By Jack Cumming

We’ll start with kudos. Kudos to the many senior living executive directors who provide some of the best customer service that anyone can encounter anywhere. That’s right. The senior living industry is very good at customer service… most of the time. It starts with a friendly, welcoming front desk, but with that in place, there’s so much to be proud of.

Doing Service Right

Where else can you call a business for help or information and talk to the manager right from the beginning? For sure, you won’t find that if your call is deflected to an offshore call center. Much praise to the senior living industry. Almost always, you get it right.

Without exception, executive directors with whom I’ve spoken, speak regularly of how much time every day, most days, they spend on the phone with concerned family members of residents. Executive directors simply think it’s part of the job. Give yourselves credit. Chalk one up for senior living. Kudos before gripes, though we can learn from others’ deceptions.

My candidate for a Bronx cheer won’t surprise you. For those who don’t give Bronx cheers, a quick search returned the following: “a sound of derision or contempt made by blowing through closed lips with the tongue between them; a raspberry.” The “raspberry” goes to… drumroll, please… Charter Communications dba Spectrum. It’s the pits.

How Bad Can It Get?

Not long ago, I got a snail mail pitch offering 100 mbps internet for $29.99 a month. Since that was $20 less than the usual price, I wanted to accept. That’s when this rant begins. Believe it or not, you can’t accept this offer online. You have to find time to phone Spectrum to ask for it. I set aside a block of time, and I tried that call.

Have you ever tried to call a cable company? Immediately, a robot voice was asking why I was calling. Just a quick, “Yes, I accept your offer,” was not an option. I spent a couple of minutes working my way through the phone tree without success. I then ran out of time, so I hung up, thinking I’d have to set aside more time later. Or, just forego the offer.

After putting off the dreaded call for several days, I tried again. Not easy, but I was able to place an order. There was a gauntlet of attempts to upsell. Message: all we at Charter/Spectrum care about is us; we don’t give a hoot about you. Finally, I placed the order for what was offered in their mailing.

Simple Business Lessons

What can senior living, or any business for that matter, learn from this annoying experience? There are many maxims to which wise business people adhere. At least two of them are relevant.

The first rule of business is to reduce barriers to customer acquisition and retention. No one can have a business without a customer and, preferably, lots of them. A successful business gives people a reason to seek out the business and, then, makes it as easy as possible for them to become customers.

The second rule of business is similar. The rule is that happy customers are a business’s best and most credible advertising. For senior living, customers are residents or care recipients. If they’re happy, their family members will be happy. Reputation ripples outward to provide happy occupancy results.

Mislead and Manipulate?

Have those principles in mind, as the saga of Charter/Spectrum continues to provide lessons in how to destroy any hope for a positive buzz. The next day, a big box brought equipment and installation instructions. They included a Wi-Fi modem for an extra undisclosed charge of $5.00 a month. I have a Wi-Fi router. I didn’t ask for that. It was never mentioned on the call. I didn’t order their Wi-Fi. Visions of cable cutting danced in my head.

Then, I found out about the additional undisclosed $24.95 “activation” charge. The sales brochure omitted that. It was completely misleading and was evidently designed to be such. I thought that Charter/Spectrum must be a company led by people with weak moral compasses. Some executives put legal compliance and corporate profit before ethics and fair dealing. They’re so wrapped up in corporate politics that they show disdain for customers.

Let’s Put Trust and Service First

You get the idea. A trip to the Spectrum “store” to return the unwanted, unordered equipment ensued. It was equally unpleasant. The Spectrum employees seemed to be so demoralized that they were sullen. It was an enormous time sink. Waiting and waiting for a simple return transaction gave me time to reflect on how much better senior living is than cable. When senior living does customer service right, there’s no upper limit to what senior living can become.

Cable companies are dreadful and greedy. You know it. I know it. They know it. They’ll never admit it. End of story.

Let’s not let senior living ever become like cable. We can do much better. Everyone will prosper with senior living as a trusted, resident-responsive industry.