The senior housing industry now has its first-ever customer satisfaction benchmark, courtesy of a well-known consumer ratings giant.
J.D. Power will officially launch its Senior Living Community Certification program on Tuesday, which provides a means for individual senior housing communities to become certified as providers of quality care. The launch marks a continuation of J.D. Power’s push into the senior housing space; the firm published its inaugural “Senior Living Satisfaction Study” in February, and intends to roll out several regional senior living satisfaction studies in the coming months.
Newton, Massachusetts-based Five Star Senior Living (Nasdaq: FVE) is the first senior housing provider to strive for senior living community certification through J.D. Power. Five Star’s decision to pursue certification was motivated by the potential to attract both residents and new employees.
“In all of the research that we’ve done, it’s the deciding factor when a consumer is choosing between different providers,” Rob Poyas, Five Star’s vice president of sales and marketing, told Senior Housing News. “This is the first industry-wide benchmark that measures that.”
Taking senior housing to the next level
J.D. Power’s senior living certification is a two-step process that’s “open to any and all senior living providers,” Greg Truex, senior director of U.S. service industries at J.D. Power, told Senior Housing News.
First, to qualify for certification, a community must rank among the top 20% in overall customer satisfaction as determined by the 2018 J.D. Power Senior Living Satisfaction Study.
“We used the data collected from the 2018 study to define the certification benchmark,” Truex explained.
Then, J.D. Power will survey that community’s residents in order to assess its performance across 14 key performance indicators and 17 performance metrics.
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Senior housing communities seeking certification must also pass a “rigorous” assessment of 140 operational best practices. For the evaluation, J.D. Power will send an auditor to spend time at each community that has performed well in the aforementioned resident surveys. If the auditor determines that the community is completing an adequate number of best practices, the community becomes certified by J.D. Power for 12 months, during which time it can promote its certification through in-community displays and online marketing collateral.
J.D. Power worked with Andrew Carle, president of Carle Consulting and founding director of George Mason University’s Program in Senior Housing Administration, to set the list of best practices. They include licensing and safety; community mission, culture and structure; resident relations; community staff; resident services; and sales, marketing, and move-in coordination.
When Carle first heard that J.D. Power was launching a senior living certification program, he reached out to the firm and offered his support and guidance. Carle believes it’s high time that the senior living industry had readily available consumer satisfaction data, and that not having it is potentially hurting the industry.
“We need to take this industry to the next professional level,” Carle told Senior Housing News.
U.S. consumers of all kinds are increasingly data-driven, he noted.
“People go to Yelp! to figure out what restaurants to eat at these days,” he said. “We know that they are looking more for data, and they need credible data.”
Carle’s motivation to help shape J.D. Power’s certification program goes beyond the need to increase the amount of consumer data.
“The ability to differentiate in an increasingly sophisticated consumer market is going to be huge,” he explained.
First customer secured
Like many in the industry, leadership at Five Star Senior Living believes that senior housing is becoming increasingly hospitality-focused. Five Star also believes that J.D. Power’s certification program will help the provider succeed in that regard.
“The key aspect of hospitality is always resident satisfaction,” Poyas explained. All 283 of Five Star’s communities are pursuing certification; if they achieve it, they’ll be able to attract new residents, as well as “the right employees,” Poyas said. If they don’t, they’ll still have training materials and research that can help them improve their resident satisfaction.
“It sets a benchmark and it allows us to be able to mold all of our training materials around what the customer wants,” he explained.
J.D. Power’s reputation also helped it secure Five Star as a customer.
“I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another company I would have trusted,” Poyas said.
Written by Mary Kate Nelson