When l was at university, research was not a popular or cool subject to take. We preferred to study people, not numbers, so we gravitated towards subjects like politics, anthropology and psychology. But, in the world of marketing and communications, research is vital and people are at the heart of it. In the aged care sector, this is particularly evident.
Why is research important?
With major reforms underway in aged care, understanding what customers want and what makes them tick is essential. This is especially true in home and community care services, where the introduction of consumer directed care (CDC) has seen decision making power move from providers to consumers. Previously, funding was allocated to providers who then offered a range of services to clients. With CDC, funding is allocated to the consumer who can then shop around for a provider. It’s a massive shift of focus for the sector; essentially, clients are now customers.
Research is important in this new landscape because providers need to understand what potential customers know about their organisation, their brand and their services. As any business would know, attracting customers is difficult if they don’t know you exist. Research can also uncover how and where people look for information and advice.
However, it’s not just potential customers who should be surveyed; understanding the views of current customers is just as important. “Customer experience” is a well-understood concept in many sectors, but it’s not commonly employed in aged care. However, in the new CDC environment, understanding the experience of customers will be critical for success. It’s a very different approach to one of servicing clients.
Research as engagement
In the context of aged care, research as engagement is a useful model to draw upon. By engaging with customers to seek their opinions, ongoing communication can be established, along with a sense of working together towards a common goal and purpose.
The reforms currently sweeping the sector present both challenges and opportunities for aged care providers. Understanding the customer journey and experience can provide solid insights on which to base marketing decisions. Research is, after all, about understanding people, not just numbers.