Some aged care providers cringe at the thought of labelling residents and community aged care clients as ‘customers’. But the reality is that aged care providers exist to provide a service, which should meet the changing expectations of the community. People have a sense of entitlement to aged care and they expect value. This will be even more critical as consumer directed care is mainstreamed into aged care service delivery, as part of aged care reform.
The Living Longer Living Better reform package, released in May, states that “as part of the conversations on ageing held across Australia, consumers expressed a strong view that they should have a greater say in the services they receive” (2012, p41).
Not only do older people want to have a greater say in service offerings, some will have to pay to access the right support services, as a result of the government’s decision to strengthen means-testing. If this is case, like any customer, older people will want to spend their money with a provider that meets their needs and desires. They will be loyal to a provider that understands and responds to their changing needs.
As a result, providers are starting to shift their service delivery from a model of compliance to a system which embraces a customer service ethos.
Partnership research projects.
Brisbane aged care provider, Lutheran Community Care (LCC) has partnered with University Queensland (UQ) to explore the delivery of person-centred care.
Their marketing strategy is based on customer co-creation, a process which aims to create mutually beneficial experiences for businesses and their customers. Currently LCC and UQ are exploring the needs of existing residents and ways to enhance the customers’ experience.
This pilot project appreciates the complex mix of skills required to deliver an effective customer focused campaign; the project explores the links between business delivery, psychology and marketing.
The researchers will observe the roles, activities and interactions the aged care residents have with LCC in an effort to create and design new interactive opportunities representing the interests of the residents.
Internal research is valuable but gathering external insight is just as important.
Providers also need to speak to non-users of their services –future customers. They need to start shaping their business services to also meet the needs of new customers because this group may have different expectations and needs.
As it stands, non-users have very limited understanding of the types of services that exist in the market. Even industry labels such as ‘community aged care’ are likely to be foreign to them, but they will understand what it means to have ‘choice’, ‘support in the home’ and ‘planning for the future’. It’s time for providers to go back to the basics of customer service and begin by speaking to their consumers. According the Living Longer Living Better reform older people want to their voice to be heard.
Ellis Jones knows hospitals and aged care. Get in touch with Reeni, our Health and Ageing Practice Lead to discuss how we can help.