IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR INDEPENDENT, ASSISTED LIVING AND MEMORY CARE RESIDENTS TO ENSURE LOYALTY AND RETENTION BEFORE A MASS EXODUS
Senior living owners and operators are concerned that residents will leave their independent and assisted living communities once able; act now and get ahead of what could be catastrophic for your company heading into 2021.
I wrote this blog while sitting in a quaint little coffee shop near my home in Clearwater, Florida called Art Smart Coffee. My daughter Paris, who is 16, was with me and I looked at her and said, “how am I supposed to know what to write about today to inspire people?”
I must confess- I came here, my mask pulled high (despite us being the only two in the shop), to find inspiration myself. Surrounded by beautiful art, aromatic smells and books begging to be read, I began to type hoping the words would come together- just like the paintings all around me; created one brush stroke at a time.
THE TRUTH ABOUT LEADERSHIP
Sometimes we don’t know what to say.
Sometimes we don’t have the answers.
Sometimes we have the answers and know what to say but are afraid to say it due to how people may respond.
It’s okay. For the first time in history, we are all in the same boat. No single person has the answers we seek; we’ve never been faced with an invisible enemy like COVID-19 before:
- How long will the virus last?
- When will we get a vaccine?
- When will life be back to normal?
- Will kids go back to school?
- How will the economy fare long-term?
- Am I or my loved ones going to get COVID-19?
- Do any of us have an underlying condition we are unaware of?
There are so many questions and at times it seems the world is falling apart all around us.
This is a defining moment in history and leaders who communicate candidly and connect with people emotionally will ultimately thrive. Hate to write? Then do a daily video blog! Uncomfortable on video? Then dictate your thoughts and have a writer shape it into an organized message. Interview residents and staff who can help convey your message and encourage others to rally around you. This is not the time to try and go it alone.
While you may not always know what to say, what matters is that you say something consistently each week at minimum and if possible, right now, each day.
OVER COMMUNICATE TO RETAIN STAFF AND RESIDENTS
People crave information, it helps them process what’s happening. For example, many of our senior living clients who own or operate independent living communities are seeing their resident’s revolt and are fearful of a mass exodus post COVID-19. Stating their rights are being violated and they are like animals trapped in a cage, residents are fed up and angry with many threatening to leave as soon as they are able.
Simple communication from an executive on your team, whether the CEO or individual community executive director, can turn rage into respect. Pull data on your city or state and share what infection rates are in the general population compared to your community and why the procedures put in place are there.
- Why are people not allowed to leave the community or have loved ones come visit?
- Why is dinner still be served in their apartment versus the community dining room?
- Why can’t simple activities resume to alleviate boredom?
Silence only adds to the conspiracy theories that grow like a vicious plot in a juicy novel. Leverage your voice, reassurance, and explanation; the why behind your decisions can turn those negative nellies into raving fans.
THREE COMMUNICAITON STRATEGIES THAT WILL CREATE LOYALTY AND TRUST AMONG RESIDENTS IN YOUR INDEPENDENT AND ASSISTED LIVING COMMUNITIES
1. Be Vulnerable
Don’t be afraid to state that you don’t have all the answers. Contrary to popular belief, this will endear people to you because it takes humility to admit you don’t know something. Provide the best information you have available and work hard to dig into tough questions and address them as candidly as you can.
When I present on-stage, people connect with me in a very personal way and I’m oftentimes invited back again and again to speak to the same group; something I’m very proud of. I can say hands down it’s because people relate to me.
When I walk out on stage, having been a professional speaker for 25 years, people assume I’m ivy league educated and live a picture-perfect life. I know what suit to wear, how to do my hair and make-up and carry myself; I look the part. Yet when attendees hear my stories, whether it was growing up in a trailer court, taking ten years to get through college due to working full-time and paying for it myself, or that I had to rebuild my company from scratch due to a poor executive hiring decision, they perk up fast.
People simply aren’t used to transparency. I discovered early on that others learn more from your failures and mistakes than they do your wins. The same holds true in moments like this; people just want to know you are listening, doing your best to provide accurate answers, and that you really do care. Increasing rent by $50 to cover PPE? Don’t just hike it; explain why, blow up the actual line item expense for PPE from your profit and loss statement so they see your spend because otherwise they may think you’re simply trying to profit off their vulnerability.
2. Be Transparent
Tell the truth always, no matter how much it hurts. If three residents from your assisted living community have tested positive for COVID-19, don’t try to hide it; address what happened and how you are responding head on. Share what procedures are in place to ensure it doesn’t spread and more importantly what you are doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
When you are vulnerable about how it makes you feel to know that three residents in your beloved communities got COVID-19, while being incredibly transparent, you connect with people in a way that creates extreme loyalty and respect.
Consider having yourself tested for COVID-19 on video and what the process entails, costs, and how you determine what staff or residents in your community are tested and why. “What did the test feel like, were you afraid to get the results despite not having symptoms, were you scared?” Inquiring minds want to know!
3. Be Honest
If you don’t have the answers people seek say so. With independent and assisted living, memory care and active adult communities in the news every day, make it a point to have someone on your team collecting information daily from a reputable source that you can speak to and disseminate with stakeholders.
This is your opportunity to become the expert and the go to source for seniors, their adult children and valuable referral sources in each of your senior living market service areas. Consider targeting your local news and offering to be a source for independent and assisted living or memory care; depending on what you do. Allow them to spotlight staff and residents at your communities because every journalist needs strong sources right now. One positive story will produce exposure no amount of money can buy in terms of your credibility. I’ve used this media strategy for years and as a result have been on everything from the Today Show and CBS Sunday Morning News to the BBC, WSJ and USA Today. This credibility opens doors that no amount of marketing could possibly buy.
4. Be You
Loosen up a bit and allow your personality to shine. I’m super passionate, candid and a rebel entrepreneur to the core. I don’t do things the way normal people do and while I used to think that was a negative, as I grew in my business experience I realized it’s why my company has thrived for 20 years. I own it now and it’s allowed me to create my own unique brand that people sincerely relate to.
What about you? Don’t worry about being popular, getting every word right or having a perfect look (although a good camera filter never hurts), just be you and speak to people naturally. With most employees working from home, the façade of suits and formal office settings has faded away. People have found it fascinating to see their leaders working remotely with screaming kids or barking dogs in the background! Don’t make excuses, own it because it shows you are human and that you are more alike than you are different.
Set a notebook next to your computer. Each time a thought, idea or question comes up that you can address in your daily or weekly communication, jot it down. Remember that less is more, so don’t worry about the length of content, instead focus on the quality. You’ve got this and I have a feeling in no time you’ll be a communication pro!
OCCUPANCY INDUSTRY-WIDE IS AT A RECORD LOW.
Seniors housing operators reported that their independent and assisted living as well as memory care census dropped on average in 2Q20, from 87.7% to 84.5%. Assisted living communities declined, from 85.3% to 82.1% during the quarter while independent living fell to 87.4%. Don’t wait for things to improve, be proactive and do something to change the course of your business revenue, occupancy and net operating income right now.
Uncertain how to effectively market your stabilized or newly developed independent and assisted living communities in a COVID-19 world? The Bild & Co team can provide effective sales and marketing support despite your communities being shut down to outside visitors and ensure a solid pipeline is built along with a confirmed bench of move ins. Peace of mind only comes with action; don’t just think about or worry about occupancy, revenue, and net operating income; do something to impact results. Schedule time here with Traci Bild and Jennifer Saxman to work through your fourth quarter rebound plan today.
To reach out to Traci Bild immediately, text 813.390.3349.