by Danny Hammon, Woollam Constructions.
Would you compare your seniors living facility to the likes of the Hyatt, the Hilton, the Westin or the Marriott?
Recently I visited a collection of integrated seniors housing villages in the UK that were successfully redefining resident expectations by operating with a high-end Hotel Management and hospitality service approach.
Exceptional customer service is what can truly distinguish an operation.
More and more we’re seeing seniors living taking on the look, feel and offerings of upscale resorts. They offer, generally, similar services and infrastructure to the five-star luxury lines; laundry, dining, gym, hair salon, lounges, private rooms and ensuites.
But ultimately, it’s the calibre of service being provided at these villages in the UK – delivering the best in personalised experiences that is driving high, yet sustainable levels, of resident and family satisfaction.
Think relationships, not health care.
Most of the Village managers I met had spent their careers in hospitality. They didn’t have a medical background, and all stressed the importance of customer-focus and building long-term relationships with residents.
I asked one Manager how she found the transition from Hospitality to Seniors living, to which she explained that rather than constantly crisis managing, as is often the case in hotels and resorts, her Village Manager role meant her hospitality skills were positively used to build relationships, build communities and facilitate their residents experiences.
It was an evident and captivating change of pace.
I watched residents relax around the pool while waiters and bar staff delivered cocktails and snacks.
Concierge were on point to meet and greet the residents as they exited and entered the building, assisting them with taking bags and groceries to their apartments or arranging transport for their outings.
We watched visiting grandkids playing in expansive playgrounds and ‘kid zones’ whilst mum and grandma watched on, cosied into adjacent lounges and served fresh scones and tea.
In the hospitality world, a manager must operate in a unique environment with the ability to function flexibly and respond quickly. They are dealing with sophisticated guests with heightened expectations, an industry with high workforce diversity, the constant emergence of new technologies and cost pressures in the wake of intense competition. These skills are transferrable to the current seniors living environment.
The hospitality sector could offer valuable insight into developing these new lifestyle retirement models, as well as providing additional employment opportunities for hospitality graduates and releasing some pressures on the current staffing issues in the seniors living sector.
Designing for leisure and lifestyle, not high care.
In the highly competitive hotel industry, getting the design wrong can make or break the business, and it’s just as important as the services provided. This is where careful consideration to not only the aesthetics of the building and interiors, but the operational efficiencies need to be taken.
A successful hotel’s design will be closely aligned with its operational brief, and this should be no different for your retirement home. Think about these core elements;
- Ensure you have undertaken your feasibility studies;
- Test the brief and don’t rush;
- Make sure your design is affordable from the outset and relevant to your target demographic. That means considering whole life costs, not just capital costs. A relatively cheap building to construct may cost a lot more to operate and maintain, than a slightly more expensive alternative with the right specification and quality of materials and systems;
- Be sure to consider the orientation of the building, looking at sun path analysis, as this may reduce heating and cooling requirements;
- For maximum efficiency, explore the best layout of the floorplate; and
- Plan efficient back of house areas, to provide as much revenue generating space as possible.
Get strategic with your commercial partnerships.
Previously I wrote about the UK’s Chocolate Quarters – a residential village showcasing a great selection of retail, cinemas, restaurants, beauty and office space open to the community. The creators specifically designed for a lifestyle – a service offering – by partnering with local businesses and as a result, have provided a hub for the local community.
Luxury hotel chains partner with brands to provide valuable offerings outside of their core business without needing extra resources – think onsite day spas, chefs, wellness coaches and fitness instructors.
Integrating brands and luxe service offerings into a village model has the power to profoundly effect not only residents, but your economic sustainability.
So, if hotel guests are made to feel at home at every turn, why not do the same for the residents in our villages? As a provider of retirement homes, you can develop wellness programs and services driven by resident requests and recommendations. Not only does this allow you to serve individual needs, it also allows residents to feel truly at home, knowing they have some control over their village.