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Friends don’t Let Friends call large third party referral companies

How to avoid unintended stress while shopping for senior living: The big business of third party lead generation.

The large lead generating services claim to help adult children navigate the murky waters of shopping for care for their loved one at no cost to the consumer. Either way, there are several large companies that are in this business and if there’s anything I have opinions on, it’s huge corporations that make huge profits on the backs of people (and smaller businesses) in crisis mode.

“But they don’t charge the customer, Linsey; how could they possibly affect the pockets of the people they serve?” you might ask.

Let’s not be naive! They take huge referral fees from the communities (up to 99% of the first month’s rent and care fees) where you buy in or rent; thus, senior living companies have to factor these enormous referral fees into their yearly budgets, driving the costs for the residents even higher than they already are and possibly cutting much needed staff and services.

The problem with these companies is that they corner the market and they have huge digital marketing spends. Also, they are everywhere. If you get caught in the net and a building isn’t contracted with with the company they aren’t referred to you, even if they might be a better fit for your loved one. If a building gets your referral from another source first, these large companies will tell you not to move there, not because there’s a problem, but because they won’t get a commission. They will only makes commission if you move your loved one in to a building that they contract with.

The problem with this is that even the savvy internet shopper might end up on the referral source’s version of a website for a community that you already know about through your church or hospital. So, not only will the corporation get commission when you move in, they might do absolutely nothing to get that commission. Also, you will be bombarded by calls and emails from several other communities in the area that are also contracted.

I know, it sound annoying, because it is. Sadly, the buildings that are contracted with these companies also have sales quotas and census goals and despite having to pay the referral fees, they still want the move-in and the business.

I have worked in buildings that didn’t partner with a third party referral company and not all companies or buildings do, but sometimes when the building census dips, the parent company will usually bite the bullet and sign on to drive lead volume because they know that the enormous digital marketing budget that these large companies wield generally will wash out viable leads to competitors that are already contracted.

So what can you do to avoid this problem when you’re shopping for senior living?

First, don’t call them! If you really need assistance with the process, there are much more in-tune local third party placement agents that won’t charge you either. Do a little research and see if you can find a local referral company, or ask your healthcare provider or even real estate agent. You will get better service from an individual who has been to the buildings and has local insight and access to the professionals in the area. Buildings would much rather pay a referral fee to someone they know than the big beast of corporate third party referral companies.

Little side note: There were very few corporate third party referral reps that I actually met in person when I was working in a building, though not all of them are terrible, and some do know their stuff. But in general, they sit behind a laptop and collect a paycheck from the hard work of the sales directors in the buildings. They will also call you repeatedly to see what decisions you have come up with regarding their commission. They don’t know the building, the atmosphere or the ability to care for a loved one.

Second, when you search “assisted living in my area” on Google, pay attention to the list that is presented to you. These companies will usually be first or second but will present itself as a local senior living community with reviews. You can accidentally make the mistake of filling out your information and then you’re locked in.

Third, if you do accidentally get locked in to one of them because your sister decided to try to be helpful, politely ask the rep to ask the building directors not to call you and that you would prefer email or text communication only. You will probably receive many emails with information and you can gently turn down the ones you’re not interested in without getting bombarded with phone calls. I definitely recommend turning them down though, because if you ignore them, they will keep checking in (it’s literally in the senior living sales culture training that a lead isn’t closed until they are deceased).

Fourth, if you’re truly interested in a particular community, be careful what phone number you’re calling and what website you’re looking at. Again, because the companies have astronomical digital marketing budgets, they can often bump community’s websites further down on your search engine. And if you call a 1–800 number there’s a chance that you will get a rep from one of these companies and not from the community you’re seeking information from. Just pay attention to whom you are speaking to and when in doubt, don’t give out any information.

Third party referrals are a big business and they aren’t all bad. As mentioned above, if you truly would like assistance on how to proceed with your search, there are some fantastic local placement agents that I would always recommend.

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