Senior Living and the Elusive Fully Satisfied Customer

Senior Living and the Elusive Fully Satisfied Customer
Cole Marvin, Executive Director of Friendship Village Tempe

The phrase “The customer is always right” has been so ingrained in the hospitality industry that it’s easy to forget how impactful it can be. It’s certainly some of the best advice I’ve ever received, and I’ve kept it in hand for the entirety of my 20-year senior living career. My service philosophy is simple — I can’t fail if I approach every resident and community aspect with the utmost respect and care. A major part of that is simply adhering to all resident feedback, no matter how miniscule.

Retirement communities pose an interesting relationship dynamic between team members and residents. On one hand, creating a family atmosphere is at the forefront of everything senior living is about. Retirement communities aren’t just dwellings, they’re homes. They’re where close relationships are nurtured. On the other hand, residents are, in effect, customers. It’s easy to forget that while sitting comfortably in the familial bubbles that are fostered by these communities. So how exactly can we as an industry encourage constant, constructive feedback from residents without disrupting the family atmosphere? There’s no single, clear-cut answer, but I have some ideas.

There are some core phrases that should be commonplace within interactions between team members and residents. Questions like “‘How are you doing?” or “How’s your day?” or “Is there anything I can do?” can help gauge whether there’s a service or amenity tweak that could improve resident experience. These expressions go beyond basic politeness and essentially ask for feedback, albeit subtly.

At Friendship Village Tempe, we’ve gone a step further and implemented an anonymous yearly survey to measure resident satisfaction. Anonymity drives honesty, and the outcome has been extremely helpful. Last year’s survey results were encouraging, with 95% of our residents saying they’d recommend Friendship Village to friends and family, 93% categorizing themselves as very satisfied, and 91% saying that they feel at home at our community.

While we’re proud that the vast majority of our residents are extremely satisfied, there’s always room for improvement, and we won’t stop until we clock 100% in each category. Day in, day out, we’re always fishing for ways to improve resident experience. We encourage all our team members to be proactive and creative in their approach. It’s this sort of undertaking that has enabled us to maintain a high level of resident satisfaction for nearly four decades. Remember, the customer is always right, and getting them to speak up is the first step to improvement.

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