It happens to all home care agencies. That nationally-recognized caregiver company with the portfolio of awards and certificates… they deal with it. And the hospital-affiliated home care division… they do too.
So what is this universal challenge that plagues all home care agencies? Unfortunately, it’s unhappy clients.
While most companies work to limit their number, complaints come with the territory. First, nobody and no organization are perfect. Second, some people are simply unreasonable no matter how great the quality-of-care and service.
With that said, here are 7 effective ways home care agency owners can mitigate the fallout from unhappy clients:
1. Work on Prevention (After all, it’s the best medicine)
The cliché is often used in discussions on patient health, but it also holds true for home care providers trying to reduce complaints. Happy customers tend to give businesses the benefit of the doubt, while disgruntled folks are quick to exploit any negative experience. Smart agencies prevent major problems but reducing the volume of minor complaints.
Imagine a client who notices her wedding ring has gone missing. If she’s happy with her agency-provided caregiver, her first instinct may be that she misplaced it. However, if she’s upset with the aide due to a history of tardiness or general unreliability, the client is far more likely to assume the worst—that the caregiver is a thief.
2. Don’t Be “Right,” Be “Solution Oriented”
Experienced home care owners, managers and marketing folks know that “being right” is irrelevant when it comes to client complaints. There are home care companies that bend over backward to prove they didn’t make a mistake. But in the end, does it really matter if the client is still angry?
Agencies that focus on “being right” rather than defusing volatile situations always lose in the long run. If a client lobs a theft accusation against a caregiver or blames an aide for an unrelated injury or medical incident, the best approach is to be solution oriented. Companies waste far too much effort in pleading their case rather than moving forward in a way that improves client satisfaction.
3. Demonstrate Sincere Empathy
Sometimes people just want to vent and hear that others empathize with their situation. This fact of human nature holds true in personal relationships, but it’s also relevant for home care agencies and their clients.
If a client has a stroke while under the supervision of a caregiver, his daughter may want to voice her concerns to the home care agency manager. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s blaming the company! Smart leaders are careful to not take things personally and understand that “venting” isn’t necessarily “blaming.”
4. Offer a Good-Will Gesture
In the spirit of “moving forward” rather than “being right,” prudent home care agencies will sometimes offer concessions to unhappy clients. Companies must obviously be careful in their approach and recognize that some people will take advantage. However, it makes sense to discount service in certain cases.
5. Respond to Negative Online Reviews
Many home care agency owners falsely assume the best response to negative online reviews is no response. Their idea is that they’re giving credibility to the complaints by even acknowledging them. In reality, this approach is terrible!
Online marketing and reputation experts advise company owners to directly confront negative reviews. Generally, the response should be short-and-sweet. It shouldn’t “accept” that the complaint is legitimate but should instead address the “feelings” of the reviewer.
Experts also advise that companies end their response with a positive note on how they work to prevent (whatever was alleged) through “such-and-such” (systems, policies, etc.). Basically, a good response flips the negative review into a pitch opportunity.
6. Promote Positive Online Reviews
It may seem off topic to address positive online reviews in a discussion on unhappy home care clients. However, the two are very much connected. Data shows customers are very likely to share negative experiences but rarely post positive reviews. This idiosyncrasy in human nature unfairly tarnishes agency reputations.
Smart home care companies counter this phenomenon by actively encouraging happy clients to share online feedback. Agencies should always ask their satisfied clients for reviews. And it’s even acceptable to offer a small incentive to encourage their participation!
7. Consider Legal Options
No home care agency owner wants to threaten or pursue legal action against a former client. Doing so is usually costly and time-consuming for all involved parties. However, it can be a last-resort option in extreme situations.
A former client who threatens to, “ruin the agency’s reputation with everyone in town,” may be taking things a step too far. He may also be venturing into legally-dangerous territory. Sometimes a letter advising of slander and defamation laws may be enough to get his attention. Agency owners should always consult with their attorneys prior to taking any drastic measures.
In the end, it’s important for home care agencies to provide great quality of care and service. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the best way to grow the business. However, that doesn’t mean some clients won’t unfairly tarnish providers’ reputations. Agency owners must find ways to both prevent complaints and mitigate their damage.
If you’re a home care agency seeking industry-specific marketing solutions, you should also connect with a top-notch marketing firm today!