The idea of treating the people who live in a long-term care or retirement setting as ‘patients’ being treated for the symptoms of old age is no longer acceptable within any organization that wants to be successful in the sector. The fact is, these residents are people accessing a service and just as any strong retail outlet, restaurant or hotel must strive to please their customers in all interactions, being aware of customer experience is a key component of the Schlegel Villages philosophy.
In early March, Schlegel Villages launched CONNECT The Dots, a unique customer experience training program developed to provide team members with the service skills and knowledge required to provide all customers with meaningful experiences in each Village. Delivered by one of 16 master trainers chosen from within the villages, the 7.5 hour CONNECT the Dots program is built upon a philosophical foundation of five key values:
- KNOW ME- as a unique human being
- BE PRESENT- in all communications
- WALK IN MY SHOES- try to understand how I feel
- EARN TRUST- be clear, genuine & transparent
- FOLLOW THROUGH- all the way
The Credo these five values support, said Schlegel Villages vice-president of support office services Christy Parsons during the annual leadership retreat in April, “really acts as our North Star. It guides our actions and our behaviours in delivering on that exceptional experience each and every day.”
She pointed out that it was six years earlier during the 2012 leadership retreat that leaders defined what values were important to them in terms of quality customer experience. Those efforts fuelled the creation of this program and at this year’s event, a panel consisting of a resident, family member, team member and a CONNECT The Dots master trainer, discussed their perspectives on customer experience.
Deb, the family member, spoke about her husband Ty, who lived at Tansley Woods for four years until his passing in 2015. Team members knew the family so well, she said, and understood that Ty’s son was struggling as he watched his father deteriorate because of a rare disease. Glenn, the neighbourhood coordinator at the time, could sense the struggle and knew when to offer comfort. This is what “Know Me” is all about. It made a difference to know that her family truly mattered to the team.
Katie spoke about how the team at Taunton Mills has gone above and beyond several times to please residents, sometimes with seemingly small gestures. She shared a memory of when The Village was in lockdown due to an illness outbreak. This can be a difficult time, as social life shuts down and residents are encouraged to stay in their rooms, Katie said. “The atmosphere,” as she put it, “started to go down.” But a simple gesture turned things around. Residents started to find word puzzles in their mailboxes and for a little while each day as they worked out the puzzles, they forgot about the lockdown. The team started to bring social events to the residents in their rooms on each floor. They still had to be safe and not mix with the whole village, but the gestures made Katie and her fellow residents feel as though someone knew what they were going through.
Small gestures can stand out in the customer’s mind, as Katie and the other panellists acknowledged, and CONNECT The Dots is meant to infuse each team member with a keen understanding of this basic fact, again centred around the five core values.
In the coming weeks, watch The Village Voice for more stories illustrating how the customer experience is being shaped at Schlegel Villages.