Big Inefficiencies Create Unnecessary Customer Friction in Seniors Housing
3 Steps Owners, Operators and Investors of Seniors Housing Communities Can Take to Improve Efficiencies and Create a Zero-Friction Customer Experience
According to Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of the Future, in Chapters three and four, a zero-friction customer experience is at the heart of innovation. This means that you, as an owner or operator, do everything possible to make people’s lives easier whether they apply to work for you, inquire about an apartment, or reside in one of your communities.
Is it hard to do business with you or easy? To answer that question, think about the entire customer journey, beginning to end.
Something has happened in the last decade; entire industries have been disrupted by unicorns that ride in and make people’s lives easier. Think Amazon, Stitch Fix, Instacart … We live in a time where innovation trumps legacy companies. Accenture found that while 93 percent of executives say they know their industry will be disrupted in the next five years, only 20 percent feel they’re highly prepared to address the threat this creates for the business. We are experiencing some of this right now in the seniors housing space. Customers and investors are beginning to shift toward active adult, home health and technology alternatives.
TECH DRAMATICALLY SHIFTS HOW WE MEASURE PRODUCTIVITY
As we continue to shift toward a technology-powered society, the way productivity has been measured is changing. We must adapt to the new way people live and work today. Productivity is now measured in efficiencies and today that is about clear insights into improving the business. Efficiency is innovation and finding better ways to work; it’s about being real. How do our businesses really run, what happens inside our businesses and across the platform or in our case, the portfolio?
Today’s leaders, more than any other time, must be in the weeds as much as they are in the office. CEOs must have a pulse on what both the employee and customer experience is. Firsthand knowledge will provide senior leaders with the tools to create more efficiencies- and as Blake Morgan shares, even small gains can significantly move the needle on the customer experience.
A survey of more than 1,300 CEOs from around the world found the top thing they plan to do in the next twelve months to drive revenue growth was create operational efficiencies (77%)
The best way to create efficiencies is to get on the ground, to talk to those employees and customers you serve. What’s it like to be an employee at your company, a caregiver, executive director or chef; what about a resident, adult daughter or referral source at a local hospital?
IT’S TIME FOR OPERATORS TO CREATE AN EASY BUTTON
Today, power is in the hands of the buyer and they are collectively choosing to buy from brands that make their lives easier and better. I’m guilty of this myself! I get a box of workout wear from Ellie each month in the mail, a shipment of clothing from Stitch Fix and use Instacart for weekly grocery delivery. These companies have simplified my life and allowed me to spend time doing things I enjoy, and shopping is not one of them.
I frequently meet people who have considered independent living, assisted living, or memory care as an option for themselves or a loved one. Discussions typically begin with lots of sighing and exasperation at the complexity involved in simply identifying a community that might be a fit. I imagine being from the industry the same thing happens to you, people want to vent about their experience.
Why do we as an industry make the buying process so difficult? My team has spent two decades niched in senior living doing this very thing, improving sales and marketing efficiencies; yet I feel we’ve barely made a dent; there is so much work to do. We must completely transform the customer experience as it relates to each stakeholder group. Doing so will enable your company to grow rapidly and more efficiently.
IMPROVING OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCIES IS VITAL FOR SENIOR LIVING OWNERS AND OPERATORS
The best way to avoid disruption is to be willing to disrupt your own business. Ask yourself, “what is the problem my operation is trying to solve for consumers?”
How can your company create more seamless and efficient internal processes to make buying your option easier? Blake Morgan goes on to state that when it comes to customer experience, the tougher the situation the customer is going through, the more important it is for the company to step up at the point of need.
This is critical for seniors housing operators and investors. You must figure out how to simplify everything- from applying to work at your company, to the buyer and resident experience itself. How can you improve processes to make them easier, so no time, effort or resources are wasted? Our team conducts an operator scorecard that measures the efficiencies in place as it relates to product, people and processes. Out of a possible 200 points, most operators fall in the 130-140 range, meaning there’s lots of room for improvements and efficiencies. Here are three immediate ideas to start.
3 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO CREATE A ZERO FRICTION CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
What does it take to create a zero-friction customer service program? Amazon arguably is the most customer-focused company on Earth. They bend over backwards to make everything they do more efficient and that is how they have scaled their operation. There are seven things Amazon does to create a zero-friction customer service operation; we are going to look at three. Dive into the book for the remaining four. As you read through each, consider how you might model them for your own operation.
- Customer Service
Amazon has customer service centers in more than thirty-five countries. The support team speaks seventeen languages and are available to solve problems at all hours. They have virtual associates, who work from home to support customers and merchants alike.
I don’t know of a single seniors housing operation that has a customer service division, that is there to serve its many residents and stakeholders. In fact, each community and its Executive Director is charged with handling customer service issues. What type of efficiencies could be created if rather than putting out fires, handling resident and employee problems and resolving customer service complaints; Executive Directors were able to focus on the customer and employee experience delivery as their primary role? It would be transforming.
Each day Amazon asks every employee a question and it helps them understand what’s going well and what’s not, down to a specific team. The answers are confidential but team level results are shared with managers so they can make improvements. Questions range from “Rate how well your manager listens to your ideas,” to “Do you have the tools needed to do your job?” This process has driven countless improvements across Amazon’s customer service organization for both employees and customers.
