Selecting senior care is an emotionally charged, complex decision. And with nearly 30,000 assisted living communities to choose from, most families spend a lot of time researching and evaluating their options. Unfortunately, in-person visits and tours are difficult with today’s Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, so, prospective residents and their families must rely primarily on information they find online to make their decision.
Online ratings and reviews left by residents, family members, caregivers and staff carry a lot of weight in the decision-making process. In most cases, senior living communities who have high average star ratings and great reviews will be chosen over those who don’t. Additionally, these reviews are heavily factored into Google’s search algorithm. The more ratings and reviews you have, the higher you will rank in online search. Having a high volume of recent, positive reviews on sites where people seek care helps them find and choose your business over others.
Yes, You Should Ask for Reviews
You may not have requested reviews in the past, but in today’s feedback economy, it’s absolutely necessary. Third-party feedback helps families find quality care for their loved ones and feel confident about their decisions. By requesting reviews from everyone — residents, family members, donors and employees — you’re providing the public and potential residents with a holistic view of the experience you provide at your facility.
And, the more recent reviews you have, the better. Not only does a healthy volume of recent reviews add credibility with those searching for care, it also helps you rank higher in local search: A 4.5 average star rating from 60 recent reviews will tend to rank higher than a 5-star rating from two old reviews.
Although senior living facilities face unique challenges when it comes to asking for reviews, a well-planned strategy can help you be successful. Here are five important things to consider:
1) Know your audience.
One of the most unique aspects of requesting feedback for a senior living community is that the majority of people reading your reviews are not the ones seeking care. In fact, 82% of those looking for senior care online are the adult children or other family members of future residents. Overwhelmingly, this demographic uses search engines such as Google to find and choose businesses — and they definitely read reviews.
With this in mind, it’s important to request reviews not just from your residents but from caregivers and family members, as well. For example, the son or daughter of a future resident will want to hear from other people who have placed their parents in your facility about their experience with, your staff, resident care and nutrition, billing issues and so on. Reviews from happy residents are important, but don’t neglect your other important audience — the decision makers.
2) Mind your “review spread.”
Although Google is the most commonly used search engine, some people may refer to other search engines or third-party sites for research. “Review spread” means you have a healthy volume of reviews on multiple sites. If you focus only on Google but neglect Facebook, for example, an inconsistency can result, and care seekers may begin to question the legitimacy of your high star rating on Google.
It’s also critical that you monitor and collect feedback from all review sites. Facebook, for instance, can offer insight into customer experience, as people tag your page when they post comments about your brand. Analyze this information to identify areas for operational improvements, which will then contribute to more positive feedback, and improve your star ratings and rankings over time.
3) Remove the technology barrier.
It’s true that Baby Boomers are beginning to embrace digital technologies, with 68% owning a smartphone and 60% using social media. But what about the other 32%? Make it easy for everyone to submit a review by asking for them in different ways.
For some, a text message or email request is best, while others may need help. Collecting feedback on an iPad at the facility is also a great option — a member of your staff can help facilitate real-time feedback collection. Staff can also request feedback from visitors before they leave. As an added benefit, collecting feedback in this way enables you to respond quickly should an issue arise, and mitigate a potentially negative experience before it goes viral.
4) Don’t forget your donors and employees.
For nonprofit organizations, donors and volunteers are a great source for feedback. Feedback from your employees can help improve your presence on job boards such as Glassdoor, and help ensure you’re providing an enjoyable and engaging work environment — which ultimately improves the resident experience. Tuning into employee feedback can also help you retain your employees and attract new talent in a competitive environment.
5) Welcome all feedback — even the negative kind.
Research shows that when an organization asks for feedback from all customers, the sentiment will be mostly positive. Most people don’t think to leave a review when they’ve had a good experience; but when they are frustrated or angry, they often feel inclined to complain about it. Once a review is posted, it’s very difficult to have it removed. But if you’re consistently requesting reviews, the occasional negative review will be less visible as you receive more positive reviews from satisfied customers.
What’s more, if you actively monitor reviews as they come in, you can take immediate action on negative feedback and, in some cases, turn the situation around. A reviewer may voluntarily remove the negative review and submit a positive one if they’re happy with how you handled the complaint.
In addition to collecting feedback, digital tools are available to help your facility, its staff and its residents meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic — a few of which I discussed in detail in my article on McKnight’s Senior Living. For example, virtual tours enable families to learn more about your facility without having to visit in person. Sharing Covid-19 related information on your Google My Business (GMB) listings help keep families informed about precautions you’re taking to protect residents. You can also use Google’s Q&A feature to engage with families and put their minds at ease.
Use What You Learn to Improve
Requesting reviews is the cornerstone of building a healthy online presence that helps you attract and retain residents, and keep your organization running optimally. It also helps you continually improve. With feedback from residents, family members, donors and employees, you’ll have the information you need to deliver the exceptional care and experiences your residents deserve, and compete effectively in the increasingly crowded senior living market.
To learn more, watch our recent webinar, “Effective Online Management for Senior Living,” during which we explored best practices for senior living facilities to optimize their online presence.