Two weeks ago I talked about the wrong type of wow. This week, the right kind of wow. The question is, does every single community need a wow factor? I would answer yes. Even if you have a brand new, state of the art building, without something to dazzle a prospect it is possible that person will walk away unimpressed. Families might visit four or five facilities in a day. As they digest their observations and make their decision, when they think about your building and think or say, “The one place that.  .  .”, how will they fill in the blank about your building?

Today I want to specifically address the question: What you do if you have a very ordinary building, or even a building that has some real functional defects, and you need to either improve your census or your payor mix?  There are many who would think there is no real solution, this is not true. Here are some practical suggestions:

– You need to make sure everything is operating at it’s very best given the physical / functional limitations you are stuck with. I am talking about things like making sure there are no negative smells; the floors are clean and polished; trash cans are empty; your staff looks sharp, meaning they dress well; that your staff is friendly to guests and residents.

– You cannot do just one thing, then not pay attention to anything else. It is common for a community to be attracted to a great idea, implement it and still gain no benefits.

– Once you have implemented your WOW factor you need to let people, staff, residents and visitors, know and track the effectiveness. Put up posters and have pizza parties to mark milestones.

– Make your lobby cool and inviting. There is an electronics company that has two huge salt water aquariums in the main lobby. These are almost big enough to be found in the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Aviaries are both attractive and soothing.

– Have fresh baked cookies or bread in the lobby, with the baking done in the lobby so the smells permeates the senses when a visitor arrives.

– Create a model room that helps people know what they can do for their family member to recreate a home atmosphere and what you are willing to help them do.

– Serve great meals and invite the family members to participate. This can be huge in a skilled nursing facility where the reputation is for mediocre to terrible food. Present the food well. Look for trays or plates are are unique or fun, not just functional.

– Finally, and this is the single most effective thing you can do. Care about the prospective resident; make the families fears and concerns your concern. I have toured hundreds of senior living communities and in almost every case, the tour is about features and amenities which is helpful but not really the most important thing. If I am a family member even though I will never express it, what I am really wondering is if you will care, if you will love and cherish my mom.

A hundred times more important than a facility tour and pointing out all the great things about your community is sitting down with the family or the prospect and finding out about or getting to know the prospective resident. Find out who they are, what they have done, what they struggle with, what their personality is like (or in some cases, was like). Let the family know that you will care for and love their family member.

If you have come across other great WOW ideas I would be interested in hearing about them.  If I get enough I will publish that list at a later date.

Steve Moran