Through the course of three days at the Schlegel Villages Operational Planning Retreat, leaders, team members, residents and family members focused on the critical importance of relationships in quality of life for every resident who chooses to call a village their home.
The theme, My Life . . . Our Journey, The Customer Experience, offered a depth of content that was, in every sense, immense, honouring every person connected to village life – the residents, team members, families, and community partners – as the valued customer. Every speaker in every segment of the retreat circled back to the fact that the trust and connectivity that blossoms in truly authentic relationships is the basis of a high quality customer experience.
“We have a wonderful mission and we know our values,” said Christy Parsons, vice-president of support office services, as she welcomed more than 300 people in the morning of Day 2, “but what do we really believe in when it comes to the customer experience? We believe that people matter, we believe in authentic and meaningful relationships as part of our vision and we all wake up in the morning to come to work to make a difference for those we serve.”
And sometimes the smallest act of connectivity can make all the difference in the relationship dynamic between a team member and a resident. During a panel discussion on the customer experience later that day, Tansley Woods resident Keith Woodley offered a simple piece of advice for the audience. A small bit of kindness, he said, or even a little touch, can have a huge impact in the life a resident living in a long-term care or retirement setting. He told the story of a group of friends playing bridge in the village one day. A team member walked by, obviously on her way to some other task, when she stopped what she was doing to ask if anyone would like a cup of coffee.
“It took us by surprise . . . and a wonderful feeling for somebody to drop away from their normal activities for a little bit of kindness,” Keith said. “It made all of us feel very good. It was a little thing, but it was huge.”
Another panelist was Al Surminsky, whose wife lives at the Village of Erin Meadows. He shared a difficult story, explaining how his wife suffered a fall not long after moving into the village. Within the first days of her arriving, a stable trust had formed and yet, after nine days, the fall had occurred. How the team handled that conversation says a lot about their integrity, he said, and an experience that could have been entirely negative became more positive because of it.
“They were straightforward,” Al said. “They told me she had fallen . . . and the first thing that happened that morning when my daughter came to Erin Meadows was (assistant general manager) Denis (Zafirovsky) took us and showed us what they had done to prevent an accident like that from happening again.”
Al later offered a small piece of advice as the audience considered their role in creating positive customer experiences in the villages.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re doing an excellent job.”
Challenges are inevitable in a supportive environment for vulnerable people and it’s impossible to eliminate every risk. If deep and meaningful relationships are nurtured, however, then the challenges become so much easier to navigate and those on both ends of the customer experience will feel the benefits.