older couple packing/unpacking boxes
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One positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it improved communication efforts by senior living providers to residents and their families, and although those efforts appear to continue to be going strong, now is not time for complacency, according to one marketing expert. 

In a case study of new residents and their families across the nation by Bild & Co., 73% of family members and 72% of residents rated their overall move-in experience between eight and 10 on a scale of one to 10.  But that experience started to slip within the first 90 days after a move, as only 47% of residents and family members said they were happy with the move-in experience and the process.

Common negative feedback by families during visits included a lack of communication about paperwork, food, housekeeping and care; food pricing, options or quality not meeting expectations; staff turnover and long sign-in procedures at the front desk; and unkept rooms.

One takeaway from the feedback, Bild & Co. CEO Jennifer Saxman said, is that operators need to be proactive in thinking about what is going to appeal to the next generation of residents. Aspects that were valued by prospects five years ago are not going to hold the same value for baby boomers, now aged 58 to 77.

For instance, food was a big area of dissatisfaction for survey respondents. The top complaints related to food quality, a lack of flavor or ingredients, limited choices and repetitive menus.

Although 70% of respondents said they were satisfied with menu selections, 78.9% cited choice and variety as the most important areas of the dining experience. Healthy options also are a requirement, according to the feedback, with 57.9% of survey-takers citing it as the most important aspect of the dining experience. 

“We’ve got to get ready for these boomers,” Saxman said. “If we can’t deliver decent food to the Great Depression generation, we’re going to be in such a world of hurt when it comes to boomers, who expect more.”

Many senior living community leaders just may be trying to get by or may be relying on “great care” to make up for other shortcomings, Saxman said. But areas other than care are important to focus on, too, especially when it comes to customer satisfaction, she said. Food commonly is mentioned in surveys, Saxman added.

“They are always going to have the choice to move nowhere. They don’t always have to move somewhere,” she said. “As we get more and more sophisticated, other solutions will present themselves. It’s a massive opportunity [for operators] to differentiate, and it can help you to drive where your rates are, too.”

Housekeeping was another sore point with survey participants, with 23% of residents and 9% of families saying they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with service. Misplaced or lost laundry items, and unfolded clothing, were the top complaints, followed by unmade beds, a lack of weekly housekeeping service, no trash service and overall uncleanliness of floors, bathrooms and apartments.

The survey in the case study also measured friendships and comfort levels related to the move-in experience. Respondents also said that senior living communities need to try harder to acclimate new residents to others in the community, although 79% of participants said they were satisfied with how they had made friends since moving in, and 92% said they were satisfied with the community’s efforts to make them feel at home. 

Participants said that staff members need to improve their customer service efforts, according to Saxman. Equipping sales teams with the proper resources and training is essential to building their confidence and conviction in the value that a senior living community brings to current and future prospective residents, she said.