BONITA SPRINGS, Fla., March 5, 2021 (Source: Senior Housing News) – Discovery Senior Living on Thursday announced the launch of a centralized contact center at its home office in Bonita Springs, Florida, which will handle all future senior housing inquiries and better vet them for local sales teams.

This is the latest move in what is shaping up to be a year of rapid growth for Discovery. Last month, the provider announced it acquired 16 communities from Healthpeak Properties (NYSE: PEAK), in a joint venture with White Oak Healthcare REIT — a move that places Discovery among the 10 largest providers in the U.S., and lays the foundation for the launch of a multi-brand portfolio.

The center, which soft-launched in January, is expected to increase the percentage of documented leads, improve gathering of contact information, grow the provider’s inquiry-to-tour ratio, and advance and modernize sales efforts, Discovery Vice President of Sales Lou Maranto told Senior Housing News.

Currently, the call center is handling inquiries for 25 communities, and is expected to roll out across Discovery’s entire portfolio of 70 communities by mid-year. Initial data collection reveals that inquiry-to-tour percentages have improved by 10%, which would signal a dramatic improvement in conversions if this can be sustained, as the center brings on more communities.

But even if we get to 5% [improvement], we’ll be pretty darn happy,” Maranto said.

Plans for launching the contact center began in earnest a year ago, but were put on pause as the first wave of Covid-19 cases spread across the country, and as Discovery moved into a new central office. The delay gave leadership time to identify technology platforms to use for the center, and consider how technology could be leveraged at a central level for the benefit of local sales teams.

The technology Discovery put in place allows the provider to not only identify where within the U.S. a caller is located, but also pinpoint the inquiry entry point. Different call tracking numbers are used for different marketing platforms — the toll-free number for a website inquiry will be different from the number for a print or broadcast ad.

When the number is called, inside sales specialists in the call center will receive screen prompts associated with the respective marketing campaign, so that the specialist can tailor the initial inquiry.

Maranto expects this to pay long-term dividends, and adjust marketing spends accordingly based on which platforms are more successful.

We will be able to see very specifically what kind of impact certain ads had,” he said.

The contact center’s sales specialists can schedule tours of individual communities, if a prospect is already committed to moving forward in the sales process, giving sales associates at the community level more time to prepare for a tour and overcome objections toward a sale, and less time doing data entry.

Sales specialists at the contact center also have the ability to connect prospects with the sales associates at the community level via three-way conferences, if there are any further questions that they cannot answer. The center can even be used in emergency situations to keep families of residents updated of extreme events. For example, sales specialists were able to update families of the conditions of their loved ones in Discovery’s Texas communities during last month’s mass weather-related power outages.

It got us thinking about potential hurricanes in Florida and times where buildings have some kind of impact from the weather,” Maranto said. “We’re going to build that out as we move forward [to handle] emergency responses, to engage our residents and resident families.”

The contact center will play a pivotal role in Discovery’s future growth strategy, via creating regional sub-brands, vertical integration, aligning with nimble capital partners, and using data to evolve operations. Five years ago, under the leadership of CEO Richard Hutchinson, the provider launched a business intelligence division to dive deep into data to drive better care outcomes, and profitability.

Currently, the contact center is fully staffed with a manager and four sales specialists. As more communities are added to the platform, Maranto expects the operation to scale up to as many as a dozen specialists, in order to handle inbound call volume. And Discovery will use data to study peak call hours, and create staffing models.

I don’t ever anticipate this being a 24-7 operation, because of the nature of inquiries,” he said. “But we will expand hours as needed.”

By Chuck Sudo, Reporter, Senior Housing News

More: See related coverage on Seniors Housing Business website