Senioradvisor.com and A Place For Mom up the consumer review game by including consumer reviews with their community recommendations. They are seeing some fascinating results.
SeniorAdvisor.com, while having the power of A Place for Mom behind them, is a bit like Senior Housing Forum in that we are both constantly forging new territory, figuring out how to do things better. For Senior Housing Forum it is all about creating better content, driving traffic and helping to support our blog partners’ great products and services. For SeniorAdvisor.com, they are all about giving the consumer (prospective residents and their families) useful information that can help site visitors find the right fit senior living option. In October they embarked on a new experiment designed to create more value for prospects.
At A Place for Mom (APFM) the old way of doing things was for an advisor to work with the prospective resident or, more frequently, their family to identify their specific needs and desires. With that information the APFM advisor would send, via email, snail mail or fax, a list of about 3-5 senior communities for them to visit. In October of 2013 they piloted a new approach. In 15% of the country they added a star rating and, more recently, reviews for each referred community. This experiment has recently been expanded to 50% of the country.
While the experiment is still in its early stages, here is what they are finding:
- Communities that have high ratings – These communities are getting more tours and have a higher conversion rate. The lesson here is huge: people trust consumer ratings more than they trust anyone else except family and friends. In the case of APFM it validates that the referrals made by APFM advisors are legitimate.
- Communities that have low ratings – The results are not a surprise. The communities with low ratings are seeing fewer tours and their conversion rate is lower. This is, in effect, a double whammy and further demonstrates the power of reviews. The big takeaway is that, if you have poor reviews you need to do something about it. Don’t just assume that no one reads them and, thus, it doesn’t matter. It very well could mean that there are people who are just plain looking someplace else and you will never know.
- Communities with no reviews and no ratings – This was the big surprise. The communities with no reviews and, therefore, no rating had tour rates very similar to those communities with low scores. As you might expect, when they did get tours their conversion rates were better than for those with low reviews.
- The big take away here is that putting some real effort into generating consumer reviews can mean additional filled units.
In case you are saying, “Doesn’t apply to me : I am not an APFM partner,” I would argue that this is a dangerous assumption. It is close to impossible to determine who didn’t come visit you, or rather who went to visit someone else because they did have great consumer reviews. If you have bad reviews or even no reviews, this should be scary. If you have great reviews, you should be ecstatic. Finally, whether you are an APFM partner or not, you can still manage your reviews at SeniorAdvisor.com for free. Perhaps the single best way to take advantage of the consumer review process is to have a printout of your great consumer reviews from SeniorAdvisor.com (or other review sites) to give to every prospect who walks through the door. Maybe an even cooler idea would be to have a video display in your lobby that includes your positive reviews. If you would like to take a look at what the customers are seeing click the download button below (a 1 page pdf) [ddownload id=5606] Steve Moran
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APFM piloted approach is fantastic! Word of mouth/feedback from a consumer is powerful and an invaluable source of information for future consumers, senior communities and the referral source! Consumers speak the truth… heck what do they have to lose about their initial impressions and experiences with senior communities!
I can assure you if one is seeking a product or service they are reading the reviews! Don’t ignore the responses whether positive or negative they should both be followed-up on. Think about it, what did we do right to warrant such a fabulous review?, How can we replicate this experience for each and every referral? Would you continue to refer a senior community that had multiple negative reviews? Positive reviews are an excellent marketing tool, that may very well, differentiate you from your competitors.
It is not surprising that positive reviews resulted in increased filling of units and referrals. This info could potentially afford the senior community with an marketing edge and place the senior community as a market place leader in their geographic area and/or affiliated communities.
The key to this piloted approach is paying very close attention and monitor “both” positive and negative reviews and following up with the consumer regarding their feedback. This feedback both positive and negative affords the senior community the opportunity to replicate the positive experience that will result in continued referrals and continued increases in census/units filled, an opportunity to improve and/or correct operational deficiencies, address personnel issues, processes, standards of practice, shortcomings, etc…
Steve – I think you raise some good points; however, I caution that correlation between good reviews not equate to causation for high tour rates and move-ins. Our community has been rated on senioradvisor for about 6 months, has 29reviews, and a 4 star rating. We are a large community and typically move-in between 1-4 APFM leads per month. I looked our amount of move-ins with APFM before and after senioradvisor.com was launched and there is no disernable difference between our APFM move rate or our overall move-in rate.
