Because of senior living’s fundamental inferiority complex, we think we are worse than other sectors. I actually think we are better.

By Steve Moran

I continue to be particularly fascinated by the question of why senior living cultures are not better than they are. In some sense this is too narrow in that while we have tremendous knowledge about the characteristics of great leaders and great cultures, most leaders and most cultures are missing the mark.

I would argue that because of senior living’s fundamental inferiority complex, we think we are worse than other sectors. I actually think we are better.

Being Serious About Culture

A few weeks ago I had the chance to spend some time at the Benchmark Living offices in the Boston area and did a couple of short interviews with Tom Grape, the founder and CEO, and Veronica Barber, their Senior VP of Human Capital. Benchmark is one of those senior living companies that is super serious about culture. They invest a lot of money and people resources in it. Here is one of the cool things they are doing:

The Service Promise

They have created what they call the Benchmark Service promise, which is their version of a customer service standard on steroids. It is the promise they make to everyone they serve: residents, family members, and team members. Here is that promise and it is huge:

“That we will live our mission fully. We will move down the pathway of our vision and it’s the framework for how we do it when we live and breathe our values day in and day out, the values of the things we believe in and our belief system and the behavior somewhat, but service promises or what it looks like when it comes to life. And it’s the commitment that we make.”

What they are really talking about is going beyond the basics. Everyone expects their food to be served on time and for it to be the right temperature and that it tastes good. Doing all that really only gets you to the starting line. That is already what they are paid to do.

This is about taking everything they do to a higher level and that is all about how they relate to people, again the team, residents, family members, and even vendors.

In some sense, these service promises are softer promises or at least fuzzier promises but likely more important than the basics. It means . . . 

  • Being present in every conversation

  • Thinking about how human interactions make the other person feel

  • When interaction needs a response that response will happen and, will happen in 24 hours or less

  • Getting to know as much as possible about the other person as a person

  • Getting to the point of anticipating the other person’s needs

At the end of the day, it is really about having an interaction with a Benchmark WOW experience.

Getting There

Getting there means creating a very different learning experience. Having conversations and not classroom lectures. It is about teaching what these wow moments actually feel like. It is experiential, it is watching and emulating.

You watch the entire video here: