Whether you are a start-up home care business or your home care agency has been around for a few years but growth has been stagnant, here are five steps to creating a valuable service to help your agency thrive.
1. Listen, Don’t Assume
Every business owner who wants to be successful should start at the beginning: listening to the target market (the client and their loved ones), the community, and the staff.
Listen to Clients
For home care agencies, that equates to listening to what the client is telling you. Do you know what your customers actually need? Agencies can’t assume they know what kind of care people need or what types of services will work best, especially when home care is so individualized.
Before expanding service options, ensure the services you’re considering are needed.
For example, here are some things to think about before adding turndown services:
- Will your clients benefit from dental tasks being taken care of before bed?
- Is an evening bath necessary if the client prefers morning baths?
- What level of assistance will be offered that will make your client’s life easier?
Asking simple questions like this will help your agency internalize whether or not adding a particular new service will benefit your current or potential new clients.
Another reason listening is so important is because it can guide you to the root causes of problems your agency is struggling to figure out. For example, one of our agencies told us they had a client who always acted happy with the caregiver taking care of their needs, yet they asked for a new caregiver five times.
When someone at the agency finally spoke directly to the client and asked why she was unhappy with the previous caregivers assigned to her, they found out the client did not like her eggs to be overcooked. As it turned out, every caregiver that had been sent to provide services had fried her eggs over hard when she wanted them sunny-side up. But she didn’t want to hurt the caregivers’ feelings, so rather than addressing the issue directly with them, she just kept asking the agency for new caregivers.
Listen to the Community
In addition to listening to client needs, is your agency listening to your community’s needs? For example, if your agency only works with private pay clients, but your community suddenly has an influx of people who qualify for Medicaid because the state changed regulations, is your agency accommodating those needs?
By listening to your community, your agency can learn whether or not expanding your payer sources will bring in additional revenue for your business and help provide services your community needs that you might not currently be offering.
Another thing to consider is the aging population of your community. Sometimes, hosting community events is an easy yet highly valuable way to connect with local citizens who might not have family in the area.
Halloween is a great example of a holiday that can be used to bolster community awareness and connectivity. Many assisted living and nursing home communities in our area host “Trunk or Treat” style events, where the residents decorate their doors and welcome children from the neighborhood to come trick or treating.
This type of event provides a place for kids to go that’s safe and indoors while also offering a chance for residents to see kids dressed up in their cute costumes and have someone to visit with.
Listen to Caregivers
Your caregivers are on the front lines. They are the ones who know your clients the best, so if they tell you the two hours of service a client is currently signed up for is not what they need, listen to them.
Caregivers can advocate for their clients and help determine if they need more hours, additional services, or even a call to the doctor to ensure they get the care they require.
2. Conversations for Actions
At Rosemark, we use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as a framework for running our business. Within the EOS framework is a productive tool called Conversations for Action (CFA). CFAs offer an incredibly constructive process for agencies to complete tasks and assignments promptly.
If you’re not familiar with CFAs, here’s an example of how they work:
- The agency’s salesperson needs a pretty graphic for a presentation they are doing at a local networking event. They ask the marketing person to create a graphic for their presentation.
- Rather than just asking for the graphic, the salesperson asks if the marketing person is available to make the graphic and, if so, if the graphic can be sent to them by a specific date and time.
The marketing person will respond in one of three ways:
- Yes, I can create that graphic for you and get it to you by that date and time
- No, I don’t have the bandwidth to complete that task right now, so please ask someone else
- Yes, I would love to help, but I would like to suggest an alternative deadline that fits my schedule and workload better
By answering in one of these ways, the salesperson knows if they can proceed as planned or if they need to reach out to someone else for assistance.
CFAs are meant to help companies avoid last-minute requests and allow employees to say “no” if their workload is overwhelming easily. It should also be noted that saying “no” is absolutely acceptable if it interferes with someone else’s time-sensitive duties.
3. Stay Agile in a Competitive Market
For our software developers, staying agile in our development process helps us be responsive to customer needs and new industry regulations.
What does staying agile look like for home care agencies? Maybe your agency previously provided home nurse assessments, but now there are new rules about what you can and cannot do.
Perhaps it won’t make sense for you to offer those assessments in the future because there’s too much regulation involved, and staying on top of that is just too expensive for a smaller agency.
Another example: perhaps one of your competitors who served the veteran community closed their doors, and now those veterans need care. Expanding your payor sources to include the Veterans Administration can provide valuable services to your community and increase revenue for your agency.
Your company needs to “stay agile” about these things so you can determine the best course of action for your business’s growth and success.
How you run your business affects everything you do from the top down. Ensure your agency invests in measures that equip your team members to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Sometimes, this requires streamlining workflows, putting a moratorium on manual processes, and working together to find solutions to make operations run more smoothly.
A great place to start is documenting your processes and timing their completion. How long does it take to intake a client? How many staff members are involved? Is there anyone on the team who “knows everything” and processes grind to a halt without them?
You must have clear documentation for all processes that provide value to your business, employees, or clients.
If onboarding new caregivers takes three weeks, four staff people are involved, and there’s no consistent process, that is not providing value.
You’ll find that when your operations and workflows are running efficiently, you’ll be able to keep up with tasks more easily, get jobs done faster, and fewer things will fall through the cracks.
This could create an incredible shift in your business that gives you back more time in your day to work on caregiver hiring and retention, enhancing marketing efforts, or researching service types needed in your community.
5. Create a Culture of Care
When creating a valuable service, the final piece of the puzzle is essentially the most important: creating a caring culture.
One of the values discussed in the EOS framework is the principle of “People First.” Valuing your office staff and caregivers is part of your service.
No matter what type of service your agency provides, at its core, it’s about the people who are providing it.
A service industry is nothing without its people, so make sure that if you’re offering a new service, it’s one:
- Your caregivers feel empowered to provide
- Are they clear about the requirements?
- Your caregivers are educated and trained on
- Are you providing the right training and skills for them to accomplish their tasks?
- Your caregivers feel confident in doing
- Do they feel they can go into a client’s home and adequately provide that service?
Ensure that your agency has properly defined the metrics for success, implemented the right training, and provided an understanding of what it means to do a good job. That way, you can honestly say, “Our agency provides a good service!”
Home care in and of itself is a very valuable service to the community. When you’re trying to build your business and provide for your clients, it’s really important to know their pain points and their needs so you can be the solution they’ve been looking for.
It’s also very helpful to understand the home care industry, as new and ever-changing regulations in this industry have and will continue to have a huge impact on what your clients need and what services you can provide to assist them.
For more information about creating a valuable service, contact your software vendor for guidance, or contact Rosemark to see how we can help your agency get set up for success.
Guest blog for corecubed
Robin Tuck is the Senior Product Owner at the Rosemark System, a home care management software provider. A seasoned veteran in the home care technology space, Robin is passionate about finding creative solutions to help her customers get the most out of their software so they can focus more on their caregivers and clients. When she’s not working, she’s probably writing, taking walks, or watching the family of raccoons that have set up camp in her backyard.