Editorial Note: The following post is an excerpt from HCPro’s recent title Customer Service in Assisted Living: Strategies for Building Successful Partnerships by Kelly Smith Papa, MSN, RN and Carol Marshall, MA. For content details and ordering information, visit HCPro’s Marketplace.
The concept of customer service has become an important facet of assisted living as facilities seek to minimize the risk of litigation and ensure that their occupancy rate is high.
In the past, when the elderly became too ill to live alone, families turned to long-term care experts only to be frustrated by the lack of services. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in long-term care services: home health, assisted living, senior apartments, and continuing care retirement communities. Families have a variety of choices to make for the optimal care model for their loved ones. While price may be the consideration for many, service is the consideration for all.
Historically, customer service was something expected at hotels and restaurants. In today’s world, customer service spans every industry. Consumers demand exceptional service with all services, from plumbing to cable installation, or they take their business elsewhere. With the wide use of the Internet, sites have cropped up that expose poor service for every type of company.
With the high level of competition for sales in assisted living, exceptional customer service is a requirement for a successful business model. Good customer service not only leads to increased business, a strong reputation, and improved standing in the community, but it also impacts the quality of care that an elder receives and the job satisfaction of employees.
Exceptional customer service has benefits for the assisted living setting. It:
- Improves or sustains the community’s good reputation
- Increases the community’s resident census
- Decreases the community’s risk for lawsuits
- Increases employee engagement, retention and satisfaction
- Creates pride in employees
- Welcomes community contributions
- Creates a positive business image
- Motivates medical and other industry professionals to refer patients and families
- Inspires confidence from families
- Establishes the community as the community of choice in the area
Customer service is the foundation of all successful businesses. Customers’ freedom of choice—their ability to choose where to conduct their business—is at the core of successful business. When consumers choose to be customers, business prospers.
The same holds true for senior living and healthcare consumers. All consumers have a choice about where they live and receive their healthcare. Consumers often select their physician and choose their hospital, and in every case they have a choice when choosing an assisted living community.
Physicians may be selected by insurance coverage, specialty, or location. But patients judge the quality of a physician’s care by his or her bedside manner. Patients will state “I love my doctor” based on the way the physician treats them when they interact. The typical patient does not know whether the physician prescribed the right brand of medication, the right dose, or used the right suture weight when closing a wound. However, they do know how they feel when the physician has conversations with them, answers their questions, and listens to their complaints. It is that relationship that the patient uses when describing the physician to others. It is the same criteria when residents and families describe the services provided in an assisted living community.