With the number of Australians aged over 65 set to double and the number of Australians over the age of 80 set to quadruple over the next 40 years, it’s no wonder people say that the ageing sector is on a fast track to disruption. The demand for aged care services is only set to increase, and the industry needs to adapt its CX if it wants to have a shot at meeting the rising expectations of these customers.
While your mind might jump straight to something along the lines of a technology-led innovation, what we’re talking about today is something simpler. Industry disruption isn’t always necessarily led by technological innovations, yet unfortunately many jump to this as a conclusion and in the process forget about the basic, yet critical, changes they can make before jumping on the technology train. In this case, we’re talking about customer communication.
Research shows that customer communication is where many aged care providers are falling short. A few factors are at play here, however one worth mentioning is the underlying negative attitude that regards the sector as a ‘burden’. Consequently, many customers in the ageing sector don’t experience the same level of customer experience that a customer in the retail or hospitality sector would otherwise be met with.
Regardless of what we’re buying, we all want to have a great customer experience, and the aged care sector shouldn’t be any different.
Here are some ways we think that the aged care sector can focus on the communication aspect of their customer experience to transform the future of the industry.
1. Keep Information Relevant and Accessible
Looks like old mate Captain Obvious has swooped in for another one of our articles, but as it turns out a key pain point for customers is out of date information, or difficult/lack of access to the information they need. KPMG found that there is a general frustration with the lack of relevant information given to potential customers. A crucial point that aged care providers need to remember is that regardless of whether the customer is buying into retirement living, home care or residential living, they are buying into a quality of life. This is a decision often made with family, and for this reason the definition of the aged care customer needs to be extended to include those who help them to make this decision. Each person involved needs accurate and transparent information, and this is where information packs or website information prove to be very useful to answer the recurring questions that customers ask for.
2. Talk to Employees
One of the best ways aged care providers can improve communication with their customers is to improve communication with their employees. Inbound customer service calls have been found to be highly variable across the sector, with many operators having low to moderate levels of knowledge about necessary topics like fees. It is for this reason that organisations need to optimise their communication channel with employees to avoid statistics like this from getting worse. Regardless of an employee’s position, their opinion needs to be heard so that the greatest possible number of insights can be obtained. It is during the employee feedback process that staff can have the opportunity to ask for resources to fill their knowledge gaps, or to alternatively propose training initiatives that will improve certain outcomes. In the end, improved services for employees will mean improved services for aged care customers.
3. Optimise the Customer Feedback Loop
Providers need to know their customers inside-out, and this calls for regular surveys and or interviews with current customers. Questions asked in these surveys and interviews also need to be updated regularly to ensure that they target all relevant aspects of the customer experience. A deep understanding of the customer, including their family’s wants, needs and desires, need to be acquired and this can only happen through direct communication with the customers and families themselves. After obtaining data from customer feedback, it is also important for providers to leverage market research to see where their business stands in comparison. From here, it becomes much easier to understand what customers are looking for, which in turn highlights where the opportunities lie for improvement.
4. Optimise Cross-Sectoral Communication
There is still room for improvement regarding communication across the healthcare sector. National Seniors Australia found that numerous customers have experienced circumstances where there has been very little to no communication between medical facilities and aged care professionals, resulting in missed information and/or appointments being doubled up and having to be re-booked. This is extremely frustrating for customers at the end of the chain who are left with a mess to deal with, not to mention the staff involved. Both industries need to find a way to regularly communicate and work together for the benefit of both employees and customers. Perhaps this is where new systems or technologies need to be trialled to make communication as seamless as possible. Considering that many customers aren’t happy with the current level of care coordination, it’s worth looking into.
5. Simplify the Enquiry Process
Communication needs to be simple and easy, however unfortunately many customers in the sector have voiced their discontent with the enquiry process. Much of this discontent stems from customers finding it difficult to navigate through this process, particularly when they don’t receive a call back or nobody is there to answer when they call. National Seniors Australia also found that customers are generally unhappy with the level of paperwork involved with providers throughout the enquiry process. There is a key opportunity here for aged care providers to improve the efficiency of the enquiry stage in the customer journey so that customers aren’t left waiting or feeling like they want to pack up shop and go somewhere else.
These strategies are only the tip of the iceberg; however, the sector needs to have them under their belt if it wants to equip itself for the incoming demand for aged care services.
By focusing in on the communication aspect of the industry’s customer experience, this can open doors to other areas where CX improvement is necessary, such as where new roles need to be created or technology needs to be introduced.
The aged care sector is only set to become more competitive as the demand for aged care services increases, and providers need to do everything possible to show customers why they are worth investing in for their future.