Houston, Texas--As host of the three Eagle's Trace Wine Clubs, Tom Wills has often partnered with the sales team to welcome guests eager to learn more about the Erickson Living-managed West Houston community and activities offered on campus.
"Before the pandemic, if we had an open spot during our monthly wine club meetings, I'd let the sales team know, and they would invite a priority list member or interested guest to join us," says Tom, who moved to Eagle's Trace with his wife Sandy in 2016. "Due to social distancing requirements, the wine clubs haven't met in person since March."
Like many activities suspended in the wake of the coronavirus, visits to the Eagle's Trace sales office ceased for a time. As the community implemented its phased reopening plan, in-person visits resumed with appropriate social distancing and other preventative measures in place to ensure the safety of community members, guests, and staff.
"While we've welcomed some of our priority list members and guests back on campus for scheduled in-person visits, we know there are still a lot of people who are more comfortable staying in their homes and exploring their options virtually," says Pamela Burgeson, director of sales at Eagle's Trace. "We recognize everyone has a different level of comfort, and we want to engage in the way you feel most at ease."
The sales team is using digital channels, like live chats and virtual tours, to connect like never before.
"If someone calls the sales office and wants to take a virtual tour of an apartment, Javell [Jury, sales associate] can set up a FaceTime call. He'll record a video of the apartment while our Sales Counselor Jodie Schroeder narrates the tour," says Burgeson. "For those who aren't familiar or comfortable using FaceTime, we can email a video tour of an apartment. We'll adapt to whatever technology works best for you."
Now more than ever, community matters
As one of 20 communities nationwide developed and managed by Erickson Living, Eagle's Trace is uniquely positioned to provide a safe environment within a supportive community. In a time when social distancing can lead to physical isolation and difficulty accessing essential services for those living in single family homes, the on-site amenities and dedicated staff at Eagle's Trace have many reconsidering their living arrangements.
"The size, strength, and structure of our Erickson Living network means that we can act quickly in response to extreme circumstances in order to meet the needs of our residents, which is always our number one priority," says Tom Neubauer, executive vice president of sales, marketing, and communications for Erickson Living.
Stephen Aigner, executive director at Eagle's Trace, says the community has seen an uptick in sales call volume over the past few months. "There continues to be strong demand for the lifestyle our community members enjoy at Eagle's Trace," says Aigner.
Virtual wine tasting
In a unique twist on a sales event, Burgeson asked Tom and Sandy Wills if they would host a virtual wine tasting for 20 prospective residents.
"When guests come on campus, they're able to use all of their senses to get an idea of what life is like at the community," says Burgeson. "We wanted to offer a virtual event that still gave guests the opportunity to use their senses and create an experience that was as close as possible to being together."
Tom selected two wines from the Eagle's Trace house list, one bottle of Liberation de Paris Chardonnay and one bottle of Dado Cabernet Sauvignon. Executive Chef Lyle Mathes created pairings for each wine, selecting Fontina cheese, Marcona almonds, Genoa salami, milk chocolates, crackers, and raspberries to accompany the chardonnay and smoked gouda cheese, Italian salami, dark chocolate, crackers, and blackberries to complement the cabernet.
Senior Sales Associate Melissa Routh assembled gift baskets, each with the two bottles of wine and accompaniments. Eagle's Trace employees fanned out across the city, from Kingwood to Sugar Land, delivering gift baskets to the 20 virtual guests. Meanwhile, Tom emailed information about each wine to the participants, instructing them to chill the chardonnay and open the cabernet an hour before the virtual meeting time in order to let it breathe.
For the virtual wine tasting, Tom and Sandy "hosted" the guests on Zoom, where Tom walked them through the process of tasting each wine.
"This was something different, something we've never done before, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," says Burgeson. "Those who participated truly enjoyed taking part, and one said it was the next best thing to being physically at Eagle's Trace."
'We'll meet you where you are'
The success of the virtual wine tasting has spurred the sales team to consider other innovative opportunities for connection.
"When someone visits the sales office, they're able to sit down with Jodie and learn more about the community over coffee and cookies," says Burgeson. "We're looking at ways to deliver coffee and cookies to a prospective resident's home, so they can enjoy them during a virtual visit with Jodie."
Even those with limited experience using technology can enjoy a virtual visit. "Our sales team will guide you through easy steps, so the experience is stress-free," says Burgeson. "We'll meet you where you are."
About Eagle's Trace: Eagle's Trace, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 72-acre campus in West Houston, Texas. The not-for-profit community of more than 960 residents and 500 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight. Additional information can be found at EaglesTraceCommunity.com.