My business mentor, a man of incredible brilliance with his ability to ask a single question that changes my world, asked me today: "Do your clients have a waiting list?” He suggested that for the next year I ponder this question and do everything in my power to figure out how to help my clients achieve a waiting list if they didn’t have one.
Senior living providers often discuss occupancy rates. They live or die by rates and the mix that is tied to them in order to make the proforma work.
What If we changed the discussion from "What is your occupancy rate?" to "Do you have a waiting list?" The discussion becomes less about percentages and more about the customer experience. What if the whole reason we don't have a waiting list is because we have been considering our residents as percentages and forgotten they choose us for the experience in how care is delivered, the environment it is delivered in and how consistently we deliver that experience?
A case in point is two senior living clients. (Names have been changed.)
Sessions Village is beautiful, the marketing materials are fantastic and it’s new. I arrive on Saturday at 8 a.m. and the doors are locked. I have to knock and then someone reluctantly lets me in. I ask to see someone about a room for my mother. They inform me that the marketing folks don't work on Saturdays and they will be in from 9-5 on Monday. They are only half full and can't figure out why.
By contrast, Parkview Estates’ door is unlocked. I walk in and am offered fresh baked cookies and coffee. Music is playing and the environment is great and well taken care of—but not brand new. I am greeted by the staff. The marketing director is introduced and we chat about me and the pressure of having to work full time and the guilt I am having for placing my mother in senior living. I just feel better that someone hears me and they were available when I was versus having to take a day off work to research homes. This home has a waiting list and has had it for two years!
While this blog has little to do with design it has everything to do with the experience. Design should support the experience residents desire. If we focus our design intent on the best resident experience and operations carries through in the way the staff treats residents, families and guests accompanied by the need for services in the market, then you should have a waiting list.
If you don't have a waiting list, can you name one reason why? If you can name a reason, change it as fast as you can. Then do as the shampoo bottle says and "REPEAT.”