There are many indicators that a community is transitioning to a hospitality-centered philosophy. We talked about the physical plant and service delivery culture already. Today, we’re going to focus on language used by staff. In order to move toward the hospitality model, not only should a community eradicate the language of the medical model, even the phrasing of answers to frequently asked questions should morph into customer-centered jargon.
The Turn of a Phrase Can Turn Them Away
First, let’s tackle transitioning away from the language of the medical model, a transition which many communities have already embraced in order to welcome and engage residents.
|Leisure Programs or Life Enrichment||Activities|
|Lifestyle Coordinator||Activities Director|
|Lifelong Learning||Educational Program|
|Residency, Application||Patients are admitted to a hospital when they are sick. We welcome people into our community.|
|Memory Support or Special Care; better yet, give it a name||Alzheimer's or Dementia unit|
|Creative Arts Studio, Art Studio, Creative Arts||Arts & Crafts|
|Enhanced Living/Catered Living; give it a name, not just Assisted Living||Assisted Living|
|Residence||Apartment, cottage, villa, etc.|
|Visit, pop by, get together||Tour or appointment|
|Accommodation, residence||Bed, room|
|Investment, total investment||Cost, price, total costs|
|Initial investment, deposit/deposit to hold the home you really want||Down payment|
|Community, village, campus, development||Facility|
|Dining Services, Culinary Services||Food Services|
|Sales Counselor||Sales Person|
|Connect or reach out||"Get up with"|
|Area of concern||Objection, obstacle|
|Challenge or concern||Problem|
|Life Plan Community||Continuing Care Community|
|Health Care/Health Center||Skilled Nursing Center|
Minding Our Ps & Qs
Now that we’ve discussed how the terminology should change, let’s focus on adjusting the phrasing used when speaking to guests or answering questions. Once again, I ask you to recall your best experience in a hotel, resort, or spa. Instead of asking, “Can I help you?” at the front desk, the receptionist might say, “Welcome to Lakefront Village, how might I be of assistance to you?” When a guests thanks you for assistance, rather than saying, “No problem,” substitute the phrase with, “It was my pleasure” or “You are most welcome.”When asked for something that your community offers, but you are unable to provide, say, “Let me find someone who can be of assistance with ____“ or “Let me find someone to assist you.”Whenever possible, answer the request yourself or directly convey the request to the appropriate person.
We are a service-intensive industry and, inevitably, there will be foul-ups. However, customer service recovery is central to preserving a customer-centered perception. Be sure to listen to the complaint without interrupting. Resist the temptation to become defensive. Also refrain from “airing dirty laundry” by placing blame on a specific department. Instead, calmly say, “I am sorry for the inconvenience, let me see what we can do to work things out now.”A few words of empathy and a listening ear can go a long way toward calming spirits.
Wrapping up our Series, Let’s Recap
In moving toward a hospitality model, the following factors should be considered:
- physical plant
- service delivery culture
- language that pervades the community
Learning from hotels, resorts, cruise ships, and other service industries, our buildings, room configurations, programming and the way we speak should exude the spirit of experience and engagement.
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About the Author
Patty Scotten is a consultant with Retirement DYNAMICS® and serves as their marketing manager. Patty has over twenty five years’ experience in the senior living industry and has led several communities in preselling expansions or increasing occupancy levels. She graduated from Elon University and holds a Masters Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patty is licensed as both an assisted living and nursing home administrator.