Can You Estimate Empathy?

This past Wednesday evening, NASMM hosted another edition of its highly regarded NASMM University audio seminar series. Almost 100 of NASMM’s 500 members registered for the seminar entitled “Estimating Essentials for the Senior Move Manager.”  Though it’s not the most compelling topic to an outsider, thoughtful and accurate estimates are truly the “bread and butter” of the senior move manager’s client consultation process. Our guest presenter was a NASMM member in Florida, Beth Warren of Welcome Home Relocation, with over 13 years of senior move management experience. Beth’s been part of NASMM since the beginning, and is a past treasurer of the NASMM Board. In other words, she knows a thing or two about being a successful senior move manager.

What struck me most about Beth’s presentation was her insistence that building a relationship with the potential client remains the most critical aspect of the initial visit. While she provided all kinds of quantitative information about expense ratios and estimating formulas, she drove home the point that – at the end of the day – senior move managers should strive to calculate the unspoken needs of their older adult clients as surely as they assess the square footage. Beth believes meaningful communication is as intrinsic to the senior move process as boxes and bubble wrap.

You picture Beth with clipboard and tape measure, moving briskly around the perimeter of the living room. She surveys the scene with the intense eyes of an experienced expert, shifting from one piece of furniture to the next. Scanning shelves, racks, baskets and bins, her eyes dart from floor to ceiling and back again. All the while, Beth is asking questions – probing her clients for information about what they really want to take with them, how many adult children and grandchildren they have, and where do these family members live, etc.

Is the couple absolutely sure their daughter in Rhode Island will want the massive, dark cherry armoire – an anniversary gift to each other nearly 30 years ago? If so, how will it get there? Will Kyle, their college-aged grandson in Ohio, actually take possession of his grandpa’s golf ball collection of nearly 20 years? If not, where would they like to see it go? If so, does his mom (their daughter-in-law) know? Does she have space for it? The plastic bins of photos stuffed into the wobbly Ikea cabinet in the basement – what will we do with those? Digitize them or organize them in several photo albums? You make the call, she says, but I have an idea too . . .

After sizing up the senior move job at hand, Beth sits with this couple and accepts their offer of iced tea and shortbread. She continues to learn who these people are, where they have been, and how they envision their future in the new senior community across town. She hears their excitement, and senses their anxiety. They talk some more.

During the NASMM U audio seminar last Wednesday, Beth noted her senior move business is considerably more profitable since she started listening more (and talking less) with her senior clients. Beth’s candor is refreshing, and her wisdom is priceless. I suspect Beth’s business success is due in large measure (pun intended) to her profoundly generous spirit with clients and colleagues alike.

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