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The Trials And Tribulations Of Complaints: How The Home Care Industry Can Use Them To Improve Your Business And Get The Win!


Complain, complain, complain. There were days when all I heard were complaints from my clients and then really bad days when staff jumped on board. It was a contest to see who had the biggest grievance. Ever had days like that? I finally decided to track complaints differently so I could identify trends and then be able to come up with solutions that were permanent corrections. That was how the “Complaint Log” became more than a piece of paper.

Seeing The Complaint Log Through Different Glasses:

Compliant logs are made to help us identify issues we need to correct.  While it is to provide better customer service, it leads to opportunities that we’ve been missing. When I first introduced the logs to the office staff, we agreed together what constituted a complaint and therefore would be placed on the log. We discovered frequently that people do not complain but state a concern. We decided as a group that we would place all concerns and complaints on the log and collate the response once a week for trends. Every person had a log on their desk and was expected to submit their logs weekly to the office manager. In the first 6 months of using these logs,  we discovered some very interesting things about our staff and services.

First of all we were clearly able to identify areas where our home care aides and other staff needed education and training. We found that people were often left on hold for several minutes before someone got back to them. It was not good customer service and very irritating to the person left on hold. The rule in the office was all calls were to be answered by the third ring. We discovered that when the receptionist went on break or to lunch, the staff answering the phones were not as prompt as they needed to be. Since we were able to narrow down the times of occurrence, we were able to investigate the reasons. We discovered that the schedulers were expected to be the relief receptionist, but were not relieved of their duties while covering. Therefore, they were frequently on the phone when another line rang and could not get to it in a timely fashion. With this information, we developed a better relief system allowing the back up person to be responsible only  for the phones and not other duties. Over the next 3 months the complaints of being on hold and multiple rings before being answered went away. We would never have known we had such a problem if we hadn’t been tracking it differently. As the Director of the branch, I would never have known since I rarely had the opportunity to take the phones. Over the course of time we were able to identify and correct other problems by analyzing the complaints differently as well.  We determined incorrect pay for the field staff that turned out to be a clerical issue. We also identified a trend of staffing caregivers to clients who had asked to not have the caregiver back. All of these issues were able to be identified, investigated with corrective action implemented.

Problems and issues were not the only things we discovered. The complaint logs gave us the opportunity to quantify and really listen to our customers. Frequently when they called about an issue or a concern, the immediate concern was addressed but we were not able to see the “whole” picture. With the use of the log, we discovered that customers were asking for changes to service delivery that made more sense to them. One such program developed was the “Bed and Bath” program. We provided both Medicare Certified Home Health and Private Pay services out of the branch. Our Private Pay program had a 3 hour minimum. Several of the clients we were serving through private pay program were originally Medicare home health patients. They wanted to continue with their aide for bathing and making up a fresh bed. One question continually asked was, “Why do I have to have three hours when to have my husband bathed and his bed changed?” Frequently the client would state they were sending the aide away after an hour because there wasn’t anything for them to do.

After much thought and discussion we asked ourselves why we would expect the customer to pay for 3 hours to complete 2 tasks. Armed with that information I developed the Bed and Bath program. The fee was flat rated to $25 for the visit; two tasks were to be accomplished. There was no time applied to the visit, only the two tasks. The aide was paid a flat rate $18 for the visit. Over time, the program grew to be a good part of our private pay services. In the end everyone won. The clients didn’t pay for more than what was needed. The aides got to keep their patients. The company got the business while better satisfying clients and staff. It was a great win for everyone because we kept a complaint log, looked at the data critically, and made the appropriate changes.

Would You Like To Change Your Complaint Log Process?

If you are interested in implementing a complaint log program to improve your overall business strategic plan, please call Kenyon Homecare Consulting at 206-721-5091 or contact us online to see how we can help you achieve better client satisfaction.

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