I do agree that going forward online reviews will be increasing important. Senioradvisor.com now shows organically on googles’ first page when you search for a most communities in our region, which is undoubtably powerful.
On quick sidebar for other “partners” of APFM. Has APFM tried to raise their commission rate from 70% to 85% effective January 2014 for your community? Have you ageed?
Great piece Steve.
I’m not surprised by these results. In fact, these results suggest that consumers of services in the Senior Living Industry behave exactly as those who use restaurants, auto mechanics and home renovators. The more reviews the better, the better the reviews, the better your prospects.
If you have reviews on third-party review sites like Senioradvisor.com or Retirementhomes.com you’ll incite something more powerful than word-of-mouth advertising, you’ll create WORLD-of-mouth, which, in turn, will generate hundreds of better qualified inquiries from real prospects.
Retirementhomes.com has enabled consumers to provide reviews of over 35,000 global communities for over two years and while the growth in the number of reviews has been tremendous since our site redesign in July, there is still a lot more work to be done to help the families who are seeking care for their loved ones. Accordingly, we have launched a free turnkey reviews toolkit designed to help any Senior Living community operator to generate more reviews in a safe and time-efficient manner. If you want to be part of the program, contact our Brand Manager Robert Walker (robert at retirementhomes dot com).
Absolutely. I would also add to Blair’s comment that all reviews, even negative ones, can, if handled properly, actually benefit the reviewed community. Online reviews open up the lines of communication with prospects, and are one of the most inexpensive and effective tools for boosting occupancy.
Our free turnkey reviews toolkit will help communities boost their leads- just e-mail me at robert at retirementhomes.com to order.
I have concerns with the star rating.
As a “partner” since the inception of APFM we have had only two “advisers” visit any of our multiple homes. How can they assign a rating when they do not visit the home.
Many of the referrals that we receive are not income nor care-needs qualified.
APFM has always told us that they do not make “recommendations”, but make information about a variety of properties available to seekers.
And now they have raised the fees to 90% of the monthly rate. It is questionable that we will continue as a partner with APFM.
The problem with all of these reviews sites is that each review is a tiny sliver of a snapshot in time and often it is not indicative of the community as a whole. For instance, imagine a tour coming through during a norovirus outbreak (paper plates and no activities) or perhaps the continence program for an ALZ resident hasn’t been upgraded yet or even touring a building that is under construction. I have seen reviews where someone said the building seemed “cold and unwelcoming.” Um, there were steel girders exposed.
So while many of these reviews are a single impression at a single point in time, they are allowed to remain online in perpetuity. How accurate or fair of a portrayal can that be?
The other serious problem is that APFM solicits reviews over the phone. It isn’t dictation; it’s a conversation and that leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. There have also been outright mistakes made in the recollection of the reviewer. “I visited the second floor ALZ wing at Blah Blah.” And yet that community has no second floor.
Are online reviews here to stay? Yep. Are they fraught with errors, lies, and mistakes? You bet!
Reminds me of the sandwich chalkboard outside a deli/pub that declared, ”Come on in and try the WORLD’s WORST meatball sub according to dogmom47!”
Whether it’s a Yelp restaurant review, that B&B in Maine, or one for an HD TV at Best Buy, you have to read every single review with a huge grain of salt.
The “cool” part of online customer reviews is that they provide a source of information that people apparently trust and can use when selecting a facility. The “scary” part is that owners of these facilities spend major time and money trying to get ANY negative reviews about them removed from sites…use all kind of online tools and services to bury (on search results page 11111…) any bad reviews about them…and even write phony positive reviews about themselves or pressure customers to write them and offering discounts and freebies in exchange for a glowing review. At some point, customers will stop trusting the reviews and the facility owners who provide poor service and harm residents will be happy.