By Tom Mann, Principal, Executive Vice President
As senior housing marketing consultants, a major portion of the Love & Company team’s time is spent away from home. To keep our clients’ costs down, we often stay at the retirement community, either in a model apartment or guest room. What we find behind that guest room door reveals much about the community’s hospitality culture.
Older, mature, continuing care retirement communities need to practice what I call, “Extreme Hospitality.” In fact, the older your community, the more extreme your hospitality should be.
“But, it’s just a guest room,” you can almost hear some old-timers in our industry think. “No. It’s a reflection of the community and the hospitality culture that you have created!” you should respond.
Amazingly, most communities furnish their guest rooms with the furniture of residents who have passed. Trust me, the second your guest walks in, they know it. This is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Why? Because most retirement communities derive over 50% of their sales through referrals and word-of-mouth. What will your guests say after spending the night at your retirement community? Was it a ‘Wow!’ experience? Will they brag about your community? Remember, referrals and word-of-mouth are the two most cost effective means of marketing by a long-shot.
“But we’ve never had any complaints!” I hear you thinking. Yes, that is probably true, but you also haven’t created an evangelist for your community brand. You have missed an ideal opportunity.
Imagine your guests being greeted at the receptionist’s desk with their name on a welcome sign and a warm greeting by your receptionist. The receptionist or someone from your staff (a marketing team member if they are a potential prospect), then walks them to their room to make sure that they don’t get lost and that everything is to their liking. In their room they discover fresh baked goodies and a note from your chef. Do you think this would make a difference?
Your Guest Room Checklist
To get a sense of the accommodations you are trying to create, aim to match a room in your local Marriott hotel. All of the items in your guest room should be relatively new. Here are some standards that your guest rooms should be meeting:
Furniture purchased specifically for a guest room
Desk with desk chair
Lamps, specifically near the bed and at the desk
Working alarm clock
- Clean, new bed linens and comforter
- Firm pillows
- Clean sheets
- Comfortable mattress (note: we point this out, because, believe it or not, many communities try to reuse deceased resident’s bed and bedding sets. Very often, these pillows, sheets, and mattress are not very comfortable as they are worn from years of use. We recommend that communities buy new bedding for all of their guest rooms to create an enjoyable stay experience for all their guests.
- Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and body lotion
- Clean and matching towels
- Bath mats
- Coffeemaker and all supplies (coffee and tea)
- Salt and pepper
- Bottles of water
- Snacks (note: very often your guest will arrive at your community late in the evening after a long day of travel. Hotels have convenience stores that are open 24/7; most communities do not have this available.)
General Items/ Notes
- TV with working cable, with swivel ability, located in an easily viewable location
- TV guide
- Community activity guide and information
- Iron and ironing board
- Heavy cleaning after each stay
- Coat hangers in closet
- Luggage rack to put suitcase on
- Internet connection
- When possible a personalized note from the Executive Director, Chef (with a home baked treat), or Sales Director increases the impression of extreme hospitality
- Welcome sign at the front receptionist desk
So are you ready to practice extreme hospitality? I’d start by having two of your executive team members (with their spouses) spend one night in your local Marriott and then the next night in your guest room. You will be amazed at what you learn, especially if you encourage them to do this with the critical eye of a prospect. Next, remember to think of your investment in your guest rooms as one of the most cost efficient marketing investments you can make.
Hopefully, the guests who will be arriving at your retirement community over the upcoming holidays leave raving about your extreme hospitality. And, have a happy Thanksgiving!
For more information on sales solutions, contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013.