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We Are Getting Better at the Wrong Things

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By Steve Moran

When senior living organizations struggle with quality they mostly create more or better policies, new procedures, and CHECKLISTS. Afterall, if you give a team member a checklist of things to do they will get it done right?

It is a great idea but actually doesn’t work very well. Not sure . . . think about all the times you have walked into a fast food, gas station, airport or even a full-service restroom where you saw an up-to-date, hourly checklist and yet the bathroom was still marginal to disgusting.  

Howard Johnson's . . . Do You Remember Them?

In November, Lou Carbone, the founder of the Experience Connexus and father of the customer experience and employee experience movement joined the first class of Culture 2100 Inner Circle to talk about how to engineer employee experiences in senior living.

I am just now getting around to reading his book, “Clued In: How to keep customers coming back again and again” and he talks about how Howard Johnson was once the dominant motor hotel and roadside restaurant chain but lost its way. As they tried to recover, they created more checklists to solve quality problems and cut costs to slow the flow of red ink. It was not successful.

Senior Living as a Business

There are lots of ways to think of senior living. It is housing. It is a healthcare or a healthcare light business. It is a real estate investment. It is a restaurant business. All fair descriptions to a degree, but perhaps not really enough. Looking at it in any of those ways puts owners and operators on the path of creating a “minimally viable product.” Having an MVP when creating a new product on the path to a robust product is fine, even the perfect thing to do. It is a horrible strategy for managing an on-going product or service.

While there is frequently lip service paid to the idea that we are creating a great product for residents and team members, mostly we are trying to figure out how we can provide a great experience while controlling or shaving costs.  

I am just not sure this is the way to get senior living into the mainstream.   

Senior Living and Disney

For a number of reasons -- and it should probably be another article -- I am not a huge fan of Disney as a model for senior living. But the one thing they get 110%-plus right is focusing on the customer experience. They sweat like crazy the really small stuff, things that add to cost. They have figured out that when they create an amazing experience for guests, families will jam the ticket lines without regard to ticket prices and then spend buckets more money on souvenirs.

And after a long, exhausting, expensive day, how does the family feel about it? Yep, they can hardly wait to come back, and the next day or the next trip spend more money and do it all over again. They have created “Experience Crack Cocaine.”

I believe it is possible to create a very special kind of “Senior Living Experience Crack” that will serve residents well, fill buildings, and have seniors craving what we offer instead of dreading it.

We will get there when we start thinking of our business as an experience business.

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