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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 59: Brian Wynne and Stephanie Kolbo

Consumer Trends, Online Reviews & Data Reporting In Senior Living & Healthcare with NRC Health

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Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are continuing our discussion series here at the NIC conference in San Diego and we have some great thought leaders on our program today. I cannot wait for you guys to hear this. This is Steph Kolbo, VP of sales and Brian Wynne, the general manager of NRC Health. Welcome guys.

Steph: Thanks!

Brian: Thank you for having us!

Josh: And in addition to the all that you just said, Lucas, big thing is NRC is one of our partners making this podcast possible.

Lucas: Absolutely.

Josh: We’re the lucky ones. We get insider on all this data that you guys produce.

Lucas: That’s right.

Josh: That’s exciting.

Lucas: We’re going to pull back the Kimono and give it to our listeners today because NRC is like the top dog on data and these guys are rock stars with it.

So Brian, tell us about your background, what you are doing, what your position in NRC and then we’ll dive into some of the data from the study.

Brian: Sure, yeah, great. Thank you again Josh, Lucas for having us here.

So I’m the GM at NRC, which means that I lead a number of teams when we have new products that take those to market. We make sure that we’re mission-oriented in terms of, you know, we know what our North Star is, we’re trying to enable a deep level of human understanding for anyone who receives care. And that’s across the care continuum. So it also means that I take the trash out and do a lot of other stuff.

Lucas: Or whatever Steph tells you to do?

Brian: Yeah, that’s right.

Josh: So awesome. So, let’s dive in a little bit on your background because obviously he said he takes out the trash sometimes Steph. So tell us a little bit about what you do.

Steph: Yeah, well I am a senior living advocate, so I spend my time in the senior housing and post acute space and work with an awesome team. One of those people perhaps is Brian Wynne.

Brian: Perhaps.

Steph: Perhaps, when he’s not taking trash out.

Brian: That was an amazing compliment from Steph, by the way.

Steph: It is.

Lucas: You guys don’t have any fun.

Josh: So, we want to talk a little bit, I’m not even going to try to name the title of this study that you guys have done. But there’s a wealth of information that came out of kind of this macro-approach to healthcare. So Brian, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the most recent study that you guys have done and kind of some of the implications.

Brian: Sure. I’m not quite sure what to call it, either. I don’t know that there’s a neat bow we can tie onto it. If we look at health care trends, that’s not exactly fair because we, you know, we want to examine where we’ve come from in the past and what we kind of see around the corner and that applies to healthcare providers across the continuum. Where if we look very locally at the hospital health system space and then the senior living space, there’s some really interesting parallels that I think we just wanted to call out.

The data showed that neither industry is quite as unique as both like to think, right? And really at the center of it is just the consumer. So, we wanted to put the individual making the choice either for themselves for care or for others for care and put their wants, needs, preferences, behaviors front and center on the table, put high visibility to it and then be able to take that information, give it to providers on the senior side, give it to providers on the acute side and then really they begin to see the parallels as well. And what it boils down to is we don’t listen nearly as well as we should to the customer we’re trying to serve.

Josh: Yeah. Well, so one of the things, you know, we talk a lot about what’s the perception of our industry. We often talk about we feel like we do a really poor job at telling the awesome love stories of our industry and like all the good that happens. Now, was there some things in your study that talked about the perception, it seems like I remember seeing some of that stuff. So, what are you guys seeing? What’s kind of the trend there?

Brian: There’s a pretty big delta and in the perception and the actual experience of care, especially in the senior space. So, we have a large percentage, Steph correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s about 23% of all consumers would say they have a high rate of confidence in senior care, senior housing. And that’s really, I know that’s a broad statement, but what we’re thinking about it broadly that way.

But then more than 88% of those actual residents are rating an exceptionally high level of care. A high level of, you know, would recommend to family and friends, that kind of thing. So there’s this stigma around senior care where some of it probably comes from our own lexicon in the industry by calling it senior care. If somebody doesn’t want to be identified as a senior, I mean, there’s some root level issues there. But then if you look even beyond that, the actual experience is so far different from the perception that that’s really- there’s the opportunity, right? I mean, it’s just, this chasm of misunderstanding that I think through marketing efforts, through very vocally telling the story of those that are having these great experiences and helping brands elevate the reputation. That’s, I mean, that’s really what we have- that’s the opportunity at hand, right?

Josh: So, I wish I could remember, I saw a grid from your study, kind of a scale dealing with, I think it was dealing with who the consumer trusts, perhaps. And, and so at the top of the scale, I can’t remember who was at the list, maybe it was-

Steph: -hospitals.

Josh: Was it hospitals? Okay.

Steph: 68% of people.

Josh: Okay, yeah. So she’s just like jumping on the spot, she can quote those off. So, then like you go way down the scale to the bottom and it seemed like post acute, like the senior living space was like way down at the bottom and the only group or the only, you know, a body that was less trusting, you know, according to the consumers was the feds?

Steph: The federal government. Yes. At 20%, yeah.

Josh: I mean, I don’t know if what you guys gleaned from that. Obviously, the people that actually experience our services and our industry, whether that be the adult child that’s placed their loved one in our communities or the residents themselves. That’s not what they believe. So what do you think it is, Lucas? What are you doing?

Lucas: I don’t know. I’d like to get Steph’s comments on this. What do you think?

Steph: Well, first of all, when we talk about consumers and understanding our business, we have tried a lot of things. What words are they familiar with? We don’t like to associate ourselves with some of those bad words like nursing homes, right? We’ve called ourselves skilled centers at the skilled level. People don’t know anything but nursing home. And when we put in skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living, they have no idea what the difference is. So, I think we really need to make sure that we start educating people on the services that we provide and the different levels of care that we have. So, that’s one bridge we need to gap or we need to gap. that bridge, right? Bridge the Gap.

Brian: Try it one more time.

Steph: Bridge the Gap.

Brian: Yep.

Steph: When I think about sharing our love stories back out with the community and the markets, one thing that we don’t do well with is we’re not a strong voice. So, how do people interact with brands today outside of healthcare? Let’s think Amazon, Uber- they love to be able to see what people will think and feel about the brands that they’re considering and engaging with.

So, one thing that we found in that study is that over 92% of people in 2018 go online and look at ratings and reviews before making any type of purchase decision. So, when you bring that to the forefront, just three years ago, that was 72% of consumers, if I’m not correct, Brian.

Brian: Right.

Steph: So, how do we actually share those love stories, all those great things that we know people are saying about us back out in a way that people are engaging in society today? And so one of those things are how do we actually get better on social media and sharing our story story more broadly?

Josh: Lucas and I have talked about it. You know, sometimes you’re saying that a lot of the consumers are where 90-something-% are making their decisions based on ratings and things like that. And when you look at the senior living industry as a whole, how many groups don’t even have ratings at all? And there’s, there’s like no information.

I think we were talking a little bit about, you know, the world we live in has gone from, I think we used the illustration like from blockbuster to Netflix and everybody wants, you know, the data right there to be able to search, to be able to go in and self-diagnosed themselves and wants everything just very available and accessible. And we’ve talked about, you know, the majority of senior living communities, when you go to them, sometimes it’s even hard to find anything about them, even through searching with Google and things like that. So it leaves a huge, huge opportunity. Is that what you guys are seeing?

Brian: I think it’s a massive opportunity. So if we sort of blow this thing like zoom way out, right? Look at all industries, you have hospitality, consumer packaged goods, all that kind of stuff. They have user review is very transparent with quality, price, access points, all those kinds of things. And then that was 20, 30 years ago, right? Even before the internet, you had consumer reviews available to you just via different media.

10-15 years later comes the banking industry and they’re sort of the, you know, health care is a laggard to the banking industry, right? And neither one are known for their swift movement. So, and then even if you break up the healthcare industry the acute space has moved the adoption curve towards things like being transparent. It’s front-heavy. And then we’re nearing a tipping point there.

In the senior space, I’d say it’s back heavy. And so in terms of early adopters, there’s very few that are willing to be transparent with the stories, which are what will carry the brand. That is what will start to bridge that gap in terms of the perception versus actual experience. And we have to celebrate the stories. In order to get the story, you have to have a very systematic way to collect feedback, has to be organized and be attributable back to that brand, that provider.

And so there’s some real, tangible steps that we can take from other industries, even inside of, you know, in the healthcare space from the acute side on how they’ve done that. I know it’s a walk and it’s a bit transformational. It can be a cultural change and it can ruffle feathers. I understand that. But when we’ve talked about consumers and what they want and how they shop, consumers aren’t ‘they,’ right? It’s us.

We’re the healthcare consumer. I have aging parents and they’re in their 70s. One has M.S. So, I’m looking right down the barrel of choosing senior living for them in their retirement years. So, this is front and center to me and I want the type of information that I would hold, you know, that I would hold as a requisite for making any other major purchase decision. And this is probably the most important one I’ve been made to date.

Lucas: Right. It’s not an iPhone. It’s not, you know, a car. This is a big deal.

Brain: It’s a big deal.

Josh: Well, you know, on this issue of transparency, you know, I see some of the challenges that for operators, for ownership groups in senior living, you know, there’s complexity. You know, there’s the whole idea of a lot of they don’t have an online platform built out to even communicate it. But if you do, you know, there’s such a variation. Even when we say senior living, you know, what exactly are we talking about? Independent and assisted living, memory care?

And then you go from state to state, there’s complexity between, it looks a little different in each state because of the regulatory environment versus, you know, the hospitals and so forth. It’s more federally regulated. So I think there’s a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities there. But when we look at the traditional consumer, how we probably all shop for things or even our parents probably, I’m assuming kind of the age that we all are, our parents that will be entering into senior housing over the next few years, they’re just like us. They’re finding information, products and services and their decision making is really in the same fashion. So we’ve got just a few years here to make a huge impact.

What’s some of the low hanging fruit that you guys see? Because I know thinking about even how to manage reviews, first of all, you’ve got to have a platform for it, but even managing that, like how do you do that? And with everything else in operator has some of these are small operators, where do you even start with that if you don’t?

Brian: If you don’t have the infrastructure, we’ll call it the virtual infrastructure, then everything that we’re talking about after that is, you know, you’re running before you can walk, right? And so you’ll hear it said many times that your website, that’s your virtual front door, right? It’s as much an extension of any type of care setting or residential areas is anything. I mean, it’s so expected that you have an easily intuitive, navigable web presence where people can find information on how to access, buy, tour, all those kinds of things. If you don’t have that, then there is a myriad vendor partners that can build that for you to a pretty reasonable cost because it’s a competitive space.

So I would say go there and partner somebody there. If you don’t have a way to, a mechanism or a platform or workflow, to be able to solicit feedback from your customers and then be able to share this, those stories back out online, publish them to your own web property because this is a very important distinction then thinking about third party ratings out there on who knows what site where anybody can leave it, those do not build trust and confidence. Trust and confidence comes from feedback from those that actually care for. So, that platform has to be there. That’s a baby step.

And then lean on vendor partners like you. You don’t have to build everything yourself. There’s others that have their core competency in this very space. So, borrow, steal from other industries, other ideas, and lean on your partners for it.

Josh: So, that’s some great advice. So, let’s talk a little bit about social is. So, I saw some really interesting things in that study and again I’m probably gonna butcher some of these statistics. But you know, the number of- I was shocked by the number of people, the number of consumers that trust social media and the different trust factors like versus Facebook versus Instagram and Twitter, how people are using that. But I mean it was like, correct me if I’m wrong, but it was something like north of 75% of people trust the information they get from social media, right?

Brian: Sure and if you think about it this way, social media is just a proxy for friends and family, right? That’s just like the modern day way that we communicate. So, um, as we see a decline of the importance of trust in like friends and family recommendation and you see that number sort of dip and then it builds up over on social media site, that’s just how people are engaging now.

So, it’s really the same type of information. Then if you think about the type of social media user, average age of social media account holders is 45 years old.

Josh: Wow.

Brian: So, if you think about that those are individuals planning for their future and they’re certainly making decisions for their aging parents, right?

Lucas: Exactly.

Brian: So, it’s a really ripe market there. They’re trusting what they’re seeing. They want to engage in a way that’s on their terms, which the whole point of social media is it’s on your terms, right? So, that’s a wonderful place to have a presence and understand what that conversation and dialogue is going on and you know, use that data to inform your teams as well.

Lucas: Yeah, huge.

Brian: Super fascinating. You know, I think social media gets a bad rap. But it can be extremely powerful tool and we’re talking about small operators and maybe non-sophisticated technology platforms, but social media is one of those. It’s basically free, you know, to use.

Monitoring is a big thing. Do you all have any study information? I’ve heard some things around how you respond to negativity on social media and reviews and things like that. You know, maybe it’s not the end of the world if you get a negative review, if you get a negative comment. Have you guys done any work around that?

Steph: So, I’ll jump in here. Yes and we don’t want to think about it as a negative. It is an opportunity. So, service recovery we have found if you actually respond to reviews that are more negative in nature, we don’t want to blame ourselves or put, you know, the finger pointing at we’re at fault. We just want to be empathetic that someone had an experience that wasn’t as enjoyable as they hoped it would be. When you do that, we have a study that shows 52% of people actually will remove their negative review.

And we also know people are more loyal after service recovery happens then if nothing ever happened to begin with. So if you think about it in your own life, when you have a bad experience, if that brand responds to you and really empathizes with what you went through, you actually will probably go and promote them more than if you just had an okay experience and there was nothing where someone had to come and really meet your needs or step up their game.

So, I tell people to embrace that opportunity. So instead of looking at reviews or negative reviews as, oh no, the world’s falling, everything’s crumbling, think about it as an opportunity to gain a loyalist. Those people are looking for you to engage with them.

Lucas: Awesome. I mean, these topics, this is so necessary in our space today and there’s so much opportunity out there. I encourage our listeners to go and review the podcast now.

Steph: Yes! I’ve already done it.

Lucas: Go into the show notes because we’re going to connect with Steph and Brian. These guys, they’re the stat geniuses in this space and they really care about outcomes as we highly encourage people to connect with them. I’m sure this is going to spur some questions online. Let’s continue the engagement. We’ll make sure that you guys get connected and thank you for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Josh, what a great interview with Steph and Brian at NRC Health. I mean the partnership with their team is something that just adds fuel to the fire.

Josh: Yeah. Well the name says it all- NRC National Research Corporation, a partner to our industry, a partner to us providing us valuable data that supports our mission. So, great to have them on here, thought leaders in that area, what they’re doing just really supports the industry and great to talk with them today.

Lucas: I’ll never forget just our first introductory meetings with them and we had the discussion and just seeing how much alignment that there was on wanting to promote the industry, bring thought leadership to the forefront and do whatever we can to actually advocate for aging adults.

Josh: Yeah. So, it’s a pretty selfless acting company. You know, they really want to raise the bar in the industry, want to align as a partner with the industry. So we’re having such a good time. Steph and Brian, very generous with their time, constantly supporting what we’re doing and supporting the industry. So can’t say thanks enough to those guys.

Lucas: Absolutely. And if you love listening to BTGvoice, you love listening to our podcast, we would love if you would connect with NRC. There’s ways that you can do that through social media. We highly recommend that you look into their service offerings and just their collaborators.

Josh: Yeah. So connect with them on our website and We’ve got a partner page and a partner link. Check ’em out. NRC.

Thank you to our supporting partners
NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN and Sherpa.

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Episode 59: Brian Wynne and Stephanie Kolbo