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Three Service Lessons Everyone Can Learn From Disrupting The Status Quo of Senior Living

customer experience customer service; hospitality; hateful to grateful cx disrupting the status quo of senior living healthcare jill vitale-aussem Jul 27, 2021

Disrupting The Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift by Jill Aussem-Vitaleis a must-read for anyone hoping to improve service to reluctant customers. The former President & CEO of The Eden Alternative’s book is a humble account of the lessons she’s learned after several decades of senior living leadership. Here’s what service strategists in every industry can learn:

1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

In Vitale-Aussem’s case, she willingly surrenders to the role of “resident” for a 24-hour period when she takes over managing a nursing home or senior living community. Vitale-Aussem has experienced being secured by a “lap buddy” in a wheelchair and being seated at a “feeder table.” Vitale-Aussem also dealt with having her sleep interrupted because of the noises common in a nursing home setting like call bells, chair alarms and other residents calling out.

The author says it takes her about two days to feel like herself again after immersing herself in the life of a resident for only one 24-hour period. These experiences inspired Vitale-Aussem to re-examine what a positive experience as a senior living or nursing home resident looked like.

How much do you really know about how your customer, client or patient experiences your services? Would immersing yourself in your customer’s mindset help improve your organization’s relationship with them?

2. Don’t underestimate how badly a lack of control terrifies your customer.
Perhaps even more startling is the lesson Vitale-Aussem learned while she was on vacation in Mexico during a Category 5 hurricane. In a matter of hours, staff at her luxury hotel course corrected from total dedication to customer delight to focusing exclusively on customer safety.

While the author understood that she was eventually going to leave Mexico and return to her normal life, she and her fellow stranded travelers felt extremely helpless. Many of them were eager to “volunteer” to help the staff clean up the hotel grounds or provide other necessary services. The hotel staff balked, citing safety and liability issues.

The author observed those around her experience a wide range of difficult emotions when they were stripped of their autonomy, power, and ability to contribute. This trip further motivated her mission to empower senior living residents who resided in her communities.

3. While boundaries are important, it’s critical to treat the customer as a partner.
What might have happened if the hotel staff accepted the offers of the trapped customers? Even if the hotel asked the guests to sign liability waivers, it’s likely that just the option to be a “helper” would have raised their spirits.
This experience helped Vitale-Aussem abandon the philosophy that senior living residents are “helpless consumers.” She began to rethink the idea that senior living staff should simply be “the help.” Vitale-Aussem ultimately embraced the concept that senior living marketing is more effective when it’s not just focused on what the resident will receive but how the resident can participate and contribute to the community.

Disrupting The Status of Senior Living highlights examples of how resident ideas contributed to improving staff retention and welcoming new neighbors. Is your organization open to partnering with your customers or do you have preconceived notions of what they want?

For more information about Disrupting The Status Quo of Senior Living go to 

Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: Vitale-Aussem, Jill: 9781938870828: Books.

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