7 tips for better customer satisfaction

The experiences of residents and their families can be a boon or a bomb for long-term care (LTC) facilities. Customers often project individual experiences on the facility as a whole, and LTC communities can feel the joys or pains of resident reactions long after the events that prompted them.

The expansion of internet-based resources has changed the whole business paradigm, shifting the power from providers to consumers, notes Christopher Magleby, COO of Pinnacle Quality Insight, in an educational session at the 2013 American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living Conference this week in Phoenix. The Salt Lake City-based company has researched data from more than 500,000 long-term care customer satisfaction surveys for clues and patterns in what makes residents happy. The Information Age has make it easy for consumers to compare facilities and share comments about them. "Your competition is everybody now. You're up against the best idea out there," Magleby says. "Stop mass producing your product and start producing it for each individual customer."

He suggests the following tips to improve customer satisfaction with current residents and the baby boomers to come:

  1. Treat everyone with importance
  2. Explain everything
  3. Exceed expectations
  4. Lose wait
  5. Make lemonade from lemons
  6. Brag right
  7. Invest in employees

LTC communities should never underestimate the huge difference between a "good" comment and a "great" one. "Don't expect the highest satisfaction remarks when all you're doing is what is already expected," Magleby says. "The things that exceed expectation are what buys loyalty."

Explaining processes can make or break a customer's perception of an experience, especially when it comes to wait times. If residents are told how the admission procedure works or the normal routine for meal times, it can erase misaligned expectations of how long a process takes. "Explain and then explain again," Magleby says. "Explain what you will do, what you are doing, what you did and what to expect. And then explain it to residents' families, because they're your customers, too."

It's also no accident that respect appears several times in the list, not only for residents but also for employees, adds Rich Goaslind, vice president of business development at Pinnacle. This idea also extends to going the extra mile to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one."The way mistakes are handled can define your company," Goaslind says. "Embrace negative feedback, and don't shoot the messenger. And never, ever say, 'It's not my job.'"

Simply posting this list of tips on the staff break room or adding it to the company mission won't get the job done. The real benefits won't be seen until each idea is personalized and extended to residents and their families as individuals, Magleby says. "You have to learn your common denominators and then push them out to individuals."

Additional resources: Pinnacle offers a free guide to the 2012 benchmarks and satisfaction trends in long-term care.

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