By Sophy Edmonds (4 minute read).

There is no denying Australia’s age services industry is in the throes of transformational change, thanks in large part to Government reform and rising consumer expectations. While new commercially sophisticated players continue to enter and grow the market, the Royal Commission continues and consumer mistrust increases.

In the field of marketing, the mobile revolution, changes to the Internet and social networking are all having a massive impact. Organisations can now communicate directly with customers and deliver authentic communications that build trust and value. This also means customers are increasingly savvy about what they can expect from service organisations. They are proactive in seeking out available options and are more assertive if they don’t like what they see or experience.

According to the KPMG report Customer Experience in the Ageing Sector, “Customer experience is now a fundamental business issue and aged care providers must shift their mindsets in order to grow and survive in the ‘age of the customer’. While a bad experience can be damaging for a business, a positive experience can drive commercial outcomes. 85% of people are willing to pay 25% more for excellent customer service.”

In our experience, as a marketing firm servicing providers of age services, there are big differences across the industry when it comes to a focus on customer experience. Yet with the introduction of new Aged Care Quality Standards in 2019, the industry is moving closer to embracing customer experience. The new standards stipulate that organisational performance should now be assessed against outcomes achieved for consumers examining the evidence of consumer experience.

It is now widely acknowledged that age services need to do more than just make a great customer promise. They need to ensure they keep the promise by aligning it with their customer experience – at every touchpoint. And in a service business, where it is the people who deliver the brand promise to customers, harnessing employee support and being responsive to customers is at the heart of an organisation’s success.

Many organisations understand the value of customer research and insights. Knowing your customers intimately helps an organisation to identify areas to strengthen and improve its emotional connections.

In age services, different organisational touchpoints can be underwhelming or even upsetting. And while consumers seeking out independent or retirement living options are very different to those in need of care, the starting point is often the same. In our experience, when the customer takes steps to enquire, it makes all the difference to speak with an engaged and compassionate sales representative, receptionist or admissions manager.

But customer experience is not the sum of the entire customer journey. There are many points along the journey that will have the greatest impact on customers—enquiry, admission, transition, crisis, meals, physical environment, birthdays.

We recommend organisations engage and empower employees to represent the brand values of the organisation and invite and respond positively to customer feedback. In fact, if organisations treat an unhappy customer above and what they expect, that customer can become an advocate for the brand, speak on its behalf and promote its services to interested parties—a highly effective way to develop more customer loyalty and support growth.

One of our clients implemented a monthly ‘Town hall’ meeting which would provide the Executive team with an opportunity to present news and updates and allow time for residents and family members to raise questions and air concerns. The CEO and his senior team received more regular client feedback and was better able to adapt services to fit client needs.

Australia’s age service industry is seeking to enhance its customer viewpoint with many organisations looking at how they can continually improve process and performance to surprise or delight customers.

In short, they are seeking to put the customer at the forefront of their business and deliver a positive brand promise.

 

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