There is this huge, constant dichotomy in the senior living industry. Occupancy is currently around 90% and improving slightly each quarter, yet everyone is constantly worried about and struggling to keep, maintain and grow occupancy.
A few days ago we published an article authored by Will Nowell titled “I Quit”, which told the story of a mystery shopper contractor who wanted to quit working for him because when she called communities, she almost never got a call back. These kinds of stories make me crazy.
Resident Acquisition is Tough
You may want to argue that the person answering the phone was able to sleuth out a mystery shopper, but is that really something you want the person answering the phone to do?
If they are wrong and it is a real prospect who has an immediate need, what would that decision cost you and how many times a year will that happen?
There is this huge, constant dichotomy in the senior living industry. Occupancy is currently around 90% and improving slightly each quarter, yet everyone is constantly worried about and struggling to keep, maintain and grow occupancy. Because we seem to be ok with current occupancy levels, there is a kind of complacency (or something) on the part of senior living providers that makes it ok for senior living sales folks to not return prospect calls.
Fixing the Problem
This is a tough problem to fix. Communities must remember that the goal is, no matter what time of day or night, every single inquiry will be handled just right. And that the phone will be answered within two to four rings. It is a problem that plagues both small senior living organizations and the really big ones.
You Can’t Be Best at Everything
I was recently talking about this issue with Doug Fullaway of RealPage, a Senior Housing Forum partner, and he said he consistently hears the same thing. Senior living communities just don’t have the internal resources to fix this problem at a reasonable cost. He made the point that more often than not senior living communities are willing to admit they would be better off outsourcing activities that are outside their core competencies.
This is one of the reasons they are seeing more and more companies—big and small—using the RealPage Contact Center as the first point of contact for sales inquiries. They have expert-trained senior housing specialists who support a community’s inbound marketing responsibilities, from answering calls and emails to scheduling site appointments and tours. As an extension of the community’s team, they share a common goal—to create a great first impression, answer questions with care and empathy and schedule visits.
Doug tells me RealPage is so good at this, that callers typically don’t realize the specialists are not actually onsite.
For these senior living communities, every single inbound call goes through the contact center, whether a marketing call, a vendor or something else. What they provide is a virtual front desk that is wide awake and sharp 24 hours every single day.
What’s It Cost?
I was recently asked to do a little consulting work for a small mom and pop assisted living organization. They wanted some help finding resources to improve their web presence and marketing footprint. We spent some time talking about how things are now and I asked about how phone inquiries get handled.
The answer was not pretty and they knew it. They have a general directive that if the phone rings more than five times whomever was closest to the phone should answer it. This means that sometimes someone who was not a native English speaker and has little ability to field a marketing inquiry could be a prospect’s first point of contact . . . ugh!
I suggested a call center might be the right solution for this company, but was not at all sure it would be cost effective for them. As soon as I left the meeting, I reached out to Doug to see if I had sent this company down a rabbit hole. It turns out I hadn’t. It is surprisingly affordable and they are currently in discussions about making this work.