simple, there aren’t any excuses left to not have a user-friendly and visually stunning website for your senior living community. Take advantage of sites such as Wix or SquareSpace for easy and beautiful website creation.
Already have a website? Perfect. Ensure that your community also has a strong presence on a range of social media channels. When prospective clients search for you online, they’ll be able to view your website as well as your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and more. They’ll see and know more about how wonderful your community is, and you’ll have an edge over your competition, and bring in more prospects for tours.
Encourage your current clients to tune in to your social media pages, and soon you’ll have a buzz surrounding your community. Their reviews, likes and comments will be seen by others, spreading a positive message and thereby positive associations with the name of your community. Keeping family members updated on all of the fun events going on at your community will also confirm to them that they made the right choice in choosing your senior living community over others. Involving the rest of the town, young and old, in your special events, and introducing contests and raffles, will also encourage others to visit, and maintain a positive brand and message.
Have Family Members Involved As Much as Possible
On the topic of family member and community involvement, in addition to your online social media presence, giving your families a private portal to access community information is invaluable. Have an online portal where family members, residents and even prospects (perhaps temporarily) can access recent photos, upcoming special events, menu, activities, download your monthly newsletter, and more. It’s best when this portal allows for communication directly with your community, and is accessible from anywhere on any device with an internet connection.
An integrated service request system can be incredibly useful if, for example, a family member wants to come in for a dinner with their grandmother. They can log in to your custom online portal, take a look at the menu, and request a table in minutes and that request goes to the email address of whomever you choose at your community. Neat, right? Family members love these kinds of features, and so do residents and prospects.
Keeping the community up-to-date is essential. You can plan the most beautiful event, but if no one knows about it, it won’t matter. Keep your community informed and happy, and they’ll not only continue to happily live there, they’ll also spread the word about how wonderful you are – the best kind of (free!) marketing available.
Keep Your Residents Engaged and Happy through Wellness Initiatives and Digital Communication
Have you ever heard the saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold”? This is not just a quote – it’s actually a proven fact. It costs seven times more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Moral of the story: Keep your residents happy! They are your bread and butter.
Many variables exist in the complex concept of resident satisfaction, but there are also factors proven to improve it. An informed resident is a happy resident. If you have posters up for your activities – or a monthly/daily activity calendar – and an activity is cancelled, how soon are your residents informed? Do they have to make the trek to the location of the event only to make another trek to your reception desk to ask for a status update? This is a common issue that plagues communities relying on analog paper-and-pen communication systems.
Introducing a digital signage platform in your community will ensure that residents are kept up-to-date in seconds, not hours. Information is beautifully displayed on large-screen high-definition TV screens in common areas, changes can be made in real-time, and your custom community “channel” can even be accessed from the comfort of a resident’s suite, where they can turn on their TV, turn to a designated channel, and immediately gain access to community information. There’s no running around, time-wasting, printing, or stress involved! Senior living utopia.
For residents that are more tech-savvy (a growing trend in the industry – click here to read the full NY Times article), you can even offer something of more value, such as iPads or inexpensive tablets that you can make available for your residents to borrow. They’ll be able to access community information at any time, right from the tablet, and even input service requests through a resident portal, saving their time and your staff’s time. A resident portal can also include other fun features such as brain games, videos, music, an easy-to-use email system, personal calendar and more.
It’s also been proven that prioritizing the wellness of your residents is positively correlated with increased resident satisfaction rates. Giving your residents access to activity videos, exercise clips, trivia, brain games and more through a digital platform will make it easier for them to keep their minds and bodies active and content.
Other types of tools, such as an electronic health record platform, will also improve resident satisfaction rates by allowing staff to easily document and monitor resident conditions, and adjust their care plan accordingly, before any conditions worsen. Being proactive is always better than being reactive.
Impress Your Prospects with a Hotel-Style Feel
Nine times out of ten, you won’t be the only retirement community that a prospect is visiting. But if they did choose you as an option to visit in-person, seize the moment to really wow them on a tour of your community. It’s important to incentivize prospects with the standard favours – a free brunch or dinner, a small “thank you for dropping by” gift, and a booklet of your services. But it’s even more important to go a few steps further ahead of the competition.
- Place large-screen high-definition digital signage screens in your common high-traffic areas that display vital information and engage prospects. For example, these screens can display items like your daily activities, community menus, photos from your latest outing, a fun fact of the day and more. Prospects will see all of the fun things that happen at the community (as well as your delicious menu!) which will entice them to stay.
- Have jazzy “elevator music” or golden oldies playing from the in-suite TVs and common area TVs on your community tour. It’s a small enhancement that can make a profound impact on a prospect’s mood and consequently their impression of the living space, even if it’s only subconscious.
- If you want to etch a lasting impression on your prospects, have an interactive touchscreen set up in the lobby of your community that allows for:
- Access to important information – i.e. menus, activities, event schedule
- Feedback portal
- Contact Us section
- Service Request System
- Ensure that your prospects have an easy way to keep in touch and view what’s happening at the community, even after they’ve left. A temporary prospect account to access your community portal is a great way to keep prospects engaged, without extra work on your part.
Many communities are hesitant to implement large changes to their daily routines – and we completely understand. Almost all new systems come with a learning curve – no matter how small, and this can take time to adjust to, not just for staff, but for residents who are accustomed to a particular way of doing things. But don’t ever let that deter you from introducing new innovative products and services into your community. The end result of a full and engaged community will always be worth the small hurdles at the beginning, which will soon enough be forgotten with the joys of a happier community.
At InTouchLink, we specialize in an all-in-one digital platform that has been designed and tweaked over the years to best service the senior living industry. We want our senior living partner communities to be as happy, engaged and full as possible. We’re not just programmers, or support representatives; we’re consultants with years of experience on best practices. If you work with us, your community will even have its own designated account manager to hold your hand along the way – at no cost. Book a Demo with us today and see live in action how we can improve your operations, engage you residents, and boost your occupancy.