Growing occupancy during the pandemic
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, providers are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. There has been some renewed interest in congregate care and providers are seeing dips in occupancy begin to slow. As the landscape changes, it’s important to take a fresh look at how your sales and marketing efforts can appeal to today’s prospective residents and their families in order to continue growing occupancy during the pandemic.
Are you up to date?
The first step for growing occupancy is to take some time to reflect on your community. This is a great time to take a breath and tally up all the positive changes you’ve made. Is your staff aware of the cumulative effect of those changes? Will they be able to share those successes with a family member who pulls them aside? As busy as they have been, they may not have had the opportunity to keep track of all the improvements that have been made in response to COVID-19.
Is your community a place that you would want your loved one or yourself to live? If not, evaluate and create a plan to drive the changes needed to make it a great place to live. If you’d love to live there, write down all the reasons it’s appealing and make sure that you have addressed those in your sales and marketing materials and that your staff can speak to all those reasons as well.
Communicate your statistics
Next, ensure your statistics around COVID-19 and its effects on your community are up to date. Much of the general public believes that senior living care settings were riddled with COVID-19 infections and deaths. They will likely be surprised to hear your actual numbers. Has your vaccination campaign been successful? Share the percentage of residents and staff who have been vaccinated. If your numbers are higher than the national average, be sure to include that data. If not, what is your plan for improvement? Include any successful regulatory audits in your statistics as well. Transparency around your actual outcomes dispels myths and builds a trusting relationship with prospective residents and their families from the start.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have quickly created videos of your community to share with prospects and their families to limit in-person visits. This is a good time to circle back on that. Does the video reflect what your community is like today? Are the precautions in place then still relevant? Or conversely, are there precautions in place now that weren’t then? If you did not create new videos and are still using pre-pandemic materials, now is a good time to update those to ensure they accurately reflect all the hard work you’ve done to keep residents safe while allowing them to lead a fulfilling life.
Technology saves the day
Over the last year, many communities increased their use of technology to continue growing occupancy and help them better manage their business, avoid unnecessary contact, and connect residents, caregivers, and families. The technology you purchased or enabled to provide video chat and tours, contactless meal ordering and delivery, engagement tools, clinical documentation, and more, is a meaningful update to share with your prospects. Residents and families want to know how you have invested in new tools and pivoted quickly to meet the needs of residents, family, and staff. If you have not updated any technology, consider ways that you may have begun using existing technology differently or new solutions you’ll be bringing to your community in the future.
Many communities found that today’s seniors are willing to engage more in technology than they may have previously thought. How can you leverage this to connect with residents while also helping them to be safe and well? Consider a “Welcome Home Kit” that includes connected health tracking devices such as a step and sleep tracker, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, glucometer, pulse oximeter, and more. Having this data populate the resident’s personal health record gives the resident, their family members, and you reassurance about the resident’s well-being, especially in independent living settings.
Meaningful contact with residents
These days, it’s important to ensure that contact with residents and prospects is even more purposeful and meaningful. The technology you use should help streamline your workflow so less time is spent in front of a screen, allowing your team to reserve their eye contact for residents, prospects, and families. If your technology is not facilitating meaningful contact, reach out to your vendor to discuss ways to optimize what you have; often there have been improvements to technology that you may have not fully leveraged. Your software should be reducing the burden on your staff, allowing them to spend more time interacting meaningfully with those they are caring for. As you tour prospects and their families, share all the ways that your software helps your team provide excellent care and service.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, the things we know now are significantly different from what we knew at the start. In the same way that your community has adjusted policies and procedures, the way we market to prospects should evolve as well in order to continue growing occupancy. Looking at your community through the eyes of the consumer gives you an opportunity to refresh your message and take some time to pat yourself on the back as well.