After a year of hardship, senior living communities have reason to hope for better days ahead: the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As widely reported, long-term care providers are among the first to receive vaccines that started being distributed through CVS Health and Walgreens on Dec. 21. The announcement of vaccine approval, however, is coming with many questions from those whose loved ones live in senior living communities: When will the vaccine arrive? How will the process of vaccination actually occur? Where can I find more resources about the vaccine?
Those questions are mounting by the day, and senior living brands should expect to receive more and more queries from residents’ family members who are eager to see their loved ones again yet are worried about safety protocols. It’s important that senior living community leaders proactively communicate about the availability of the vaccine and be prepared to address the inevitable questions.
Here are five steps your community can take.
1. Provide guidance via online channels.
With more consumers staying home, it never has been more important to provide accurate, up-to-date information online and on the go. The search activity for “COVID-19 vaccine” is up by 167% over month-over-month.
Clearly, consumers are seeking information about the availability and implementation of the vaccine. Use your website, social media and Google My Business listings to share useful content regarding the vaccine for older adults.
For example, Brookdale Senior Living recently published a blog post explaining why residents should get the COVID-19 vaccine, including how vaccines have been carefully tested and evaluated. The company humanized its content by including a video, too. Similarly, Atria Senior Living Chairman and CEO John Moore published a “sleeves up” letter underscoring Atria’s commitment to a safe administration of the vaccine.
We also suggest publishing frequently asked questions about the vaccine and availability on your Google My Business listings and websites.
The Google My Business Q&A feature was built for this. As the name implies, the Q&A section of your listing is a place for people visiting your page to ask your business a question. In addition, use the Q&A section to post questions and answers of your own.
It’s easy to revise them as you obtain new information. The Q&A format is ideal for search optimization because Google crawls the web looking for answers to questions that Google users are asking. Of course, you’ll want to ensure that your answers are carefully reviewed and vetted, then published simultaneously across your website, Google listings and social media.
2. Prepare your frontline staff members.
Proactively informing consumers through digital channels will help reduce the number of calls to your locations from those seeking information. But you should expect an increase in calls.
Everyone who may receive customer questions — ranging from your social media community managers to the person answering the phone — should be ready for an uptick in queries. Staff accordingly, if possible, so that you are not overwhelmed. Make sure your employees understand how to answer commonly asked questions that can be addressed easily, and let them know about the existence of your online FAQ, where they also may refer inbound queries.
Make sure they know where to refer callers whose questions exceed the scope of what your facility can address. For instance, it might be necessary to refer queries to the CDC as a reliable clearinghouse for credible information about the vaccine.
3. Monitor reviews closely.
Be on high alert for customer reviews, and monitor customer feedback left on your social channels. This is an understandably emotional time for older adults, their families and the people who care for them. If they believe your organization is being unresponsive or providing unhelpful answers, then they may share negative feedback.
Monitor all forms of feedback — star ratings, reviews, random comments left on your Facebook page — and be ready to respond. It’s a best practice to respond to reviews and comments, demonstrating empathy and compassion while managing expectations.
4. Be mindful.
By now, your residents and employees have been through an emotional wringer. They’re eager to get relief from this pandemic, and they may have unrealistic expectations for how quickly things get back to normal.
Even if you have a set of pre-approved answers for responding to comments, try to personalize the response where possible, and as always, take an empathetic tone in your replies and the information you publish proactively.
5 Monitor Google for new features.
Throughout 2020, Google published several of features to help businesses manage COVID-19-related developments such as new Google My Business attributes to make it possible for businesses to update their operational and safety protocols. As of this writing, we anticipate that Google will release a feature to help businesses more easily share updates on the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. Stay tuned. Watch this space for an update.
Annie Haarmann is the head of consulting, healthcare and life sciences at reputation experience management platform provider Reputation.com. There, she partners with senior living and care brands communities to provide strategic consulting and data-driven insights in an effort to drive conversion and improve consumer experience. Haarmann’s prior experience includes leading strategic digital transformation for brands in the pharmaceutical, nutrition, healthcare and education industries.
Managing the reputation and experience for senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic can be daunting. If you need help, contact Reputation.com. For more tips, check out “6 Ways to Manage a Senior Living Reputation Crisis” and download the ebook Reputation Management for Senior Living.