Recently, we’ve delved into how to manage and improve your agency’s online reputation. But what about the reputation you create for your company every time you answer the phone? Too often, agencies put a lot of time (sales) and money (ads/SEO/marketing) into getting both potential clients and referral sources to call, but don’t put enough thought and effort into understanding the intake process and buyer psychology. This can result in fewer new clients booked and damage to the agency’s overall reputation.
Intake calls are important for all businesses, but when it comes to aging care, callers are dealing with some heavy issues – seeing changes in parents or other older loved ones that cause them to need help. This can be a stressful situation for callers. Most people calling a home care agency, for example, are likely family caregivers for an aging loved one, are researching home care services for the very first time, and are generally feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, referral sources that reach out to your agency are looking for professionalism, quality, and someone who can provide solutions for their patients and clients. How these potential clients and referrals are treated during an intake call can mean the difference between a sale and a bad word-of-mouth reputation for your agency.
Taking the Mystery out of Your Process
To maintain a high intake standard, many agencies are mystery shopping (also known as secret shopping) themselves and their competition to learn what’s really going on – on the phone. Mystery shopping your own company periodically ensures your customer experience is up to snuff. Mystery shopping your competition helps you evaluate how your intake process stacks up and what you can do better to secure clients.
corecubed offers mystery shopping services to senior care businesses to help improve intake processes so they can grow. Our mystery shoppers have some tips to help companies take the mystery out of their processes.
corecubed’s Sarah Gibson recently chatted with a few senior care businesses during a mystery shopping session and noted several instances where agencies were less than open with her. “I was very turned off by companies who were not open about their services. I had to pull the information out of the person on the other end of the phone, and it made me feel like they did not believe in the services or were not interested in my situation.”
Right off the bat, this is a big misstep. Anyone who answers the phone should be able to speak openly and in depth about your services and should absolutely engage in actively listening and show interest in the caller’s situation.
Communication is another area in which many agencies struggle during and after the initial intake call. Something that surprised Sarah during her latest mystery shopping session was that many agencies were not able to provide emailed marketing material when asked. She notes that, “Most places told me I could just find what I wanted online about their services, when I asked for a flyer or brochure.”
This is something we commonly see when we mystery shop home care agencies and other senior care businesses, and it can be a turnoff for potential clients. While your website it certainly important, it’s also important to provide callers with a takeaway when they ask for it, something they can share with family members or go over with their senior loved one, or, in the case of referral sources, something they can share with their own patients or clients. Make it easy on them. Don’t require them to do the work. Gain their business by delivering your materials right to their email inbox.
Sarah also encountered an agency that would only communicate with her via text message. While many of your potential clients are tech savvy, limiting your communication to text messaging can be a huge turnoff to many. Certainly offer text messaging as one way to communicate with clients, but make sure you’re available to them via phone and email if they prefer those methods of communication.
If you’re lucky, your office is always busy; a busy office is usually indicative of a successful business. People calling in to your office, though, should never be able to hear any commotion, no matter how active things are. On a recent call, our mystery shopper was distracted by a crying baby in the background, which made her feel as though the intake specialist was distracted and too busy to listen to her. When possible, try to take calls in a quiet space where you are unlikely to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of the office, or have front office administrators transfer calls to an intake specialist who can focus on the call in her own office space.
Mystery shopping isn’t just about finding what’s wrong with your intake process; it can also reveal what you’re doing right. According to Sarah, almost all agencies assured her that they performed extensive background checks and employed licensed and bonded CNAs, which made her feel confident about their caregivers. A few agencies also related their personal experiences with loved ones who were aging, which made her feel that they understood where she was coming from. That empathy and reassurance can go a long way in helping to secure an assessment and improve or enhance your agency’s reputation.
Your company’s reputation is formed in many ways: online, by word-of-mouth, and over the phone. Make sure that when potential clients and referral sources reach out to you, you have the information, knowledge, and personality to make callers feel like their situation is important to you and that you have the answers to their problems.