We count on reviews to get to the ‘good, bad and ugly’ on just about every company and product we interact with. Adult children of seniors are no different when searching for senior living communities.

By Susan Saldibar

When was the last time you made a major purchase without reading any online reviews? Probably a long time ago, right? We count on reviews to get to the ‘good, bad and ugly’ on just about every company and product we interact with. Adult children of seniors are no different when searching for senior living communities. In fact, they are even more attentive to reviews.

Three Thing You Need To Be Doing

So there are three things you need to be doing for your community:

  1. Know what the major industry and non-industry specific review sites are

  2. Encourage your residents and families to post reviews

  3. Monitor and manage what is being said about your community

I caught up with Jason McCloud, VP of Digital Marketing for Sage Age, a Senior Housing Partner, who helps senior living communities understand review sites and use them effectively. “People will actually ignore sites that don’t have reviews, as well as those with poor reviews,” says Jason. “They come to the conclusion, wrong or right, that ‘no reviews’ is a negative,” he adds. But you know this. When you search for a service or product and you see one amidst others with zero reviews, the inclination is to skip over it and select one with positive reviews.

Generating positive reviews is not hard, but it takes time.  So, every month that your community continues to soft-pedal the influence and power of review sites, is a month you are gifting your competitors with inquires; inquiries that could have come your way, if only you had a few good reviews to share.

First, get to know the major players.

Here are the three major categories of review sites that you need to address:

Third party review sites:

    • Yelp: It is the premier “crowd sourced” review site. You see them almost anytime you look up a product or service. You’ll know them by their star rating system.  It’s easy for just about anyone to rate just about anyone. It’s important to check in with Yelp often. There may be some surprises out there.

    • Google+: Originally intended as a competitor to Facebook with a business edge to it, Google+ is now important for a different reason: it feeds the Google search engine. If you don’t already have a presence on Google+ you need to establish one.

    • Glassdoor: Yes, employees are rating the companies they work for! This site allows them to “tell it like it is” about their employers; and they do! It’s a good idea to check this site regularly and make sure you are responsive to employee complaints. A good rating here will help your recruitment and inquiry efforts.

Aggregator review sites:

    • Caring.com: Caring.com is a huge influence in senior living and they take their well-earned reputation seriously. They have a strict set of guidelines for posting reviews and they police their review section carefully.

    • SeniorAdvisor.com: The review site created by A Place for Mom, this is another premier “go to” site for families seeking advice and reviews. Like Caring.com, they are careful to weed out bogus reviews, good or bad.

Provider-generated/aggregated review sites (Feefo, other services):

    • Feefo: Feefo is a global reviews site which, for a nominal fee, will query your residents and families for you. You provide them with a list, they do the rest. Sites like Feefo can help take the burden of asking clients for a review off your back. Better yet, Feefo’s star ratings are indexed by Google!  This can bring a huge lift in SEO and search engine results visibility. And that means increased traffic and inquires.

But above all else…

It’s important, above all else, to keep tabs on your community and what is being said about you across all of these networks. “You probably don’t want your staff stopping to check the review sites every hour or so,” says Jason. He recommends you find a provider, such as Sage Age, with the technology and people power to, not only check your ratings, but assess them and provide the feedback to you and your team in a meaningful way.

Bottom line is that it’s time to get serious about reviews. And don’t be worried about a negative review or two. Studies show that sites with a few negatives mixed in actually build trust. Ironically, too many 5-star reviews without any negatives can give the impression that the results are rigged, or that the organization is somehow weeding out the negatives.  

“Keep in mind that when solicited, overall, people tend to be positive, rather than negative,” says Jason. “Chances are, if you’re doing a good job, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what your residents and their families say about your community.”