Three Ways COVID Has Changed Expectations of Senior Care Companies
I’m a research junkie. From survey reports to data visualization tables to TikTok TedTalks to personality assessments, I love anything that uses data to teach me something new about myself or the world around me. As I synthesize what I’m reading and observing, a few things are becoming crystal clear as themes that senior care executives will wrestle with in 2022 and beyond. And, while there are nuances to these themes by audience, they are universal to payers, referrers, consumers and staff.
Organizations that can successfully prioritize and meet these needs will grow, see lower turnover and greater satisfaction scores.
1. Expect technology-enabled processes and communications – When the pandemic shut down restaurants and reduced occupancy in retail stores, the result was a push to online like the world has never seen. Places may be reopening, but we all got so hooked on the intuitive and user-centered digital experiences of Target, DoorDash and InstaCart that in-person is not expected to fully return anytime soon. The step-by-step communication of the experience and the wayfinding ability to know where you are and, in some instances, choose what happens next deepens connection and brand loyalty.
Brands like Dominos are seeing that the real competition isn’t other pizza companies. Rather, the purveyors of convenient experiences. Dominos is countering by taking DoorDash, Uber Eats and others head on and encouraging consumers to skip the delivery fees and order direct to support local businesses. Who would have thought this huge business would find authenticity taking the side of the little guy?
In the staffing area, prospective employees want to be able to quickly find and apply for open positions. They want to see a Facebook or Instagram ad, click on it, fill out an application and receive a response within minutes. And, the same process is true for referrals.
LOW-BUDGET HACK: I know few senior care companies have the kinds of budgets of Target, Dominos and DoorDash, but there are still simple and cost-effective steps you can take to automate aspects of your process with nuanced communications that nurture relationships, CAHPS scores and referrals. Simple email automation techniques are a great place to start and come standard in most email applications these days.
2. Seek authentic whole person solutions – The stress of the pandemic has led us all to seek comfort and support. The research shows consumers want brands that offer holistic help, especially help managing stress and anxiety. In hospice, providers who demonstrate an ability to help a patient’s family deal with stress and anxiety tend to have higher patient conversion rates. We’ve seen this trend in our data. Seriously ill patients may not be willing to accept their diagnosis or the level of care they need, but they will accept help for their family.
In independent and assisted living, COVID isolation from friends and family fueled concerns about mental well-being and social connection. Communities have long emphasized their social activities, but consumers have learned not to believe the marketing. Families want to know that whole person care is a regular part of your community even for residents who are room- or bed-bound.
Tools for communicating with families continue to become more accessible and affordable. Serenity Engage has become one of our favorites, since it’s like a social media platform connecting residents/patients, families and care teams and has considerably less impact on staff than FaceTime or other offerings.
3. Require consistent values-driven actions and experiences – There’s nothing like a crisis to show the true nature of people and organizations. Forrester’s latest research confirms that consumers became more entrenched in their values and choosing brands that consistently reflected their values over the past two years. In the future, company values are expected to become even more important and Forrester projects a return to brand loyalty – a concept consumers had strayed from pre-pandemic – as consumers choose to honor those values.
This trend applies not only to consumer purchase decisions but to employment decisions. Employees who were wooed by exciting signing bonuses are not staying unless they see their employer is proactively and consistently living their values. On-boarding experiences have never been more important. And, the research continues to show the growing importance of staff development – not just compliance-based in services – in demonstrating commitment to employees.
LOW-BUDGET HACK: Map your processes for employees and admissions. Look critically at how each step in the experience supports and reinforces or misses in communicating organizational values. Areas where organizations often miss include soliciting feedback, acting on input and communicating the results of those improvement suggestions.
COVID fatigue has left us all craving experiences, connection and control. Brands that can meet those needs authentically will grow, experience lower turnover and greater satisfaction. It’s not easy, but don’t let the level of effort or concerns about cost derail you. There are a number of small and low-cost ways to get started.
For more advice or hacks, email me. And, look for our next research report in January. Until then, on behalf of the entire team at Transcend, happy holidays and best wishes for a bright new year.