By Steve Moran
In April, Senior Housing News published an interview (transcribed from a podcast) with the CEO of A Place for Mom, Larry Kutscher, highlighting some of the changes that APFM is making in the company. The entire interview can be read here. “As we are now halfway through 2022,” Kutscher said, “the company is now completely different.”
So, I went to work to see just how much APFM had changed. I have talked with dozens of senior living sales professionals from around the country, both large operators and sole proprietor properties, and a number of executive directors to get their perspective on the changes that have allegedly been made.
In short, not much.
Here are five areas where APFM has it wrong.
1. Claim: Advisors are focused on move-ins, not leads.
According to the APFM terms of service:
We provide only an information service and do not (1) place the consumer in any Participating Community, (2) perform any medical assessment of or for the consumer of the Participating Community, or (3) participate in the consumer’s and Participating Community’s decision regarding final selection or admittance.
Sales counselors tell me that APFM primarily focuses on the quantity of leads and the number of tours they schedule. They also report that APFM advisors provide no real help in moving people into the community. In fact, a huge complaint is that the leads that ARE sent to communities are often not qualified (primarily due to budget constraints) to even move to the community to which they have been referred!
A large, independent assisted and memory care community in a major market reported that from 2010 to 2014, when they contracted with APFM, their average move-in ratio was one move-in for every 19 leads. From 2015 to 2020, when the community chose not to work with APFM, the average move-in ratio was one move-in for every 13 leads. The implication is clear — they had fewer leads that came to them, at a higher quality, which gave them more time to develop relationships of trust to make for a smoother and often faster move-in for the prospect. And occupancy grew and remained stable.
2. Claim: Sales counselors appreciate the help they get from APFM.
I have not yet met a sales counselor at a community who enjoys collaborating with advisors from APFM. If you are out there, please let me know. An opposite article may need to be written.
One area where APFM advisors can improve is in the scheduling of tours. It has certainly never made sense to me that advisors scheduled tours for sales counselors without arranging them beforehand with the community. Of course, then there is the problem of prospects not showing up for the tour, which happens far too often, and clogs up the pipeline in the CRM.
3. Claim: Prospects and families love the help they get from APFM.
Consider the following scenario: The daughter of a potential resident does an internet search for senior living and comes across APFM. She fills out the form and presses send. Within minutes, she will be called by an APFM advisor who will let her know that, based on her mom’s needs, her budget, and the capabilities of a few communities, her information will be sent to a select few communities. In fact, this poor lady’s information will be sent to at least a dozen or more communities.
Then, the family member decides she is going to call a local referral agency, one her neighbor’s friend owns. Well, she is out of luck, as APFM now “owns” all the leads at communities that she may be interested in looking at. She can’t work with the local referral agency owned by her neighbor’s friend. Certainly, this does not make for a happy customer. Do families really have a right to choose the referral agency of their choice at any time?
Check out the National Placement and Referral Alliance, a professional collaboration of agencies working to ensure adherence to very clear values and ethics in the senior placement arena. NPRA is working on legislation in several states to defend a family’s right to decide on an agency of their choice, among other issues surrounding the placement and referral industry.
4. Claim: Hospitality and senior housing are fundamentally the same.
“[Hospitality] and senior living are fundamentally the same, right? You have a room that somebody lives in for some period of time that an operator is renting out. And then you need to get the word out, you know that this is the right place to go and help them make a decision to go there.”
—Kutscher, from Senior Housing News interview
Did I miss something? In reality, senior housing and hospitality are worlds apart. Renting a hotel room for the night is a simple transaction that takes about 10 minutes to arrange.
Senior living is the biggest decision a senior will make in their life, moving from their home of 30 to 40 years and completely changing their lifestyle. This decision often takes months to work through.
5. Claim: APFM honors the prospect’s timeline, even if it takes more than two years to move.
Sure, occasionally it does take a prospect over two years to move in, but we are smart to follow that person and never give up on them. Here is the rub — APFM puts intense pressure on the family and the sales counselor to decide to move NOW. Sales counselors tell me they feel badgered, pressured, and even berated for not doing more to move someone to the community ASAP.
Isn’t it enough of an interruption to have 12 to 15 communities calling a prospect, in many cases a senior adult, when the APFM advisor is also calling, scheduling tours, and asking for a decision? Enough is enough!