Organisations providing care need to put the service user at the heart of everything they do. Easy to say but how to go about it? While customer service standards are common across the corporate and business world, the use of an Excellence Standard is still rare in the care sector. However as funding from Local Authorities comes under pressure, many care providers are looking to attract and retain private clients. This in turn means having high standards of customer care. The other factor is CQC’s move to the Five Key Questions which they plan to ask of all care services to ensure person-centred care is at the heart.
A focus on service users as valuable customers plays just as important a role for small care providers as it does for large carers. In this and future posts a series of practical steps are suggested to put the service user at the heart of care.
The first step is about developing an in-depth understanding of your service users – your customers – under three main areas:
1. Who are our customers and what are their needs?
2. How can we engage well with our customers? 3
3. How do we measure customer satisfaction and use this information?
Whether you call them service users, customers or something else, the people who you care for do not all have the same needs. They may have much in common of course, but good care starts with knowing who in marketing terms would be known as your needs-based market segments. So one segment for example might require careful medication management, another segment might need close monitoring, another might respond well to having a large degree of independence. Armed with these insights you can develop ways to organise services around groups or clusters of needs. Check that hard-to-reach and disadvantaged groups and individuals are not overlooked.
Having taken time to understand customer needs, your plan is more likely to be successful where it matters; in the minds of the people you want to put at the centre of your care service.
Lastly; consider how you can get feedback that is reliable and useful from your customers to measure satisfaction. If you are not measuring customer satisfaction and using this information to drive improvement, how can you tell whether or not you are giving truly person-centred service?
Identifying your customers based on needs, tailoring your services around those needs, and developing a measure-and-improve culture are the essence of Customer Insight.
Next time we will look at culture in the organisation and the part it plays in customer service excellence.
Peter Weeks Care2Improve