Imagine implementing this process into your seniors housing operation in 2020. Every day, not once a month or twice a year, asking great, thought provoking questions of all employees. I am certain it would be transforming, would improve employee engagement, retention as well as dramatically improve your own company efficiencies.
- Leadership Development and Training:
Amazon believes everyone in the company is a leader and they invest in the ongoing development of leaders, which include a variety of programs at the site level and virtual self-development programs too. They work hard to grow talent and fill leadership positions by promotion whenever possible. What are you doing in your own organization to develop your people on a recurring basis?
One of the greatest failures of the seniors housing industry is its lack of investment in ongoing training for its sales and leadership teams. While most are hitting the mark operationally; many are way off financial projections; something training can quickly address. As a training organization, many operators are only concerned with continuing education credits that are required to maintain licensing. Anything outside of that is seen as an expense, not the investment it is. Training is transforming and in a rapidly changing world and industry, it’s vital to have consistent, ongoing training for all teams on a recurring basis.
ZERO FRICTION IN HEALTHCARE: ONE MEDICAL IS A HEALTHCARE UNICORN!
Healthcare is known to be incredibly inefficient. Think about the last time you went to the doctor or a hospital, how was your experience? There is incredible opportunity to innovate and drive the customer experience. In fact, in a recent survey 92% of healthcare consumers said improving the customer experience should be a top strategic priority for medical providers over the next twelve months, increasing from 71% last year.
One Medical is an example of a zero-friction customer experience. They are a unicorn that has raised half a billion dollars and are gaining traction as a partner to the healthcare system (As I write this I can’t help wondering, “shouldn’t that be us, seniors housing, who is partnering with healthcare systems rather than being locked out as we are seeing more and more? And why are we being locked out? That for sure is something to dig into!”).
In most healthcare systems it takes twenty-four days to get an appointment and rarely do those appointments start on time and patients are stuck in waiting rooms. Then they go into the office where they continue to wait in nothing but a gown, sitting on a cold, tall observation table. Research shows that because providers are paid by the volume they see, doctors rush through appointments and the customer experience is a casualty of patient throughput.
At One Medical, doctors are salaried and able to take their time with patients. Technology is a core part of their offering. A concierge health service that has revolutionized the patient experience with high-quality care at affordable rates, it offers patients the ability to search for providers through an online portal and make same day appointments that start on time. Every experience is individualized when interacting with One Medical, from easy online appointment scheduling and text reminders to beautifully designed offices.
Once on-site patients can sip on apple cider in the waiting room and there are no phones at the front desk to distract the receptionist from greeting patients and interacting with them. Unlike hospitals, appointments have an average wait time of less than a minute and paperwork has been automated to allow healthcare providers to do what they love most, care for patients. Aside from typical healthcare services, One Medical also offers services that patients already seek outside the hospital such as mental health coaching, weight management classes, sports medicine, and physical therapy. The purpose is to help members meet their health goals instead of only seeing them when they are sick. It’s safe to say that One Medical has removed the friction in the healthcare experience entirely.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN ABOUT ZERO-FRICTION AND APPLY IT TO SENIORS HOUSING
Improve the buyer and customer experience by offering the ability to do everything online- from scheduling visits, paying rent, viewing the dinner menu, deciding which activity to join in on to requesting care services, housekeeping and transportation. Everything the customer needs should be at their fingertips, at every step of the process. This is the easy button customers are looking for.
CaringOnDemand, Uber style home care, is another example of a company that has created a zero-friction environment for customers. It’s tech-based platform, rapidly being integrated into independent living and CCRC models, allows residents to order on demand care that is charged by the minute (versus a four-hour minimum) from the touch of their phone. The app is laid out with infographics, making it easy for the caregiver to quickly log services provided. When care services conclude, updates are shared with individuals set up to receive care information on the resident, keeping family members informed. Talk about zero-friction! This company looked at home health and asked, “what are the pain points for our customers” and removed them. I see great things inCaringOnDemand’s future.
THERE IS SO MUCH IN CHAPTER 4 THAT SENIORS HOUSING OPERATORS CAN IMPLEMENT
Think of the many products and services we could offer that our customers are forced to purchase elsewhere- from a small grocery store and coffee shop to massages and spa services. To summarize, here are things you can do now that we learned from One Medical:
- Create a seamless buyer process so customers can easily purchase; imagine the process improvements you could make around the inquiry process itself
- Automate paperwork where you can; ensure you have walked through the customer journey and that it’s easy for the consumer; from move in paperwork to monthly billing
- When a customer first enters your environment whether digital or at the site level, make sure the experience is pleasant
- Identify the added services you can create around the product to make your offering more attractive to customers
I’ve been preaching for two decades that it’s the small stuff, the details that transform the customer experience. Begin putting effort into creating a zero-friction customer experience, for both residents and employees; then focus on adult children and referral partners. Remember, you get what you put your focus on.
In the next chapter we will look at how to create efficiencies for the customer by being ready for the future of marketing, can’t wait to dive in!
Did you know that Bild & Co can assess for inefficiencies in your sales process and customer experience by providing objective third party insight, recommendations and implementation strategies to ensure performance expectations are met. To learn more, text Traci at 813.390.3349 or send an email to Revenue@BildandCo.com