When we ask potential home care owners why they want to get into the home care business, we are frequently told they want to make a difference in the lives of others. This is what we call having “the right heart”. As much as this sounds “touchy feely”, we have found that having “the right heart” is a predictor of financial success in the home care business.
At first glance, you may wonder how having “the right heart” has such a profound impact on a home care agency’s financial success but, remember, home care is first and foremost a people-centered business. Those in the home care industry deal with the most intimate parts of a person’s life. When a person, most likely the eldest daughter, engages an agency for home care for their loved one, it is both an emotional and a financial decision. While in some businesses, cost is the deciding factor, in the home care businesses, it is the emotional factors that tend to hold sway. If the decision-maker “feels” that one home care agency has a more caring attitude and heart over another, they likely opt for that agency – even if it is more expensive. It’s helpful if the home care owners have “the right heart” for the business but as long as the staff who closely interact with the client are caring and compassionate, the business does well.
Of all the positions in a home care agency, the most important for demonstrating “the right heart” are the intake staff and the sales/marketing staff. These crucial positions have first contact with the direct client or the referral sources. A good first impression is critical. That means demonstrating the compassion and caring that the customer desires.
The first assignment for any start-up home care agency is to conduct a competitive analysis by calling similar home care agencies in their geographical area. There are several powerful components to this exercise. You discover what services other home care agencies are offering, their fee structure for different services, what is included in their services and what is extra e.g. nursing assessment free or for a fee. Finally, and most important, you get a good sense for “the feel of the agency”. How do they come across during the interview? If you were looking for an agency to care for your loved one, would you consider any of the home care agencies interviewed? If so, why? If not, why not? Your response can be very telling about the kind of home care agency you want to create.
Several outcomes tend to hold true for this type of analysis. First, the majority of the home care agencies interviewed made a poor impression. The most common finding is the person taking the call does not engage the caller. They either lacked the information needed to assist the caller or they were more intent on scheduling an assessment than fully understanding the client’s needs. The second most reported off-putting point is getting an answering machine, leaving a message, and never hearing back. The caring and compassion did not come across. Having “the right heart” was missing.
The second benefit of the competitive analysis is determining the needs and desires of the referral sources. Again, the most common finding is the lack of differentiation between the various home care agencies interviewed or not much of an impression. Most home care agencies were described as “vanilla” – nothing special. Rarely did the marketing staff seek to find the needs of the referral sources but were more intent on “making a sale”. This is a classic sales mistake. In order for the sales person to be successful, they must come across as a caring and compassionate person and be able to demonstrate the agency differences – beyond their charming personality. The differences can be types of services, fee structures, selection and hiring of care giving staff, or a difference in training and education. The individual responsible for sales has to have “the right heart” and they must have something special and unique to offer that creates value for the referral sources.
What can we glean from these conclusions? These findings point out the importance of hiring the right people with “the right heart” to present as the first face to the public. If you are struggling with getting business and need some assistance, call Kenyon HomeCare Consulting at 206-721-5091 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.