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Starbucks frappes on a tray

5 Ways Senior Living Can Be More Like Starbucks

Chances are, you’ve been to a Starbucks. In fact, you likely live a stone’s throw away from at least three of them. The Seattle-based company’s success is enormous — that, no one can deny. Is it a coincidence that the mega-coffee shop attracts and retains millions of loyal clients each year?

As it turns out, there are five things senior living can learn from the uber-successful coffee chain — small things to turn your facility into a Senior Living powerhouse.

1. Offering Free WiFi
Customers come to Starbucks for any number of reasons — to grab some caffeine before a long day at work, to meet up with friends after school, or to study for an exam. Many Starbucks customers arrive at the coffee shop expecting to stay for hours at a time — some with their laptops in tow. Starbucks offers free Internet access at their locations because they know their customers want and expect it. More and more, the same can be said for senior living residents and senior living communities. And guess what? So do their visiting family and friends. Today’s baby boomers are tomorrow’s senior living residents; and today’s baby boomers expect to be connected.

2. Taking Great Care of Their Employees
Starbucks has a reputation for taking great care of its employees. In fact, just last April, Starbucks announced it would pay for all eligible part-time and full-time employees’ bachelor’s degrees through Arizona State University’s online degree program. For years, this attention to employees’ well-being has made people want to work for Starbucks over the competition. Millennials, especially, want to work for Starbucks. And Starbucks has continually enjoyed turnover that is much lower than the industry average. To prepare for the upcoming influx of baby boomers needing care, the senior living industry will soon need to attract thousands upon thousands of new employees — including millennials — and keep them around. Why not take a page out of Starbucks’s book and provide benefits that employees want and need — or benefits that are out-of-the-box? You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great! Remember, small acts of gratitude can go along way — and are free.

3. Understanding It’s Not Just About the Latte
It’s about the experience. Starbucks customers know what they’re in for when they walk through the door. A Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. Customers can be reasonably assured their name will not be misspelled on their cups and their ‘skinny’ vanilla lattes will taste exactly the same, whether they order them in Philadelphia or San Francisco. Senior living operators should strive for that level of comfortable familiarity in their communities; a consistent and well-liked company culture keeps customers coming back — and referrals flowing in. Starbucks makes it personal, and what is more personal than your daily care services?

4. Having Some Regional ‘flair’
Despite its uniformity across the nation, Starbucks actually embraces each region it operates within. Sure, for the most part Starbucks’s interiors are visually similar. But the next time you’re inside a Starbucks, look around. Your local Starbucks most likely features photography of your town, or other nods to where you are in the world. In senior living, operators should want all of their communities to be the same in terms of quality. But each community is unique — think tailored dining menus. Residents are drawn to senior living communities in towns with which they’re familiar, or have lived all their lives. When a community can offer them a similar lifestyle to the one they were living at home, and remind them of home, that community becomes more attractive to them. Remember, residents may have changed their address, but not their lifestyle.

5. Being a One-stop Shop
Starbucks isn’t just for coffee anymore: it offers breakfast, lunch, and even beer and wine in some locations. Senior living, too, can offer amenities that make life convenient for residents and their guests, whatever the time of day. Think grab-and-go meal options, on-site pet care services and more.

This isn’t to say senior living companies should start selling coffee in white cups with green logos. But senior living can certainly learn a thing or two from one company that does.

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Read More: How to Reach Your ROI Goals With Improved Service Delivery

July 7, 2016