The top reason why consumers chose a home care agency in 2017 was that it was recommended by family and friends. Likewise, referrals from past and present clients were the #1 source of new home care client referrals in 2017— by a considerable margin.
These facts from the 2018 Home Care Benchmarking Study probably don’t come as a shock. Most agencies are very aware of the value of clients as their top source of new home care referrals.
However, what many agencies don’t understand is how to increase their pipeline of new home care referrals and clients by actively managing the process of turning clients into promoters.
If your read our Letter From the CEO last week, you’ll be familiar with a story that powerfully illustrates this process.
Before starting Home Care Pulse, our founder Aaron Marcum ran a successful home care agency in Utah called Arbor Senior Care. While most clients appeared satisfied with their services, one client went through nine caregivers in six months. No one seemed to be able to keep her happy.
After investigating the problem, Aaron and his staff eventually learned from this client’s family that she had several very specific things (like how she liked her eggs cooked or her sheets ironed) that she was extremely particular about.
These were easy things to do, but ones that Aaron and his staff wouldn’t have known to do without acquiring and acting on feedback.
After training her next caregivers to do these things, this client loved Arbor Senior Care’s services so much that she became a major promoter and ended up referring over $500,000 of business during her time as a client.
With the right strategies, you can make this type of story play out in your own agency, not once but over and over. (Besides the part about a client going through nine caregivers in six months.)
How the Process Works
We’ve identified one specific process to help you turn clients into promoters and establish a consistent flow of client home care referrals now and in your future. It’s simple, but it takes commitment and focus:
- Start tracking your clients’ satisfaction by having them score you in different areas and give feedback on where you can improve. In particular, ask how likely they would be to refer you. (We’ll talk more about how to do this.)
- Use this specific feedback to focus your improvement efforts in the precise areas that will most help your client experience—the low-hanging fruit. This will save you time and help more clients become promoters of your services.
- Use referral best practices (we list them for you below) to reach out to clients for referrals at the right times. Knowing who your promoters are will help you know who to give particular attention to when asking for referrals.
Let’s break down the how and why for you:
The Importance of Promoters
Promoters are the clients who are so thrilled with your services that they become an unofficial advertiser for your agency: they brag about your services to family and friends and are excited to refer other clients to you. You can probably think of one or two of your agency’s promoters right now.
What makes promoters so important?
Clients referred by other clients typically have lower turnover, greater client lifetime value, and require you to spend less money on marketing.
This table gives you an idea:
Data gathered as part of the 2017 Home Care Benchmarking Study.
Other reasons why promoters are so important:
It saves you and your management team precious time—your clients are doing your marketing for you
Clients have ready access to many people in similar situations to themselves and are known and trusted by them
Very happy or very unhappy clients tend to be very vocal—having more promoters strengthens the way your brand travels through word of mouth
Promoters are less price sensitive
The Best Marketing Isn’t Marketing
There’s an analogy you might have heard us use before: In sports, the best offense is a good defense. Likewise, in home care, the best marketing is a great client experience.
There’s a very powerful way to not only improve your client experience but use your client experience to generate more referrals: client feedback. This means gathering a mix of quantitative data (scores rating how well clients like your services) and qualitative data (specific feedback on what you can do better).
Putting numbers to the process is important because it allows you to track your progress.
Think of it like exercising: fitness experts always say to track your progress (how many miles you ran, how many pushups you did, how much weight can lift, etc.) so that you can see your improvement and know when you’re making progress.
Improving your client experience to get more home care referrals works the same way. While your success is ultimately measured by the number of new referrals you receive from your clients, these scores provide useful benchmarks along the way.
In gathering client feedback, you should use a system that lets your clients score you in various areas (like client/caregiver compatibility, work ethic of caregivers, communication from your office, etc.). This is critical in understanding exactly where you can improve so that you don’t waste time and resources addressing the wrong problem.
Here’s what these results look like in the client reports we give to Home Care Pulse customers:
Finally, you should use your clients’ feedback to track your Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter Score is easy to calculate and measures how many of your clients are promoters rather than passives (clients who are satisfied but not excited about your services) or detractors (clients who are displeased with your services—and may be vocal about it).
It uses one question: “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this agency to other?” Depending on their scores, you can split clients into three categories. Then you simply subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
Important note: While there are different ways agencies might go about trying to gather data, our program (in which we call your clients every month for a brief interview on how you’re doing) will deliver the strongest, most unbiased feedback because clients are typically more direct with a third party than with the agency.
Focus on the Negative—That’s Right, You Heard Us
The advantage of closely tracking different aspects of the client experience is that you can identify small, often very simple areas improvement that deliver strong results.
Most of us naturally gravitate toward positive reinforcement and try to tune out any negative criticism people give us. In this case, negative feedback is a gift that you should embrace because it represents the lowest-hanging fruit. These are the places where you can usually improve their experience the most for the least effort.
For example, according to the 2018 Home Care Benchmarking Study, the industry’s lowest client satisfaction score is in communication from your main office. Clients like to feel in the loop and to know that your management team is looking out for them. This is a relatively easy to way make your clients happier and provides you with a great opportunity to ask for referrals.
Remember, learning how to cook eggs and fold sheets a certain way meant $500,000 for Arbor Senior Care. What can this method do for you?
Best Practices For Home Care Referrals
Once you’re tracking client satisfaction, recognizing which aspects of the client experience you can improve, and focusing your efforts to improve those aspects, more of your clients will become promoters and start referring friends. It’s a simple process, but it’s not easy.
While promoters are more likely to promote your services without you asking them to, you can still optimize the referral process by taking key opportunities to ask them for referrals and offering incentives for doing so.
Here are some best practices in asking for client referrals:
Send out referral cards every 3-4 months (or every 2-3 months with your known promoters) offering a discount if they refer a friend to use your services (15% off for a week’s worth of services is usually a good incentive).
Follow up and personally thank them for every client they refer to you. Referrals come through relationships, so nurture relationships with your promoters.
Incentivize your office staff to ask for referrals by creating an office competition about asking for referrals or by offering a gift card or other reward to a staff member when a referral comes through them.
Call your clients to check up on how they’re doing. Don’t just do it occasionally; do it often. In some of these calls, ask who else they know who would benefit from your services.
Track where each referral comes from over time. It’s not uncommon for a few promoters to generate a large percentage of your new home care referrals.
Own the Referral Process
Your business lives and dies by the referrals you get, so own the referral process and don’t hesitate to ask your clients for more referrals.
If you are tracking your clients’ satisfaction and putting in the work to know exactly where you can make their experience better, you should feel confident that your services are worth it for your clients to talk to their friends about.
Tracking your client satisfaction is essential to the process of getting more home care referrals because it powers your ability to improve your client experience and turn more clients into promoters. To learn more about how Home Care Pulse can help you gather and act on this data, schedule a free consultation with one of our specialists.
Ready To See How Home Care Pulse Can Transform Your Business?
Connect with an expert from our team and discover how unbiased, client and caregiver feedback can transform your business, help you reduce caregiver turnover, and increase satisfaction. We’ll walk you through our online dashboard where you can review monthly feedback and get incredible insights into your home care business.