By Joanne Kaldy

You shine bright in the senior living world. You know it, your residents know it, but do your reviews reflect your rock star status and bring prospects to your door? They can and should.

“Online reviews are the new drive-by. Boomers and their families are perusing your online reputation first before they check out your brick and mortar,” said Denise Graab, Director of Industry Marketing at (a Senior Living Foresight partner).

She discussed this topic in a recent webinar about building business success through customer feedback. And, she ought to know: has been a leader in senior living reviews online for nearly a decade and Denise is one of the original leaders who helped to create Caring’s program and co-manages it to this day.

During her educational webinar, though, Denise didn’t limit the insights she shared to Caring only – she also discussed some important facts from search marketing firm, BrightLocal, including: 

  • 71% of U.S. adults aged 55 and over are now reading online reviews of local businesses
  • 52% won’t use a business that has fewer than four stars
  • These consumers read an average of seven reviews before they believe that they can trust a business
  • 70% access multiple websites to find and read reviews before selecting a local business

Across all age groups, 8 in 10 consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. “This is powerful data and another reason online reviews should be part of your marketing strategy,” Denise said.

Turn Interest Into Action

Of course, reviews don’t just create interest. They drive action. According to national data, Denise explained, the top actions after reading a review are: visiting the business’s website, searching for more reviews, visiting the actual business location, continuing searches to compare with other organizations’ reviews, and contacting the organization.

Over the years, Denise has studied the influence that online reviews can have for senior living communities, and the data is impressive. For instance, she said, senior living listings with 15 or more reviews outperform listings with one or two reviews. In one study Caring did, the operator averaged five times more leads, seven times more tours, and eight times more move-ins for their communities with 15+ reviews compared to those within only 1-2. And Caring has replicated this study for others with even greater outcomes for listings hosting more than 15 reviews.

Caring Stars Shine Brightest

“Another outcome from focusing on reviews is achieving awards for service excellence,” Denise said. Among the most prestigious of these is the annual Caring Stars award, which was the first of its kind in our industry when it was started in 2012 for assisted living and memory care. Now available to any senior living community or skilled nursing facility listed on Caring, it is the senior living industry’s gold standard with a high bar for qualification.

“Caring Stars award recipients are those communities receiving a high volume of praise and taking the time to respond to any negative feedback,” Denise said. While a community doesn’t have to be a partner to be a Caring Star, partners who meet the rigorous criteria to earn the award have averaged twice as many inquiries and move-ins.

Use the Sparkle to Shine

The benefits of the Caring Stars award are broad and lasting. The award creates buzz in the press and on social media platforms, and winners get a variety of tools and materials they can use in marketing year-round. “We’ve seen all sorts of great and innovative uses of the award in promotional efforts. It’s really a wonderful way to showcase the quality of your services,” Denise said.

To be a Caring Star and enjoy all of the benefits and accolades that go with it, Denise noted, you need to start by building a culture that seeks online feedback, regularly achieve 5-star reviews, and closely monitor the reviews you get to respond to any negative feedback that arises.

To build up your online reputation, she suggested your organization:

  • Engage and excite staff throughout the company. If you have multiple properties: You could set up friendly internal competitions and/or offer staff rewards for getting great customer reviews. Ensure that everyone in the organization understands the importance of customer feedback.
  • Build the review ‘ask’ into your standard operating procedures. Ask resident family members who love your community to leave reviews. Don’t forget to take advantage of the “honeymoon period” when people are still excited and energized.
  • Be ready to seize complimentary opportunities. Have an “elevator pitch” or response email ready to ask for online reviews when your residents and their family members share how much they enjoy and appreciate your community’s services.

Five Steps to Five Stars

With your feedback culture in place and everyone on board, Denise said, take the “five steps to five stars”:

  1. Identify happy customers who have an email address.
  2. Send outreach to that list with a review submission link included in the message (Denise’s webinar even has a sample outreach note you can use to get started).
  3. In your outreach, be sure to ask seniors and families to help others “like them” who are making senior living decisions and raise awareness about high-quality service. “This is an effective motivator for online senior care reviews,” Denise noted.
  4. Add “Review us on” to your website and email signature.
  5. Share positive reviews on social media! “The more you share positive feedback, the more you generate. The crowd attracts the crowd,” she said.

Now for the Hard Part

Getting reviews is great! But don’t forget that the work doesn’t stop when they come in; you need to respond to them. In fact, BrightLocal reports that 97% of U.S. consumers are reading review responses. And 71% say the business response can influence whether they choose that local business. On, 34% of senior living searchers say the review responses let them know the community is listening to and cares about customer feedback. A Harvard Business Review study even found that responding to reviews can also boost your community’s ratings.

Whether reviews are positive or negative, there is an opportunity for your community to make a positive impression on your future customers. With positive reviews, take the time to thank the reviewer, reinforce the compliment, promote the review, and celebrate the feedback with your staff.

While responding to positive reviews is optional, responding to negative reviews is imperative – they should not be ignored. For instance, Denise noted, “If you don’t respond to 1- or 2-star negative reviews on your listing, you will get automatically disqualified from Caring Stars consideration.”

Best Practices for Negative Reviews

So how do you respond to the negative review? Denise offered some tips and best practices:

  • Keep your tone and message calm and polite. Show you are open to feedback and can be gracious and grateful for their feedback.
  • Remember that you are speaking more to prospective residents and their family members. While the reviewer may have made up his or her mind, you can still persuade others, possibly even more so than the negative review itself, depending on how well you respond.
  • Show that you are an excellent communicator and that you can handle challenges with grace and professionalism.
  • Don’t be argumentative; demonstrate that you are service-oriented.
  • Don’t reveal any private information that is not in the review.
  • Avoid templated responses – online consumers nowadays are too savvy for that approach and definitely notice when you’re posting the same response to every negative review.
  • Get more positive reviews to push down the negative reviews and balance out the feedback! Is Here to Help

Don’t forget that you aren’t alone in your efforts. is here to help. If you are a partner, you will get a “New Review Alert” sent via email instantly after a review is published, and you can use convenient, automated “Take Action Now” links to request removal or publish a public response, in addition to free access to Caring’s reviews-by-phone and reviews-by-postcard services. If you aren’t yet a Caring partner or need additional help, email [email protected] to request removal or publish a public response (and to find out how to get more reviews).

Visit Caring’s blog to learn more about the reviews program and how to be a Caring Star:

Or contact Caring’s reviews team directly to discuss your online reputation: [email protected] or 650-762-8190.