Whether a company wants its senior living communities to be reviewed or not, it’s going to happen and they need to be prepared. During the Assisted Living Federation of America’s 2013 Conference and Expo, held in Charlotte, N.C. earlier this week, panelists told attendees the number of reviews posted online are only going to increase.
“Social [reviews] are the new comment card,” said Blair Carey, managing director of Retirementhomes.com.
This shouldn’t be any real surprise, as a report from Nielsen company showed that 70% of people surveyed said they trust consumer opinions posted online. The only category with a higher trust factor was a recommendation from people they already knew, which came in at 92%.
The number of reviews posted online can also have a direct impact on the financial performance of the community. A study from Harvard University found that reviews posted online have been shown to increase revenues 5-9%.
“The more comments and the more responses, the greater the [revenue] number increases,” said Carey.
Make no mistake, there are plenty of review sites dedicated to the senior housing industry. Over the past few months, companies such as Caring.com, Senior Advisor, Golden Reviews, and others have all launched or have offered reviews of senior communities.
“Companies need to decide which review sites are the most popular and where they should put their resources,” said Steve Moran, publisher of Senior Housing Forum.
The number of review sites can be overwhelming, but the odds are that all of the review sites won’t last forever.
“Consumers would prefer if there weren’t 100 companies,” said Andy Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Caring.com during an interview with SHN. “There will be some that do great and others who are testing the waters. Those who are looking for a quick buck will move on.”
Managing those reviews is likely to become a part of everyday business for providers, according to panelists. If consumers are posting negative reviews, providers should respond quickly, be personable, and work toward a resolution.
“Companies must have a plan in place to manage [reviews],” said Blair. “If there is a fire or emergency [at the community], you have a plan, it’s the same when a ‘disaster’ happens online.”
At the end of the day, companies need to begin to seriously address reviews posted online as they become greater in number and will increasingly have an impact on customer perception.
“Online reviews are here to stay,” said Moran.
Written by John Yedinak