Sometimes, we’re able to improve our communities and make our residents and prospective residents happier by doing something simple and obvious. Updating rooms, offering new classes and activities, improving the menu – all of these things, and others like them, are things that don’t really require a ton of research, because it’s apparent that they’ll bring residents a lot of benefit. Who doesn’t love a fresh new coat of paint, an enriching new activity with friends or a delicious new dinner option?
Other things, though, may not be quite as obvious. Throwing money at something we think will benefit our residents or draw in new ones, only to find out it doesn’t resonate, or worse – has the opposite intended impact – is not only financially irresponsible, but it can be demoralizing to staff and also damage your relationship with your residents and prospects.
“Using market research data is one way to make better, more informed decisions about what fresh, new ideas will really be a hit with your audience, and what efforts are better left for another day,” says Malissa Illiano, Senior Consultant & Director of Market Research at SageAge Strategies. “By using data to improve your community and what you offer, you can be sure you are making sound choices that will continue to pay off well into the future.”
Let’s take a look at ways in which you can use data to make better decisions, and some ideas to consider for improving your community – and your occupancy rates!
What data should we pay attention to?
We’ve written about market research data several times, and if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that there’s no limit to the variables you could consider. Being judicious about the data you consider is step one in making the right choices about where to allocate your improvement funds.
Pay attention to trends.
The larger trends in senior living today are well-publicized in blogs, magazines and other publications across the nation. It’s no secret, for example, that seniors today are looking for high-end amenities in their future homes. By staying current with what your fellow communities are doing, both locally and nationally, you’ll keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in senior living and, in turn, will be in tune with what today’s seniors expect.
Talk to your current residents.
Your current residents are your number one source of valuable information about what they, and others like them, really want and need. Through surveys, one-on-one interviews and by even just listening to residents as they interact at your community, you can get a good idea of what matters to them and what doesn’t. If you notice lots of seniors seem interested in the outdoors and staying active, for example, spending a hefty sum to spruce up your indoor arts and crafts space may not be the best use of your money.
Look at the greater community.
What activities, events and outings are really popular among the community at large? Is your neighborhood a destination for bird watchers? Are cooking classes sprouting up everywhere you look? Does the local library’s book club have to turn people away? Pay attention to the activity and interest trends of your larger community, because seniors are a part of that community, and whether they live at home, your community or another senior living community, they’ll want to keep doing what they love.
Pay attention to who’s really making the decisions.
Choosing a senior living community is rarely a one-person decision. Oftentimes it involves more than one senior, as well as their family members. Studies suggest women are also more influential in making these decisions, both for themselves and their aging parents. When you have a family come in for a tour or interview, make sure you’re paying close attention to the decision maker of the group. For example, it may be that a young daughter is the main decision maker in a family unit, and for her, things like safety and medical care may rank higher on the list of factors to consider than they might for the resident themselves.
Schedule tours and interviews carefully.
Tours are an amazing opportunity for a prospective resident and his or her family to get a sense of what life is really like in your community. Doing your research before setting up a tour is crucial to success here. For example, you should know what your prospective residents’ preferences are with regards to how active or quiet they like their home to be, so you can schedule a time for them to visit that best reflects their ideal arrangement. A highly active senior won’t be pleased if they come for a tour on your slowest, quietest day. Then, after their tour, be sure to follow up with them to see how it went and answer any questions they might have, both to ensure they have the best experience possible, and to remember for future tours.
Sometimes the things that are best for our community, residents and prospective residents isn’t always entirely obvious. By relying on data, observation and research, we can make better decisions about how to spend the right funds to make the right choices.