Customer choice is at the heart of the business growth in care services.As we progress with consumer choice in NDIS and aged care it is vital to ensure you are hearing the voice of the customers and have processes in place to respond to customer feedback. It is important to respond to customers directly, acknowledging that their feedback has been received.
Understanding who your customers are
In aged care and NDIS, we have many customers - they may be called consumers, participants, clients, residents or customers. The families and care givers of the clients are also seen as customers. So how do we hear the 'voice of our customers' and what do we do with the feedback we get from our customers?
Several channels can be used to collect information from customers and given the range of technology available you can use software programs to analysis feedback.
The voice of the customer model listed below is taken from the lean six sigma method of quality improvement. https://goleansixsigma.com/what-is-lean-six-sigma/
There are a series of tools which can be used to collect feedback from service users, families and other stakeholders.
Voice of Customer (VOC) Methods:
Surveys: Surveys are a set of questions, which ask customers about their experience of services. Surveys are usually emailed to customers and whilst cost effective, surveys have an exceptionally low response rate.
Interviews: Interviews are individual meetings with customers. Interviews are useful if you want to get feedback about complex issues. Interviews can be conducted by staff, however, be careful not to influence the outcome.
Focus Group: A group of people come together to discuss specific topics. Focus groups are excellent for identifying issues, which are critical to quality. It is important to have a trained facilitator conduct focus groups, so that all voices can be heard.
Suggestions: Client/Customer/Employee feedback is a suggestions for service improvement. Employees also provide valuable feedback. Remember, suggestions usually relate to one aspect of care, so it is important to evaluate overall process to understand how improvements can be implemented.
Observations: When services are being provided, there may be direct observations about what works and what does not work.
Complaints are a focus for most providers. It is a requirement of the care standards, the provider maintain a register of complaints. Consider investigating major complaints in the same way that you investigate incidents. Actions taken in response to complaints must address both the immediate issue for the person who raised the complaint as well as the system failures that may have occurred. It is helpful to categorise complaints and link the action taken back to the quality plan/continuous improvement plan.
Voice of Customer (VOC) methodology can be used to collect information on the customer needs. VOC methodology helps capture the needs of customer using the words the customer actually said, as well as asking customers specific questions about their experience.
How to translate customer feedback into service improvement:
The feedback given by customers can be translated into customer requirements. Customer feedback can be clustered and assessed with common topics and recurring themes being clustered together. A score can be allocated to each category of feedback based on how important the issue is for customer satisfaction, for example services being provided on time may get a high value whilst having a dress code for of the care worker may have a lesser value.
It is vital to communicate with customers who have given you complaints or feedback. We know that customers appreciate acknowledgement of the feedback they have given, customers want to have a two way conversation with you about their experience, even if the issue cannot be fixed directly, it is a good first step to thank customers for their feedback.
Responding to customers is known to build customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand.
It is also important to give staff feedback about the 'voice of the customer'. Feedback can be given to staff at staff meetings, in staff newsletters and you might even like to try a voice of customer display, where anonymous feedback is presented in pictures so staff can relate to the customer feedback more easily. Make mock-up pictures or cartoon animations rather than using pictures of your actual customers. You may like to use words “spoken” by the customer, or you can provide a summary. Make sure you include both compliments and complaints.
You can make a flow chart of the customer journey and add the customer feedback at any given point on the customer journey, again, this gives staff information on the types of issues that may lead to customer complaints.
Turning feedback into better care outcomes
The quality improvement plan lists actions taken in response to customer feedback. It is worth noting that both a complaints management process and a continuous improvement plan are requirements of the standards both in aged care and NDIS. It is usual to write up the specific actions taken, in response to a complaint within the complaints register. Whilst issues, which come to light through complaints and feedback, may represent a failure in processes, these could be documented in the continuous improvement plan.
Customers may want to know what actions are being taken in response to their complaint/feedback. Providers can give customers information via a newsletter or publish items from the quality improvement plan on your website and tell customers about specific actions taken on items that are considered high risk for safety and quality of care.
Six Sigma in healthcare delivery by , International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, ISSN: 0952-6862 Publication date: 23 August 2013.
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