Since the majority of inquiries to a senior housing community usually are made by telephone either before or after researching on the web, one of the services of The Ehlers Group offers is telephone and internet mystery shopping.
Consistently, we find—from a consumer’s perspective—it is very difficult to compare one community to another especially when asking about pricing and included services. We urge a senior living community’s marketing department to put themselves in the customer’s shoes when answering questions. Becoming more consumer friendly is key to successful relationships with customers.
Certainty price is always a factor in decisions. Educated consumers want to know how much something costs. This would be a question typically asked on a telephone inquiry since someone is trying to determine if the community is in their price range.
Just because they are asking doesn’t mean they can’t afford it. Pricing questions are simply a good starting point for research. Many sales people are trained to skirt the price issue and try to sell lifestyle. Frankly, someone wants to know if it’s a Chevrolet or Mercedes.
Also, community fees are a different concept for adult children to understand. Why community fees? It’s anathema in typical rental housing situations. Most rental communities that are not senior oriented charge a first and last month rent and/or security deposit. Consumers understand these terms.
At a senior community, the customer hears the term ‘community fee’ and doesn’t comprehend what this means, why it is necessary, why it is a one-time charge and why it is nonrefundable.
If your competitor is negotiable on the community fee or doesn’t require one, this is valuable to know from a competitive research study.
We find when telephone mystery shopping, it’s also extremely difficult to compare one community to another because there are many different pricing configurations.
Some community’s prices are based on locations within a building while others are not. Floor plans refer to some apartment styles as suites while others designate these same accommodations as studio apartments.
There is also the issue of couples pricing versus shared apartments with non-related person. This gets confusing too. If you ask the cost of a couple, you may hear one price for a second person. If two people are sharing an apartment and are non-related, they each may be paying a fee based on the shared apartment not the second person rate. It forces someone to clearly specify if they want to inquiry for a husband and wife.
Then there is the cost for additional care and this adds to the confusion. The consumer may hear there is a point system and/or levels of care. The senior housing industry understands this concept but the average consumer does not. It’s not part of their frame of reference.
Then they hear that their loved one needs to be evaluated. They’ve probably been accompanying their loved one to any number of physician appointments, now they hear that someone needs to evaluate their parent. It is disheartening to learn that a stranger will be determining if their parent passes or fails the admission procedures even when assured that a “nurse” will handle the evaluation.
Trying to get a handle on what is included versus what isn’t included is also a challenge when comparing communities. An educated consumer wants to know this up front rather than wait for a bill to arrive and questioning it later.
We usually are asked when mystery calling, “how many meds does mom require?” Quite truthfully, I don’t know this information about my mother and certainly wouldn’t be able to rattle off the medication’s name. This seems to be a question that should be reserved for an in-person visit rather than an initial call with a customer.
Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer or adult child. Reviewing the issues that may affect the sale is vital to starting off on the right foot with families. If savvy competitors are handling these important issues in a different manner, a community may need to reevaluate pricing and its presentation.
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