7 steps to build programming into a customer experience strategy

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7 steps to build programming into a customer experience strategy

Posted on April 23, 2013

To effectively address the needs of any and all residents, a retirement community needs to put in place a genuine programming strategy with a goal to deliver outstanding customer experiences. It should embrace all dimensions of wellness: emotional, occupational, social, spiritual, physical and educational, no matter where the residents are on their physical or cognitive journey.  Creating meaningful experiences for any given individual on an ongoing basis is a steep challenge as they should encourage socialization, provide entertainment, relaxation and fulfillment, while improving daily living skills.

Here are the 7 steps to build programming into a customer experience strategy that will enable your residents & patients to thrive and keep them engaged with what they need & enjoy.

1. Person-Centered Care Philosophy

Person-centered care is a relationship-based approach that honors and respects the needs, voices and sense of accomplishment of residents and those working closest with them. As described by Institute for Person-Centered Care person-centered care is: “a journey that moves decision-making directly to the individual despite frailty, cognitive impairment or the location in which services are provided.”

As an effective programming strategy needs to reflect the needs of residents, the whole community needs to be centered on the individual for this strategy to be comprehensive and successful.

2. Resident Assessment

Resident assessment are tools designed to help staff assess residents’ interests, roles and skills by gathering information on a resident’s strengths and needs. This helps build the programming strategy to help­ each resident toward achieving or maintaining his or her highest practicable level of well-being.

As interests, needs and abilities evolve, it is important to have follow-up processes to make sure that the demands of the individuals are being fulfilled. Forward thinking communities have incorporated “How are we doing?” assessments on a quarterly basis and have seen an increase in resident and family satisfaction, as they were able to identify needs earlier.

3. Meaningful Programming

Once the interests of the residents are gathered and their physical & cognitive abilities are assessed, creative programming can be built to respond to provide meaningful opportunities. The offering should change based on how the population evolves. Unfortunately, it is very common to see activity calendars that match a very small portion of the residents’ preferences. This is why there is a need to re-evaluate on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

4. Opportunities for Socialization

Loneliness and isolation are among the leading causes of depression, sickness and decline in overall health and wellness. There is a great wellness, spiritual and cognitive benefit in providing opportunities for residents to develop friendships with other residents. To achieve this, there needs to be physical locations for social interactions as much as structured times in the day for this to happen. When facing a lower functioning group, make sure the staff has resources in terms of time and team to help people get together.

5. Giving Back Opportunities

To belong to a community means having opportunities to give back to other residents, to staff, to family members and/or to the outside community. Studies have shown that volunteerism can contribute to residents living longer and improving brain function. Programming and special events should take that into account. Even in the middle & late stages of dementia, one can still contribute to gathering and sorting clothes that will be sent as a donation.

6. Community wide involvement

Any interaction with a resident represents a “touch point” with the individual and provides an opportunity for better care. This is why effective programming goes beyond the activity department and should include every person that interacts with residents. To reach this level of involvement, programming staff needs to communicate effectively what the overall strategy is and what individual needs include. It should then request feedback from other staff members on an ongoing basis to insure that no information is lost.

Involving staff beyond the programming department becomes easier once everyone embraces person centered care and the activity staff shares valuable information about the residents.  For example, a lady might be difficult to dress until the staff understands that she loves fashion so giving her choices might reduce the time it takes in the morning.

7. Feedback & documentation

As in many professions related to customer engagement, the experiences delivered to individuals include an assessment, research & preparation, the delivery of the experience itself and a feedback mechanism. These four steps are all equally important. Unfortunately, the feedback and documentation steps are very often neglected. It is only when done properly that the next cycle of assessment and subsequent steps can truly be effective, resulting in a virtuous circle for the resident experience.