By Steve Moran
If you care about occupancy and quality (and who doesn’t, right?) this article is for you.
Never in the history of business have consumer reviews been more important to success. Before purchasing anything from toilet paper, toothpaste, cars, or legal services people start with consumer reviews.
They don’t trust businesses, but they do trust customers. This has never been truer for senior living.
Caring.com has more consumer reviews than any other review site on the internet. And in an effort to celebrate the best of the best, in 2012, Caring.com (a Foresight partner) launched “Caring Stars”. It celebrates the best of the best based on consumer reviews.
This is crazy important to you because it drives inquiries and move-ins. It also supports recruiting and retention and generates positive media coverage as well as social media content for sales and marketing.
More Than That
In 2019 and 2020 top-rated Caring Star partner communities on average attracted twice as many new resident inquiries and three times as many move-ins as those that did not win an award.
In 2021, 156 senior living communities across 37 states achieved this honor based on praise from their customers, and Holiday Retirement was #1 in the nation, with the most awarded communities.
The Big Question
Do you have the reviews you need to be a Caring Star of 2022?
The deadline for consideration is October 15, 2021, and this summer Caring has been doing a series of educational webinars to help senior living communities get and respond to reviews allowing them to be eligible for the award.
This may surprise you, but every single community listed on the Caring.com website (which is almost every professional community in the country) qualifies, even if they are not contracted with Caring.com. In fact, you don’t even have to apply. Communities are identified for the award through the consumer reviews on their Caring.com listings.
Things You Can Do
While Caring does not publish the exact award criteria in advance, there are things you can do to ensure that you have the reviews you need to be a Caring Star.
In June of 2021 Caring hosted a webinar that was focused on helping every community be a Caring Star, which is a cool and crazy idea where Denise Graab, director of industry marketing, offered specific advice about what needs to be done. You can also take a look at last year’s criteria here.
Here are the major considerations (based on last year’s criteria):
- 10 or more great customer reviews, with at least three published since October 15, 2020, and one published in 2021
- At least one 5-star review since October 15, 2020, and at least 1 new review since January 1, 2021
- An overall average rating of 4.5 stars or higher across all reviews on your listing
- Published responses for all 1- or 2-star reviews
Negative reviews are a reality of life. But there are things you can do. The most important is to respond to them. In order to qualify for the Caring Stars award, you need to have addressed every single 1-star or 2-star review that was posted before the deadline. And, I am sure you know this, but private communication does not count. It has to be addressed in public.
In the June 2021 webinar, Denise shares a bunch of additional tips and best practices for responding to consumer reviews, including real-life examples. She advises communities to avoid replying emotionally . . . “Imagine your response posted on a highway billboard or TV advertisement.”
If a review contains factual errors, you can contest it by notifying Caring.com of the specific fact-based errors in the review’s content. For example, if someone says your community serves meatloaf every day and it doesn’t, that can be contested. Negative opinions within guidelines, however—like “they serve terrible food”—will not be removed, even if you disagree with them.
Tips for Getting More Reviews Fast
The best way to have enough great reviews in time for the award deadline is to work on getting them throughout the year. Caring vets every review, and some review submission options, like reviews-by-phone, can take weeks before they’re published. So, avoid waiting until the last minute to ask your customers to review you on Caring.com. Start outreaching to happy residents and their family members ASAP if you haven’t already.
In the webinar, Denise shares in-depth information on how to get valid consumer reviews published on your Caring.com listing. She covers the various options for consumers, including online submissions that are processed within 3 business days, and phone reviews, which tend to have high-quality feedback but can take a few weeks to be processed.
Every listing on Caring.com has its own unique “write a review” link you can share with your residents and their family members. Put it in your email footers, newsletters, social media — wherever you reach out. This is an excellent option for those who have an email address and are comfortable online. The review call-in line is a better option for those who are not comfortable with other forms of technology.
It’s important to note that employee reviews don’t count — even if the employees are posting on behalf of residents. Caring requires the consumer to submit their content directly to the website, either online or by phone. And for Caring Stars determination: all reviews on finalist listings are audited, with any found to be suspect or outside guidelines removed through this quality assurance measure.
What Happens After October 15?
Once the deadline passes, continue to monitor your listing, rapidly responding to any new 1- or 2-star reviews.
The Caring Stars of 2022 will be announced and celebrated in November, with advance notification to recognized communities giving them time to maximize their marketing opportunity.
Every Caring Star gets several versions of the award badge, a press release template, a meme for social networks, and a printed certificate. Plus, they get a widget for their website that shows off that they are among the best in their state and includes a “read our reviews” link, so people can see right away how much your clients love your community.
If you’re serious about winning a Caring Stars award — or about optimizing reviews year-round — you’ll want to watch the full webinar, “Senior Living Reviews: How to Optimize Your Online Reputation.” Visit the Digital Marketing Academy archive for June 2021, or access the slides and recording here now.
Caring’s reviews team can also be reached via [email protected] or (650) 762-8190 for support getting and responding to reviews, and to learn more about Caring Stars.