Let’s be frank: We’re not talking about restaurants here. We’re not talking about dry cleaners, or beauty salons, or any other service where all a customer might say is that he didn’t like the appetizer.
This is the senior care industry. Families trust you to take care of their loved one’s every need. Lives are in your hands. It’s also an industry that serves families when they’re going through some of the most difficult transitions life has to offer. Even if you do everything right, the families you serve aren’t always happy.
So do online ratings and reviews even have a place in senior services?
Absolutely. Our research shows that ratings and reviews provide families with tremendous value and play a strong role in affecting a caregiver’s selection of care. Ratings and reviews might even be more important to senior care services than to other industries.
Families like reviews.
Choosing senior care for a loved one is challenging. Yes, families want to choose an excellent service services provider — they also want peace of mind. They want to know that they’ve made the best possible decision for their loved one. The more information they have, the better.
These days, reviews are a key source of information about products and services. 83% of consumers say that reviews influence purchasing decisions. And people trust reviews. Even if they’re posted by strangers, reviews are trusted even more than TV, radio, newspaper, or magazine ads. The only thing consumers trust more is personal advice from a friend.
Reviews help families narrow their choices (and save time).
We know time matters a lot for many caregiving families. Some families have to make decisions quickly because their loved one’s needs are progressing rapidly. Other families are trying to make decisions from a distance. For these families, anything that increases efficiency in the search for senior services is a welcome help.
Reviews can help busy caregivers right from the start. Research says that 38% of consumers look for reviews when they start looking for new products and services. Reviews help families figure out which providers to call, what to look for, and what to questions to ask.
Reviews convey unvarnished information.
We know how hard you work to describe what makes your business special. You’ve sweated over every word of your marketing copy, polished your descriptions, and chosen your photos so that you can give families the best impression of your staff and services.
But no matter how wonderful your website’s copy, reviews bring something different. They aren’t always pretty — they may have typos or grammatical errors, they may use ALL CAPS, or jump around from topic to topic. They may even mention a few things you’d rather they didn’t. But reviews are often heartfelt, convey emotion, and contain stories with little details that bring your business to life.
Here are a few examples of great stories from reviews:
“We were pleasantly surprised at the loving care given to our elderly father as he was dying. The staff was kind, went about the physical care aspect without negative comments and one of the staff made this comment, “It is a privelage to care for your father.” Our mother is there, also, and she is clean and happy when we go to see her. We are very pleased with our overall experience.”
- West Village Care Center, Independence, IA
“Hate to say it, but I needed a last minute “sitter” for my dad. I called Lido Senior Care and they were able to come in one weekend and be with my father. The caregiver they sent over was a nice young man who kept my dad entertained with conversation, puzzles and even took him for a walk around our complex. I definitely keep Lido in my phone book and use them regularly.”
- Lido Senior Care, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
“This assisted living facility is clean and nice. My grandfather lives there now. He says it is well kept and the faculty is nice and patient with the residents. He says the food is not superb and they are meager rations. Overall, he is enjoying it and has made some new friends in his experiences there.”
- The Brunswick at Attleboro, Langhorne, PA
Reviews build trust.
It’s probably no surprise that good reviews help people trust a brand. (Research shows that 55% of U.S. consumers trust a local business after reading positive online reviews.)
Negative reviews can help build trust, too. Consider:
- 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, and 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores.
- According to The Economist, John McAteer of shopping.google.com says “a small proportion of negative comments — just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect — can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.”
- Negative reviews offer you an opportunity to demonstrate your customer service capabilities. “How a business handles negative feedback says volumes about the integrity of the business and how much the business values its customers,” says Rachel Strella of Social Media Today.
- TrendWatching.com has coined a new term for businesses in this modern era: flawsome. These are brands that are ” . . . still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity.”
Still not sure about negative reviews?
“When someone has something bad to say about your business, they’re going to find a way to say it,” says Denise Graab, Director of Social Community for Caring.com. “If they complain to friends out of your earshot, you’re entirely left out of the conversation. But if they say it in an online review, you have an opportunity to reflect on the feedback and respond as necessary.”
Graab recommends keeping a close watch on what’s being said about your brand. If something negative comes up, don’t always try to get it taken down, and don’t ignore it. When necessary — such as in the case of a factual error, or when you can politely and professionally convey your commitment to quality service — participate in the conversation.
On Caring.com, providers may post a response after any consumer review. You can see great examples of how an effective provider response demonstrates customer service here and here. For more ideas about handling negative reviews, check out Strella’s blog post. (For more information about contesting a review based on a factual error or violation of our Review Guidelines, or for information about posting a provider response, call your Membership Advisor at (866) 824-9209.)
Reviews help families finalize their decisions.
Even after they meet with you or visit your community, you can expect that some families will look for reviews online. They’re seeking confirmation (or contradiction) of the opinions they’ve formed.
- 27% of consumers look for reviews when they’re trying to decide between two or three products or services.
- 21% look for reviews to confirm that they’ve made the right decision.
Reviews help make services better.
Families aren’t the only ones who can gain important knowledge from reviews — you can, too. In reviews, families are telling you exactly what’s important. By paying attention to this feedback, you can make your services better:
- Take a look at the reviews on your competitors’ listings. What are they doing well — and does that inspire any ideas for improving your business? To see Caring.com’s favorite new reviews each week, visit our LinkedIn company page every Monday afternoon.
- See our 2012 Caring Stars award winners. These are providers recognized for service excellence based entirely on customer reviews.
- Check out Caring.com’s assisted living best practices, based on our analysis of five-star reviews of assisted living communities.
Reviews can also help you understand your position in the marketplace. What can you do better than your competitors? How can you describe what makes you different?
As we read in a recent New York Times article about reviews, no one of us is as smart as all of us. Reviews represent “collected knowledge” that can help families — and your business, too.
Not seeing any reviews for your business?
Get your free* basic listing in the Caring.com Senior Directory, the leading source of senior services reviews online.
*All directory requests will be reviewed and confirmed. A one-time set-up fee may apply.
For ideas on how to reach out to the families you serve, check out our video, Essential Tips for Getting Reviews on Caring.com.
Remember: You, the provider, can’t write a review of your own business.
(See Review Guidelines for more information.)
Kate Antheil Boyd is Former VP of Content at Caring.com, the web’s #1 source for senior care reviews. We help families find information, support, and local services to help with their caregiving journey. We also help senior service providers connect with the families who need them.