. . . then they disappeared. The stage went dark. Now they don’t return your calls.

By Kent Mulkey, VP of Customer Experience Keystone Senior Living

You nailed it. Your initial visit with the prospect and her family went very well. They loved visiting your community. They raved about the food. Your community was just what they wanted. The connection you had with them was authentic and engaging.

Then they disappeared. The stage went dark. Now they don’t return your calls.

What went wrong?

Probably nothing. Let me explain. I travel by air about 15,000 miles a month. It’s become routine: print a boarding pass, check my bag, take the train to the concourse, check the monitor for the correct gate, wait in the A 1-15 line (yes!), board the plane, sit back, relax and munch on some peanuts.

Then there was last week’s flight to Baltimore. I walked to Gate 43, waited in line, boarding pass in hand. On the PA system, I heard my name being called to come to another gate. It couldn’t have been me! When I handed my boarding pass to the gate attendant, an alarm sounded alerting the entire airport that I am an idiot and was in fact at the wrong gate. 

I fell victim to the pull of irrational behavior (see the book by Ori and Rom Brafman, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior). I was 100% committed to getting to Baltimore, my way. But I missed one key step, one I was not conscious of – I didn’t match the flight number with the gate number and the departure time. I ignored the facts.

When They Vanish

Here’s what happens with the prospect that vanishes: Family members get mom to (reluctantly) visit your community that makes everyone feel better and a bit relieved. It feels like they did “something” when in fact they did little to nothing. The pull of irrational behavior kicks in, and they decide to keep mom at home. What?

It gets ridiculous: the cost for mom to live in your community would be about $7.00/hour on a 24-hour basis (cheap!). To keep mom at home with just eight hours of outside care and services, food costs, utilities, insurance, yard upkeep, etc. will cost about $15.00/hour, or close to $15,000 more per year (not cheap!). No brainer, right? But, even when looking the facts straight in the eye (rationality), people appear to go sideways, acting irrationally, often displayed as loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid potential losses, such as their home, independence, dignity, car, a garden, etc.).

I have witnessed dozens of people appear again out of left field, move mom into our community and begin to experience a wonderfully elevated life. The pain of staying the same became greater than the pain of taking the tough steps to change.

Take this as a fresh reminder that you don’t control the process of how and when people change. And no, they are not under the spell of reptilian aliens. Keep your head about you. In time, most of them will too.