their approach to saying ‘yes,’” says Martin. “If one of our employees gets a phone call from a family member saying they want
flowers delivered to a resident, they have the ability and authority
to spend the money needed to make it happen.
“Customer service is a part of everything we do—everything,”
Martin adds. “We don’t talk about the financial performance of one
of our communities without including customer service.”
Martin admits that’s not the mindset at all assisted living communities because it can be difficult to see beyond the critical, must-have aspects of care. “This industry as a whole has always prided
itself on quality service,” she says, “but I think there’s a tendency
to just think about quality service as it relates to meeting the basic
needs of residents.”
the other assisted living providers out there.”
Of course, Signature Senior Living isn’t the only company
in the market to address service culture in its founding tenets.
About 10 years ago, steve Winner says similar discussions took
place when he and his colleagues were laying the foundation for
what is now silverado senior Living, based in San Juan Capistrano,
CEO and Chairman Loren shook, CFO thomas croal, and Winner wanted to create a place where they would be comfortable putting their own parents or spouses. And while that prompted the
trio to come up with an extensive list of resident-centered perks,
policies, and programs, it also made them consider implementing
an all-encompassing, customer-focused culture.
“We’ve always believed that we should, whenever possible, give
residents what they want,” Winner says. “We feel that if a family
member comes to us and says, ‘You know, I’d really like to wallpaper my mom’s room or change the carpet,’ our job isn’t to come
up with all the reasons they can’t do it, but come up with a good
reason for why they can.
“We empower our employees to make things happen” for
residents and their families, Winner adds, and sometimes that
requires the support of a few dollar signs.
“We give employees the financial ability to make things happen, too,” Winner says. “If someone comes to one of our caregivers and says that her mom’s robe has been missing for weeks,
we empower that caregiver to say, ‘Go out and buy your mom
another robe, bring us the receipt, and we’ll make sure you get
reimbursed for it.’”
Staffers get similar latitude at Signature Senior Living. “We
want our employees to focus on customer service and focus on
caregivers selling culture
Although Martin believes more and more providers are moving
toward implementing service cultures like the one in place at Signature Senior Living, “in many instances, the caregivers within
our communities aren’t being given the respect and the support
they need to help create those cultures.”
Martin says it’s not a smart strategy to ask caregivers to fit into
a culture that was developed without their input.
“They are the culture here,” she says about Signature Senior
Living’s caregivers. “They’re the ones who are with our residents
24 hours a day. They’re the ones who are going to make or break
you as a company in terms of how your customers see your culture
of customer service.
“We treat our employees like we want them to treat our residents,” Martin adds. “We make them a part of every decision we
make as a company. We truly give them a voice.”
For example, if executives at Signature Senior Living are considering adding another policy, product, or service to the mix, Martin
says they “sit down with a group of employees and talk to them
about how it will affect them and their ability to do their jobs.”
That kind of environment makes managing employees a bit
more challenging, she adds, “but I think it pays huge dividends in
the end in terms of the loyalty you develop among your employees
and the culture you develop within your company.”
At Silverado, one of the key components of its service culture
is freedom. A good example, according to Winner, is that “from
day one we decided to have licensed nurses on hand around the
clock, but we didn’t want to become a nursing home.
“We’re a residential community and want to keep that residential feel at the forefront,” he adds. “So part of my job is to make
sure the medical component of our company doesn’t take over the
Another example: Silverado’s nurses don’t wear uniforms, nor
do they have the big nurses’ stations found in many similar assisted living communities. “We want to have plenty of nurses around,
of course, but we don’t want them to be obvious,” Winner says.