Where Senior Living Needs Improvement: Community Sales Tours

Senior living providers are making crucial missteps that are preventing them from maximizing the value of prospective resident tours, new research reveals.

In a Caring.com survey on senior living community tours, a notable minority of respondents said they had not been contacted prior to a scheduled tour to confirm it (12%). However, 18% reported no contact from the community post-tour, data show. Twenty-six percent said they had been contacted only once post-tour. The survey includes feedback from 1,181 family caregivers and older adults who searched for a senior community in the last year.

The data is self-reported, and this might explain why almost one in five people reported no follow up contact from the toured senior living community, Katie Roper, vice president of sales at online senior care resource Caring.com, tells SHN.

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“There is no reason providers should not be following up with prospects,” Roper says. “However, it could be that prospects did get a follow-up, but it did not register as a follow-up. Sometimes a follow-up message is not clear or not compelling, so the prospect doesn’t notice or remember it.”

In addition, 20% of people said the tour was too much of a sales pitch, the survey finds.

“This is a really interesting point, because, of course, a tour is a sales pitch when it comes right down to it,” Roper says.

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“This says to me the person doing the tour wasn’t asking enough questions to find out what brings the prospect or family member to the community,” she says, adding that sales staff should also ask visitors for their feedback after the tour for additional insight.

Over half of survey respondents took the time to provide open-ended comments, and the single most common category of negative comments was dissatisfaction with the way the community handled pricing discussions). Almost all who commented wanted more pricing information before they came in.

“You can look at this two ways,” Roper says. “Some people were upset they had to take the tour to get pricing information only to learn they couldn’t afford the community anyway. And, we had others saying the pricing discussion was not handled well.”

Over half of respondents had toured one or more communities during their search for senior care, with one-third visiting four or more senior living communities. Despite seeing flattering pictures and descriptions posted online, 68% of people who toured a senior living community reported being “surprised at how nice it was.”

The surprise many senior living tour participants felt when seeing the community in person reveals how much harder the industry must work at educating the public about the variety and quality of senior living options, Roper says.

“People are so convinced these communities are going to be awful,” she says. “That’s not good for the industry, which wants people perfectly capable of staying home to want to move in, not just those with nowhere else to go.”

Changing perceptions about senior living goes beyond highlighting a facility’s furnishings to sharing the messages of happy residents.

“If you walk into a fancy hotel, you know it’s going to be nice — not because of the pictures on the website, but because of what you know of the ambiance, the experience,” she says. “So, if people knew intelligent, interesting people were living in these communities and are happy, that would change their perception when they first walk in. It’s not about, ‘Is there fresh paint in the lobby?’”

A successful tour experience is all the more important, research shows, because it can make the difference between a quick or delayed move-in.

“Families who schedule a tour through our senior housing helpline move in at 3.5 times the rate of others we speak with, and also 25% faster than those who decline to tour right away,” says Caring.com CEO Andy Cohen in a statement.

Overall, the majority of those who toured had a favorable impression of the staff (91%), and 10% specifically mentioned “staff interaction with residents” as an important reason to tour and not just research online, according to Caring.com. Other important considerations in taking a tour were “getting the feel” of the community, which was also frequently noted in open-ended comments.

In addition, many people said they could not picture the size of the rooms based on square footage descriptions.

“These statistics underscore the value of the tour experience for consumers in selecting the best-fit senior living community for themselves and/or their loved ones,” Cohen says.

The survey was conducted between March 7 and March 26.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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