By Steve Moran

At the SMASH 2023 conference, Jamison Gosselin moderated a panel of individuals who shopped for senior living communities for a parent and moved them in. It was one of the best panels I have ever seen. Their buyer’s journey stories were nearly identical in one really significant way.

They all started the process by doing a Google search using these ubiquitous terms:

Senior living near me

Assisted living near me

They explored the reviews, and that determined which communities to tour. It was that simple. Scary that all the other stuff those communities did to market the community had zero impact. None of them could ever remember seeing a digital add or traditional print ads. Though one guy who is a daily newspaper reader said he thought he could remember seeing some ads about some new communities opening.

Reviews Best Practices

Not all, but most communities are doing a pretty good job of asking for and responding to reviews, good and bad. This has become table stakes. And I would add that in doing some research, I am still seeing communities with crummy ratings and no response to bad reviews.

Even Better

First, I am not so sure that responding to positive reviews actually has much value with respect to how consumers view your reviews — at least as it is done today. “Thank you for the 5-star review” really adds nothing to the conversation.

But what if, after you received a 5-star review, you responded with a story. Maybe like this …

You made our day with that review. I just have to share a story that just happened last week. Bruce (not his real name) DID NOT want to move into our community. But within two weeks he found a new love of his life, and his family tells me they have not seen him this happy in years.

And of course, every response would have to be a different true story. But how hard can that be?

And if you get a bad review:

It breaks my heart to hear you had this kind of experience with our staff. Our goal is to make every family experience like the one Bruce’s (not his real name) family had. They had to do something. He was not doing well, and he did not want to move into senior living. The family really struggled with what to do, but finally they got him to move in. He was not happy.

Then, after four weeks, it was like he was a new man, and the family was so glad they made the move.

Would you be willing to give me a call to see if there is any way we can create a Bruce experience for your family?

Rather than writing perfunctory responses, how about using those reviews as an opportunity to tell success stories? It is often team members who write bad reviews. No problem — tell the story of someone who loves working in your community. … You do have those, right?

The world is not what it once was. Rather than try to force customers to accommodate the way we do things, we have this powerful opportunity to transform the world of senior living doing it differently.