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Diagnose a Fluctuating Occupancy Rate: How to Audit Your Seniors Housing Operation

When it comes to your occupancy rate, the senior housing marketing isn’t exactly in your favor.

It wasn’t too long ago since the NIC reported that…

  • Senior housing occupancy dropped to 88.3%.
  • Annual assisted living and independent living inventory was larger than absorption.
  • Of the NIC’s 31 primary markets, 22 markets slipped to lower occupancy levels compared to figures from the previous year.

Oversupply and faltering markets are never desirable.

But when your operation suffers from a fluctuating occupancy rate, market factors only exacerbate the pain.

At Bild & Co, we see far too many communities that have an uptick one quarter, but dipping census levels the next.

In this article, we’re addressing this all-too-common challenge.

Keep on reading as we discuss how you can address unstable occupancy levels…and take the first step toward operational stability.

Fluctuating Occupancy Rate: What We’ve Seen at Bild & Co.

Bild & Co has been in the senior housing industry since 1999.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say we’ve seen practically every occupancy challenge in the market …including fluctuating occupancy.

Broadly speaking, when it comes to occupancy issues, senior living operations have three major challenges…

  1. They can’t diagnose their problem.
  2. They know what the problem is, but don’t have a solution.
  3. They have a solution, but there’s no execution.

We’ll be looking at the first of these challenges: how to diagnose why your census levels are rarely stable.

But before we dive in, here’s what you need to know.

poor growth infrastructure

A unstable occupancy rate always stems from a poor growth infrastructure. However, you can trace this overarching issue to specific problems, such as a poorly trained on-site team or nonexistent CRM usage.

In this article, we’re sharing how to place a finger on specific challenges.

But remember, nothing can compensate for an established (and proven) growth infrastructure. Fixing the symptoms of a problem won’t solve underlying issues.

How to Audit Your Senior Housing Operation

Below is a checklist for investigating you operation and diagnosing why your occupancy rate isn’t growing.

(If you want a quick list of some areas to audit, check out this video from Traci.)


Let’s dive in…

Does everyone in the organization follow the same system for converting inquiries?

At Bild & Co, we’ve found this is a major issue in senior housing.

Many times, communities lack a system for converting incoming calls or contact forms into revenue-driving tours. (Just check out these stats we pulled on 200 senior living communities.)

If your operation has a zigzagging occupancy rate, carefully consider if your organization has spelled out how to drive conversions during the inquiry process.

If the answer is no, you’ve already pinpointed an important area of growth.

If your teams are trained, are they following their training?

Sometimes senior housing operations have a system for the inquiry process…and other important components for driving revenue. They’ve even received onboarding.

The problem is…team members don’t follow their training.

Whether it’s a lack of executive director (ED) leadership or regional support, communities suffer from an unstable occupancy rate because they don’t consistently execute a predefined system.

Is your senior housing talent vetted?

Let’s face it…some sales counselors aren’t sales professionals.

Some executive directors lack leadership skills. And some regionals aren’t effective managers.

Fluctuating census levels could stem from poor talent in your organization. Take a look at your procedures for placing talent. See if you have an effective policy for determining who is qualified…and who isn’t.

Does your regional team hold communities accountable to results?

When it comes to a robust occupancy rate, the success of your operation—in a large measure—depends on the leadership of executive directors.

And the success of your EDs—in a large measure—is dependent on the leadership of your regional teams.

At Bild & Co., we’ll sometimes find that occupancy challenges don’t stem from problem communities. The real issue is that a regional leader is setting standards that undermine on-site success.

If you have operation-wide protocols for driving revenue, quiz your regionals on how they ensure EDs hold team members accountable to the process. See if they systematically evaluate the efforts of your EDs and address challenges as needed.

If not…it’s time to consider if a lack of leadership has created subpar census levels.

Have your teams established a CRM that’s executed properly, and are they measuring metrics?

Leveraging a CRM and measuring metrics are critical for your success.

Without numbers, it’s difficult to measure performance…or place a finger on any problems.

If you’re struggling with fluctuating occupancy, you should examine the data reporting habits of your on-site teams and your regional leaders. Make sure that…

  • Each property has a working CRM and all team members are using it (this is the responsibility of your regional team).
  • Each community runs regular reports that are assessed by both the ED and the regional director.
  • When metrics indicate a problem, both your EDs and your regionals drill down to pinpoint the issue.

Are regionals targeting their efforts towards what the data is showing?

Many times, the why behind your unstable occupancy rate lies in your CRM data.

But sometimes, that information doesn’t translate into action.

Instead of assessing metrics, pinpointing problems, and providing targeted support, many times, your regionals are putting out fires.

If your properties average 15% below the standard tour-to-move-in ratio—but your regionals are constantly addressing other issues (such as turnover)—there’s a good chance you suffer from poor occupancy.

Are leaders taking action to replace team members who never shape up?

Making data-based decisions is important for robust revenue.

But sometimes data goes out the window when it comes to talent decisions.

Consider how often you, your regionals, or your site-level teams face challenges from poorly performing team members. Consider how often you settle for inadequate efforts.If you can’t answer this question yourself, loop in another leader for his or her input.

Ending the revenue rollercoaster requires making difficult talent decisions.

My Occupancy Rate Needs Help. What’s Next?
After going through our checklist, perhaps you’ve spotted some red flags for your operation.

You’re finally getting a glimpse into why your occupancy rate goes up one quarter…but down the next.

Pinpointing your challenges is one thing.

Achieving organizational change is another…especially if your operation suffers from systemic issues, such as a missing growth infrastructure or poorly vetted talent.

At Bild & Co, we have the expertise to scale a solution across your organization.

We don’t simply help you diagnose what’s wrong. We show your teams how to fix it…so you can increase occupancy, revenue, and ROI.

Let us get you off the occupancy rate rollercoaster—and on the path to growth.

Click here to talk with someone from our team.

Closing Your Senior Living Revenue Gap Is A Phone Call Away.

Contact Bild & Co to grow your
occupancy now at (800) 640-0688