The senior living business may be turning a close eye to consumer reviews over the last few years, but how much do they really matter?
Shoppers have taken to review sites as a first step in research for all kinds of products, from goods to services and everything in between. Senior living is no exception, as a number of review sites have rolled out improvements and new ratings hubs as recently as this week when RetirementHomes.com launched its service. Touting itself as the most comprehensive senior housing resource for baby boomers, RetirementHomes.com allows for residents and communities to weigh in with their take on the communities listed—through reviews.
“This feature will allow anyone who visited a senior living community, has lived or currently lives in one, or simply has a loved one in a community, to share their thoughts and help others in their search for the perfect home,” said RetirementHomes.com CEO Evan Heltay in announcing the launch of its new site.
But how important are reviews in senior living—where geography plays such a key role, and often those who are using the services choosing just one provider rather than sampling many.
“Our belief is that consumer reviews will never have the same impact in assisted living as they do in other consumer markets because we will not reach a critical mass of reviews,” says Seniorhomes.com CEO Chris Rodde. “Consumer reviews do serve a purpose and do provide value to assisted living decision makers, but will never become a key decision making element.”
Seniorhomes.com takes an example from trip Advisor to demonstrate how a certain hotel located in Miami, Florida, could garner nearly 1,500 reviews on Tripadvisor. Because it has more than 250 rooms and hosts from 5,000 to 10,000 visitors each year, even a small rate of response to reviews of 1% to 2% will net hundreds of customers’ feedback.
Yet in assisted living, Rodde notes, the potential review pool is much smaller—around 375 per average community, per year, including family members of residents who may be inclined to write a review. But because the average length of stay is 18 months, the potential per year falls. Add other factors, such as the inclination of the average resident to submit an online review using a computer or smartphone, and the pool falls even more, netting just a handful—two to five—reviews per year.
“Assisted living reviews do provide value, but will not become as influential a data source as in other markets,” Rodde says. “Reviews, especially ones that share someone’s personal story, can help show the personality of an assisted living community….we believe that reviews are valuable and can influence someone’s decision, but never to the extent in other markets. Reviews will certainly influence decisions, but won’t likely drive decisions.”
Reviews can be helpful for other reasons, such as improving conversion rates by their presence on a community’s site.
“Let’s go get reviews as an industry, but let’s just be clear about the role they will play,” Rodde says.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker