By 2020, customer service will override price and product as the key differentiating factor among brands, according to research from the end of last year.

Welcome to the here and now. At the dawn of this new decade, there are some very compelling statistics to substantiate the fact that consumers are more interested in great customer service and buyer experiences than low prices and high quality. Certainly, cost and quality are still important, but consider these ten truths about today’s American consumer:

Ten Truths about Today’s Consumer

    1. 90 percent consider customer service a key factor in doing business with a company.
    2. Almost half switched brands due to poor customer service.
    3. Nearly 75 percent stay loyal to a brand because of excellent customer service.
    4. 77 percent would recommend a brand because of a single positive experience, while 78 percent backed out of a purchase due to poor customer service.
    5. It takes 12 positive customer service experiences to make up for one bad one.
    6. 79 percent of American internet users are on Facebook. 35 percent of them post negative comments about a brand; 53 percent post positive comments.
    7. Half don’t believe their customer service feedback goes to anyone who can do anything about it.
    8. Increasing customer retention by just 5 percent can increase profits by as much as 95 percent.
    9. On average, customer service agents ask for customers’ names only 21 percent of the time.
    10. 90 percent consider a quick response to a question or issue very important.

While customer service is crucial in every industry, it’s even more so in the highly competitive, high-stakes arena of senior housing. With the Baby Boomers poised to move into senior housing in droves within the next ten years, the need for outstanding consumer experiences has never been greater. Three and a half million more workers will be needed to serve them. Even today, senior housing lawsuits average $750,000 – out of court! – and 95 percent of all crises are the result of human error. One in 10 elders suffers from abuse, and the risk of litigation stands only to increase.

Social media allows every citizen to comment however they please about their buyer experiences. That’s either good or bad news for a bubble gum brand; consider the influence such instantaneous feedback has on an industry as emotionally laden as care and housing of our beloved seniors!

A guide about customer service in senior housing outlines the benefits, among others, of exceptional customer service in senior housing:

      • Maintains or improves community’s good reputation
      • Increases resident census
      • Decreases risk of lawsuits
      • Improves employee retention and creates pride among staff
      • Invites community contributions
      • Inspires medical and other personnel to recommend community
      • Builds confidence in loved ones and family members

There are just far too many choices for consumers in this space to give their business to any provider but the best. The quality of customer service is the entrée into the competition from the get-go.

Let’s look specifically at numbers 9 and 10 again on the list of ten truths about today’s consumer above. These factors are especially key in the senior housing arena. Case study evidence from call monitoring shows that far too often, incoming calls are not answered at all, much less responded to in a timely fashion. Furthermore, names of callers are sometimes not attained, or the needs of the caller are not adequately assessed at the time of inquiry.

The same can be said of queries and engagements that come through one’s website. A dynamic, responsive website is the gateway to the success of any brand. It is also where opportunities to connect, inform, intrigue, gather data, answer questions, and more are rife. Too often, however, these opportunities are not properly seized.

The time to engage a potential buyer of any product or service is from the very first point of contact. That’s when the journey begins, and we all know what they say about first impressions. They really are everything.

At IVY Marketing, our team of specialists in the senior housing industry are certified by the Public Relations Society of America in content marketing and crisis communications and media trained and educated in crisis communications by the Institute of Crisis Management. We are also developing the first crisis communications solution, Responderhub™, specifically for senior housing.

We understand the implications of customer service and how it can help – or harm – your brand. Let us help you put your best foot forward on the all-important consumer journey. After all, we’ve been practicing excellent customer service for nearly 30 years!