Remember the good old days of aged care where the providers were king, and consumers got what they were given. Aged care providers owned the funding and decided how many services clients could have. There was no use complaining, it’s not as if anything would have changed. This dictatorial approach to aged care mocked the very words ‘aged’ and ‘care’.
Fast forward 18 months, and we’re really seeing the rubber hit the road. Consumers are now king and they decide who can best meet their needs and offers value.
The aged care industry is seeing first hand just how powerful seniors are. Seniors have had enough of broken promises and poor services. Many have been voting with their feet and taking their government funded packages elsewhere. This ‘grey power’ uprising is seeing a downsizing in the industry, with the merging of aged care providers and some shutting up shop.
If this has been your experience as a provider, it’s time to really look at how you operate. When aged care clients choose to go elsewhere, they must be really unhappy. Compare this to other industries like banks and telcos, and how often people change their internet provider or their mortgage. The option is there but we rarely make changes. In fact, we only make changes when we’re furious, have complained endlessly, and never seem to get a resolution. So aged care is no different. If you’re clients are dumping you, you have really messed up.
So how do you become known for being the best aged care provider?
Aged care is all about caring. Show you care and that you want to provide great service. It’s the golden rule of ‘treat others as you expect to be treated’. Treat your clients with respect and how you’d want to be treated if you were in their shoes. If you can’t do this, this isn’t your game.
1. Do an audit of your business.
You do not have to bring in expensive consultants and do a fancy audit. You should already know what you do well and where your gaps are.
Steps to auditing your business:
- Review all your client complaints for the past six months. Is there a pattern such as missed appointments/scheduling problems, complaints about billing, etc. Map these issues back to your systems and procedures and fix it.
- Ask your staff for feedback. Your frontline staff see these issues first hand so they are an excellent source of information. Don’t get defensive or point the finger at another team, just map it back to your systems and procedures so you can fix the problems.
- Make sure all the client issues have actually been resolved and not just wasting away on a spreadsheet. Every complaint is potentially a client walking out the door.
- Share this information with your entire team. Tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. Own what hasn’t worked, and invite everyone to be part of the solution moving forward. It’d amazing how powerful teamwork is.
2. Know your value proposition and who you market is
You’ve done your audit so you know what you’re good at and the areas that need more work. It’s time to get back to basics and look at:
- Who is your client
- what services, programs and products are available to your clients
- Where do your clients live. (Don’t advertise in regions if you don’t have staff to deliver services)
3. Promote your brand
Now is the time to put your game plan in place.
- What is your budget.
- What are your quick wins to build the business and what are longer term goals.
- What are your special offers, and what can you promise customers.
- Look back at what promotions and marketing has worked for you in the past. (No need to throw out the baby with the bath water.)
Some marketing ideas to connect with potential clients include:
- Use your monthly financial statements to promote special offers or to share stories with your existing clients. This is a great way of staying in contact with clients and offering them value.
- Consider letterbox drops with special offers. They can be very cost effective and highly targeted to age group, income, postcode, living alone, health issues etc.
- Local newspapers are another great way of connecting with seniors. Most households get a free newspaper delivery and your target audience is the highest consumer of these papers. Look at both editorials and advertising.
- Get involved with your local community groups and offer to do guest speaking spots on how to access aged care services. Aged care is a hard area for consumers to put their head around, so this is your chance to be part of the solution on sharing simple information.
- Communicate with your team and keep them in the loop about campaigns and special offers. Your care workers and call centre are your brand. They connect with your clients, so the more information they have, the more they can share.
- Provide uniforms for team (or at the minimum a branded shirt). Presentation is everything.
- From your team’s perspective, uniforms engender a sense of belonging. Your team will feel good and look good while promoting the company.
- From the client perspective, you are showing respect because a uniform announces who is at their door. You wouldn’t let just anyone into your home, therefore you need to extend the same courtesy to clients.
- From a marketing perspective, your branded uniforms are seen everywhere, not just in client homes. Your team is out in the community, doing their shopping, picking kids up from school, so you’re getting free promotion.
- Be an authority on aged care. Get online and blog articles that are topical and relevant to your clients.
- Even if your clients aren’t on social media or googling, their adult children are. Adult children are often the ones shopping around for services, and they want to know you’re credible.
- Make sure your content is not blatant self promotion. Make the conversation about the client, not you. When people are looking for aged care services, they are often at a crisis point, so you need to be offering a solution to their problem.
- Deliver on what you put in writing.
4. Dare to partner with other organisations
I know we’re in a competitive market place and everyone is scared of losing clients. However if you want to expand into other regions and don’t have staff to deliver services, you need to find potential partners that you can work cooperatively with. Nut out what each party wants and formalise it in a legal contract. It’s better to grow, expand and share the profits that to dwindle away.