Usually when I show up unannounced for a tour, by the time I am done with the tour I know whether or not I am going to name the community . . . this time, it wasn’t so clear.

By Steve Moran

Usually when I show up unannounced for a tour, by the time I am done with the tour I know whether or not I am going to name the community.  

Because it has been a while since I published a tour article
I want to remind everyone that I have a policy of only naming
the specific community when the tour is great. The intent is to
see these as teachable moments, not as “gotcha” journalism.  

I was out doing some other stuff and happened to be driving right by a senior living community that I had watched being built and had even visited during the construction phase hoping to sell them a Vigil Health Solutions, emergency call system (Vigil is a Senior Housing Forum Partner).   

To give some context, it was about 3:00 in the afternoon. It was 100 degrees outside. Things were moving slowing inside and outside the community.

I walked in the door and there was just one resident sitting in the lobby. The front desk person was quick to notice me and ask how she could help me. I was a little oblique, only asking if I could have a tour. She assumed I was a prospect and handed me a form to fill out, saying she would get someone to show me around.

The form itself was impressive because of the amount of information they were requesting from someone with whom they had no relationship. It is braver than I think I would have been, but it seems to work for them.

Not What I Seemed

When she handed me the form, something I didn’t want to fill out, I handed her my card and explained that I wrote for the industry, had visited before the community was open and just wanted a quick look around. She took my card and asked me to wait while she went to a back office to get some guidance.   

She came back soon, saying she would give my card to the marketing director who would call me to set another time for me to visit.

I Pressed

I asked if there was really no one who could give me tour. She hesitated and then told me she could not leave the front desk area, but would be glad to show me around the common areas. From that point on, she did an amazing job telling me about the community and showing me around the common areas.

My Dilemma

My dilemma is this. The front desk person did a great job all the way through. She stepped up to make the very best of a not-so-super situation. I would also acknowledge that it was entirely possible there was a meeting going on that was so critical there really was no one able to show me around or talk to me . . . except that based on her initial reaction, if I had been a real prospect, someone would have given me the full tour.

So I continue to find myself baffled that so often the marketing culture of a community is that only immediate prospects matter. It is perhaps even more baffling that when someone shows up implying they are going write about your community, you would leave it up to the front desk person to tell your story.

I would also note that every time I have gone to a community where I had a great experience there were two common traits:

  1. The community was full or essentially full.

  2. I was treated as if I was the path to the very next move-in.

At least this time, the front desk person did them good. And, who knows, maybe she did a better job than someone higher up the pecking order would have. It would not be the first time that happened.