The holidays are a time when families gather. That means adult children may be seeing their parents for the first time in months. This visit could serve as the moment when an adult child realizes his or her parents need assistance with day-to-day living.
The discovery that parents are surviving rather than thriving can lead to confusion on the part of the adult child. After all, mom and dad had seemed fine during conversations on the phone. But if the adult child had actually seen how they were struggling on a day-to-day basis, he or she would have taken action long ago.
Now there’s a sense of urgency, one that makes it difficult to find a starting point.
Swimming in a Sea of Options
The majority of adult children will begin the senior living search online. Inevitably, they will feel overwhelmed as they encounter an array of options — independent living, assisted living, memory support, private caregivers, long-term nursing, home health and more. How will he or she make the right choice?
The National Center for Assisted Living reported there were 31,000 assisted living communities in 2010 — and the number has only grown since then. Similarly, LeadingAge reported there were about 1,900 continuing care retirement communities (or life plan communities) in 2010. Add in the growing number of home health and hospice companies, and you begin to understand just how overwhelming the options can feel.
What Sets You Apart?
What sets you and your community apart from the competition? The answer is simple: Experience. Not experience as in the number of years you and your team have worked in senior living, but rather as in the experience you create for adult children and their parents.
Experience means creating an image in the mind of the consumer. When an adult child begins an online search, this experience includes where you rank in search results, the navigability of your website, as well as information sufficient enough to capture an adult child’s attention and motivate him or her to pick up the phone and call.
When you do make the call-to-find-out-more list, the experience continues when you answer the phone. Are you prepared to create the experience your community desires? What type of greeting do you use? If put on hold, how long does an adult child wait before someone returns to answer his or her questions?
Remember: These adult children are often battling feelings of guilt, desperation, anxiety, fear and, in some cases, sheer panic. They are often out of town or have just returned from traveling. It’s important that you and your community provide a sense of calm and relief.
Creating the Right Face-to-Face Experience
If you’re successful online and on the phone, you’ll earn a face-to-face meeting. And what’s most important at this face-to-face meeting? That’s right: Experience. Continue the adult child’s positive experience through a warm greeting at the door. Make an impactful first impression by offering visitors something to drink and creating an atmosphere of placidity. Think through how far an adult child and his or her parents must walk during a visit. Think about what they can see, hear, smell and taste.
Ask questions without interrogating. When the adult child and his or parents ask questions, provide information and follow up with questions of your own. Create a realistic picture of how you and your community can meet this family’s unique needs, and demonstrate that each resident is important and valued.
Be a problem solver, a solution finder, a hero. You can be the one who helps an adult child ease his or her worry, anxiety and guilt, helping him or her to make a sound decision. You can be the one who articulates the many advantages and benefits your community can deliver to the prospective residents. Always be flexible, and remember your job is to make their situation easier.
Closing the Sale
As your face-to-face meeting draws to a close, the air should settle and the conversation should get easier. If you’ve done your job, the adult child will begin to feel at peace. And that’s when you establish next steps. Gain a commitment to move forward, and let them know when and how you will follow up.
While the holiday season brought the need for your services to an adult child’s attention, the holiday season could also mean the process drags out over weeks or months — nothing happens quickly at the end of the year.
Remain patient. You’ve demonstrated your community’s value, provided clarity and created a positive and unforgettable experience. In doing so, you’ve become the provider this adult child and his or her parents will turn to when ready to make a move.
—Mindy Cheek, Vice President, Marketing Services