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Author: Dawn Wagenaar

Dawn Wagenaar has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and became an owner of Ingenuity in 2005. Previously, she led the marketing and PR efforts at two accounting firms. Her in-house knowledge and relationship-building skills enhance client trust by identifying the right strategy for the right results. She is active in several local and national professional services marketing associations, and has spoken nationally and internationally.

One senior living marketing census improvement strategy that works

Survey results have a shelf life. That’s why we follow up on those results with in-depth resident interviews. This way we can get to the nitty gritty and help you really understand your residents.

Your census enhancement strategy should include interviews. You can ask deeper questions based on each person’s individual preferences and concerns. Here are some interviewing techniques that can help you get beyond general satisfaction ratings.

Ask a question and be quiet.

Wait patiently for your resident to elaborate. Silence will feel uncomfortable, but don’t rush to fill it. If they feel more comfortable having their family there, extend the invitation to a family member as well. Make sure to give the other person time to think, and their answers will be more detailed. If they become quiet, ask if there is anything else that comes to mind. And be quiet again!

Ask for examples.

Prepare questions in advance , touching upon the level of quality you deliver or how people feel about your team. The best interview transcripts also include real examples of how great service showed up.

If someone says that the programs or services you deliver are “high quality” or “informative,” ask them for an example. Specific examples will help you identify actual results while defining what “quality” and “informative” actually mean.

These examples can then be used in your senior living marketing copy, in ads on your website and on social media.

Repeat what you heard.

Show that you are listening. Paraphrase what you heard your resident says, and you will get them to reinforce or clarify with additional details. “What I’m hearing is… is that right?”

Make it a conversation.

Residents can get nervous and short with their answers if you keep asking questions and don’t participate in the conversation. You are creating an experience during the interview, and it’s a great technique to share a story of your own that relates to what the person just said.

A conversation puts your clients at ease, making it more likely that they will open up and be honest about their experiences. When they are honest, tell them how much you appreciate it — whether the feedback is good or bad. It is all constructive feedback to help you improve your service delivery.

Tell them what’s next.

Make sure to tell your residents what you will do with their responses. They want to know that they are helping you and that their input will result in something good.

If you are collecting testimonials as part of the interview, let them know that you will follow up soon to have them review some comments. Tell them that their feedback will be analyzed for improving service delivery. Let them participate in the future success of your team.



As a final tip, interviews can seem like an intrusion, but email automation can help you invite residents to participate at a time that is convenient to them. Let them know how long the interview will be and offer to send questions ahead of time. All of this will support more scheduled interviews and good data to support your senior living marketing and resident loyalty strategies or service standards.

Even a half-dozen interviews with your best residents are worth the time.

Send me an email and let’s chat about additional marketing opportunities.

7 Customer Loyalty Tips for Senior Living Communities

Don has served as executive director of a senior living community for almost 28 years. After the pandemic, census declined from a waiting list of 150 applicants to 73%. He is worried about continued decline in customer loyalty as residents choose to stay home longer or live with relatives. Why?

What do you do in this situation? Here is some inspiration to help keep your residents happy and gain more referrals for your senior living community.

1. Get Facebook and Google Reviews

Hey, that’s awesome!

The more positive reviews you receive on Facebook and Google, the better. Social proof is a key differentiator in this, and all, industries these days. Ask your best residents (or their family) to post a review online. This will show their friends and other local residents that your community is THE community to join when the time is right.

Bonus: Good reviews increase your ranking on Google Maps and on Bing search as well.

(Tip: Bing shows Facebook reviews in search results, while Google shows Google reviews.)

2. Create a referral program

One great way to track the effectiveness of your referrals is to take control of them. Start a referral program. Use a special code in your postcards or email campaigns to track referrals by marketing program. This will help you see which types of referral incentives create the most interest. Do more of those.

3. Conduct regular email campaigns

Email campaigns are still one of the top-performing marketing strategies available today – and this applies to long-term care marketing, too.

Send these emails to your residents’ family members to increase referrals.

Need some clarification or want to see an example? Send me an email and I’ll share some email marketing case studies with you.

4. Research new amenities

Since your residents are living there full-time, you want to make sure you have all the amenities they want and need.

Send out a survey or walk around and ask them: “Is there something you would like to see that we’re not doing currently?” Asking this question can go a long way toward creating customer loyalty as long as you follow through with new amenities.

Read our blog about how to conduct the perfect interview survey

5. Add events

Hold a movie night based on a seasonal theme. There are tons of good movies dating back all the way to the ‘20s, so there is bound to be at least a few months’ worth of movie nights you can plan in advance.

Or, bring in catering once a quarter with residents’ favorite restaurant foods.

Host a share-a-thon where they share a favorite memory from the past. This also serves as an ice breaker for newcomers.

To increase engagement, add your events to your community calendar as well as social channels or an event site to track RSVPs. This will also show you approximate interest or headcount when deciding how many servings to have catered in or how many chairs to put out. Events can include guests!

6. Go on field trips

Hold monthly or quarterly meetings to talk about where residents want to go, and explore budgets and logistics for group outings. Whether you offer independent living field trips or you support group grocery and retail outings, residents will appreciate the variety of options available to them in your community.

7. Put yourself in their shoes

Customer-centric service is not a one-and-done administrative task. Make sure you’re regularly taking the time to assess your community. Give yourself a tour. Use all of your senses. Are there areas you can improve? Would you feel comfortable there?

Are you trying to increase customer loyalty and gain more referral residents for your senior living community? Send me an email and let’s chat about additional marketing opportunities.