It sounds like a simple task; just ask the prospective customer/family when they want to visit and set the time, right? Not necessarily! I can think back over the ten years I spent in communities and remember how my lack of strategic planning in this area ended up costing me move ins! My experience has taught me that successful communities schedule visits thoughtfully and with purpose.
Timing is everything!
Once, while working at a community in the ‘lease-up’ phase I ignored the resident calendar and scheduled a lunch tour when most of our residents were on an outing, so the community was absolutely EMPTY when my visitors arrived! Trying to talk up the great atmosphere in an empty dining room was very challenging!
Families want to see current residents engaged in their daily lives to imagine their senior loved one in your community. Think about your prospective resident and what they enjoy. Know your community schedule before calling to book a tour and have some suggested times that will showcase your community at its best.
Get commitments from your entire team when scheduling
Great visit experiences are generally the result of the entire community team working together to provide a meaningful and memorable experience.
I experienced how hard it was to overcome a scheduling error on my part when I planned for the new resident to have her assessment completed at the community during their visit, but discovered too late that my favorite nurse and the Executive Director would be out for the day. Knowing the prospective resident’s story and what was important to her, I had promised she would meet these key team members and that didn’t happen as planned.
If you need help from colleagues, make sure they are available before any promises are made to prospective residents. When promises are broken, it erodes trust that the more important promises will be fulfilled
Keep your appointments memorable
A great best practice is to suggest a unique time such as 12:15 pm rather than noon to make it more memorable for the family and help their visit at your community stand out from the others. Additionally, being there for the busy family member who can only meet you at 6:30 pm will show your commitment to being the supportive ‘counselor’ they really need at this time in their life.
Get the tour scheduled sooner rather than later
In my role as a regional manager training those new to senior living, one of the key points I shared early-on was the importance of having the family tour the community as soon as possible in their search. If an initial attempt to schedule a visit with the family failed, having a ‘Plan B’ alternate appointment times to offer helped to ensure the conversation didn’t end abruptly with no logical ‘next step’. Also, when a customer was resistant to scheduling a visit, I urged our teams to remind them of why they initially began their search and of any urgency they communicated to us.
Being able to share much-needed information about the community face-to-face is so powerful. Once ‘through the door’, families can begin to meet the people who will be caring for their loved one rather than just considering faceless buildings as options.
Families want to see real examples of ‘everyday life at the community’ where their loved one may soon reside. Seniors worry they will lose their independence or be bored in senior living, when in reality most seniors see their social life improve.
I found that by letting families know why specific times would be most beneficial to come and visit, they were much more likely to follow my suggestion. The knowledge that their Mother may just ‘happen’ to walk in on the knitting club when this is her favorite hobby gave helped instill confidence that the community could be a really good fit.
Nancy Shepherd is a National Account Manager with A Place for Mom. Prior to joining, she spent 7 years in community and regional sales for Brookdale, and 3 years as a Regional Sales Director with Sunrise.