5 Myths About Running a Home Care Agency

Author imageConnor Kunz
myths about running a home care agency

Learn how you can do what they’re doing.

If you’re listening to any of these myths, you could be creating serious problems for your agency without even realizing it. 

Like it the old fashioned way?

We’re not pulling any punches with this one.

As we’ve listened to what home care owners are saying in the industry, we’ve heard a few things that don’t sit right with us—things that could lead good agency owners to make the wrong decisions.

It’s easy to understand how some of these appear true through the lens of one agency’s experiences.

However, our team is fortunate enough to talk to hundreds of agencies every day. This gives us a bird’s eye view that tells a different story.

Here are five myths we hear frequently—and what the facts really are.

Myth #1: Caregivers only care about how much they’re getting paid.

THE FACTS: Pay is important, but there are 2-3 other priorities that matter just as much to caregivers.

This is a common one, and it’s understandable. Pay is a significant factor in caregivers’ decisions of where to work, as pay is important for anyone choosing a job.

However, while it’s easy for an (understandably) frustrated agency owner to throw their hands in the air, blaming their turnover and recruitment challenges on an inability to pay more, it’s simply not the whole picture.

How do we know this? We survey thousands of caregivers a month to find out what’s important to them. (We even completed our one millionth survey recently!)

Pay is a big one, sure—but so are a host of other factors, including schedule, training, recognition, culture, communication, and the right supervisor.

In fact, when we look at frequency of comments/complaints about a particularly area, schedule and communication nearly always outrank pay.

So, when you’re considering how you can better attract/retain caregivers, understand that while pay is important, it’s just one piece of the solution. To find the rest of the pieces, you need to 1) look at all of the factors that impact a caregiver’s experience, and 2) work to understand the specific needs of your caregivers—without making assumptions.

Myth #2: Digital/internet marketing will never be a very effective channel in home care—it’s just the nature of the business.

THE FACTS: Digital marketing is not only a viable marketing channel; it’s completely crushing traditional advertising channels.

We’re hoping that this myth is losing steam in the home care industry, but it’s still something we hear occasionally—in fact, the wording above was lifted verbatim from a comment we received last year from an agency owner.

We surveyed over 800 agencies as part of this year’s annual Benchmarking Study; the top five consumer marketing channels this year were all digital marketing channels.

top consumer marketing sources for home care agencies

Note that while there’s certainly a place for referral marketing, digital marketing is supplying a substantial percentage of revenue; as shown in the right column, agencies listing a particular digital marketing channel as a main source of new clients are typically seeing 20-30% of their total revenue from that source.

If you’re not investing in good digital marketing, it’s time to get on board.

Myth #3: If you raise rates or try to charge more, the clients will just go to your competitors.

THE FACTS: It depends on how you position your agency in your local market.

There will always be price-sensitive clients that refuse to pay more than the cheapest rates. If you’ve chosen to compete on basis of price rather than building a differentiator, you’ve probably primarily attracted those clients.

But if you’ve established specialty programs or used social proof to effectively position your agency as the premier home care provider in your area, you’re no longer competing on basis of price—you’re competing on basis of value.

A semi-related personal example: When I recently needed to get some major work done on my car, I went to a mechanic shop that had the best online reviews in the area. When I met them, they told me, “Just so you know, we don’t try to be cheap. We’re the best at what we do, but our prices are higher than our competitors, and you should know that up front.”

I respected that—and the guarantee of quality they can provide turned me from a price-sensitive customer looking for the cheapest services to a non-price-sensitive customer willing to pay more because I understand I’m getting better quality. Despite their higher prices, they’re now my go-to.

If people are willing to pay more for the peace of mind that comes with better mechanic services, how much more likely are they to pay more for the right home care services?

Myth #4: Only large agencies can build relationships with referral sources.

THE FACTS: A scrappy agency with good positioning and good social proof (testimonials, reviews, satisfaction scores, etc.) can beat a big, established agency.

It’s true that these larger agencies have a leg in many ways; they typically have a better-known brand, more resources to spend on networking, more capacity to staff the cases they receive quickly, and a longer history in the community.

In general, though, many of the “advantages” that larger agencies have in securing referral partnerships are things that can and are emulated by plenty of smaller agencies with a scrappy approach and the willingness to keep learning/optimizing.

According to Darin Ellsworth, who was an accomplished marketer for a home health agency before joining Home Care Pulse’s sales team, competing against larger agencies comes down to having a tangible differentiator that “leverages the heck out of testimonials and reviews.”

Darin also points out that small agencies can play size to their advantage by positioning themselves as an agency who is selective about the clients they take because they care more about giving great care to the right people than building a huge clientele.

It’s all about positioning, Darin says.

Myth #5: Caregiving is always a high-turnover job.

THE FACTS: The business model of home care might be conducive to higher than some industries, but there are home care agencies sidestepping the high turnover.

While the industry average is over 60%, we’ve talked to plenty of agencies in the very manageable 20 and 30% ranges for caregiver turnover, or even lower. When we analyzed turnover from hundreds of agencies to calculate the industry average of 64%, we saw data for agencies with turnover as low as 5% annually.

The key, as we talked about earlier, is to see caregiver turnover as a multi-faceted problem with a multi-faceted solution.

And since the circumstances of every agency are different, you’ll need to understand the needs of your specific caregivers to understand what those facets are. Here’s how an agency in Pennsylvania did it.

(Helping agencies understand the needs of their clients and caregivers is one of Home Care Pulse’s main focuses—if you’re interested in how it works, feel free to check out this page or line up a phone call with somebody from our team .)

Agree or Disagree?

We’ve presented some strong evidence to back up our positions on this, but the at the end of the day there’s always room for disagreement.

These are topics worthy of more discussion, and–let’s face it–there’s not always a simple or easy answer.

What do you think? Do you agree that the statements above are myths that don’t represent the reality of home care? Or have we missed the mark somewhere? Let us what you think in the comments. 

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