You just gathered up the last of your resident surveys. You have reviewed the results and met with your managers to discuss them. Now what?

By Susan Saldibar

You just gathered up the last of your resident surveys. You have reviewed the results and met with your managers to discuss them. Now what?

How you answer that question, according to Michael Johnson, Vice President of Research at ServiceTrac, a Senior Housing Forum partner, could make or break your survey follow up. “A survey is not a goal in and of itself,” he explains. “It is the beginning of an important process. Your survey results need to be transformed from a set of responses into a meaningful action plan.”

Most managers, however, don’t take the time or make the effort. Slammed with other pressing issues, they simply lack the time to dig deeper into the survey results, let alone follow up and create that action plan.

Without an action plan, community residents will feel that their input isn’t valued. That, according to Michael, is actually worse than not conducting a survey at all.

Integrated Steps

We sat down with Michael and asked him to share his thoughts about the most effective ways to conduct post-survey follow up. He recommends the following three integrated steps:

  1. Review and organize the survey results

    The first step is to sit down and review the survey responses with key members of your team. It may be wise to include an objective third party professional who regularly works with surveys in order to successfully identify areas of strength and weaknesses.

    It is common for managers to interpret the results subjectively, which may or may not be accurate and could hinder follow up. “Survey comments made by residents are often confusing and can be interpreted in several ways,” says Michael. “It’s easy for those who are not trained in the process to jump to conclusions when reviewing the responses,” he adds.

    You can also make note of any responses that still require clarification to help you decide which areas you want to probe more deeply during your follow up discussion session with residents.  

  2. Dive into your results and prepare for surprises

    Next, get your team together as soon as possible after you’ve collected the results. Dig in and review them carefully. Be as objective as possible. You may be surprised, or even confused by some of the responses.

    “Survey comments made by residents are often misleading and can be interpreted in several ways,” he explains. “It’s easy for those who are not trained in the process to jump to conclusions when reviewing the responses,” he adds. To that end, Michael recommends that you consider bringing in someone who is objective; preferably an expert in conducting and analyzing surveys.

    From here, organize your results and make note of those responses that have everyone scratching their heads. You will want to clear them up with your residents. 

  3. Conduct a follow up resident discussion group 

    Once you have conducted a thorough review of your survey results, it is smart to hold a Listening Group. Listening Groups are like focus groups, and they are a key success factor that ServiceTrac values. Listening Groups are a great way to get answers to questions you may have come up with while reviewing your survey results, plus they are an opportunity to gain even more knowledge and feedback from your residents.

      • Bring in a professional to help – “Having an unbiased expert by your side to conduct these sessions encourages free discussion,” says Michael. “It also sends a message to your residents that you care enough to bring in professionals,” he adds.
      • Create an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect. – Conduct your follow up session in an environment that is as stress-free and as neutral as possible. Residents will feel more relaxed and willing to participate.

        Before ServiceTrac engages in a Listening Group session, their expert team will often sit down and have lunch with members in the comfort of the members’ own dining room. The goal is to quickly remove barriers and encourage free conversation, which is important to the process.

      • Ask questions which encourage discussion. – The way a question is posed can make a big difference in the response. Take, for example, a comment made about a particular manager, such as “I don’t have a relationship with the manager.” What does that mean? Is that because the manager is cold and callous or because the resident is new and has never met the manager? It may relate to that individual, or it may not; it could be part of a larger issue. Michael added, “This is an opportunity to learn what the residents’ true expectations are. In this case, we might write on the white board, ‘What makes a good manager?’ and jot down the responses. It helps us get to the heart of what the members are thinking and we gain valuable insight during the process.”


Create an action plan where all points of your survey and follow up come together. Your plan should be complete with measurable steps and milestones. It helps to regularly review the progress of your plan and allow additional input from residents and staff, when applicable.

You can post public parts of your action plan where everyone can see it. As you reach milestones and achieve goals, consider holding small celebrations with the team and your residents.

The real value extends beyond the survey

Diligently following up on your survey demonstrates your level of commitment to your community. Michael notes, “A significant benefit of conducting surveys and follow up is the sense of belonging that spreads across the resident community. Studies have shown that, regardless of age, we need to have a sense of purpose. Surveyed residents leave the process feeling that their voices are being heard and their input is taken seriously.”

The net effect? A more vibrant and engaged community.

Now that we’ve answered the “Now what?” question, the only one left for you to answer is “When do I start?”