Today we’re happy to share a guest blog post by Connor Kunz, a project manager at Home Care Pulse, the leading survey and data platform for home care providers in North America. While Home Care Pulse is best known for its Home Care Benchmarking Study, it also regularly surveys thousands of clients and caregivers to help their agencies understand how to improve their experiences. Home Care Pulse also manages the Best of Home Care awards and offers the most extensive free online library available to home care owners.

In any service business, you live or die by the quality of experience you provide to your clients and employees. A great experience inspires positive word of mouth, loyalty, and growth; a negative or inconsistent experience spawns damaging word of mouth, cancelled clients, and negative reviews.

In home care, this effect is even more pronounced. Factors like intense competition and caregiver shortages make it more important than ever for home care agencies to make client and caregiver experience the cornerstone of their strategy.

Home care is largely made up of kindhearted, caring people who already work hard to provide great experiences for clients and caregivers. However, it’s one thing to try to provide a great experience based on your gut feeling of what clients and caregivers want, or a sampling of whichever clients and caregivers take the time to approach you when they want something; it’s another thing to create an action plan based on unbiased feedback and accurate data that zeroes in on exactly what’s most important.

So, where can you start? Each year, Home Care Pulse conducts the Home Care Benchmarking Study, a survey of hundreds of home care providers across the nation. This year’s Benchmarking Study yielded some interesting results about what clients and caregivers want, and what their agencies can do to better meet their needs.

Here are three main takeaways from this year’s Benchmarking Study:

1. Caregiver turnover has jumped 15% to an all-time high of 82%.

Caregiver turnover is a huge topic in the industry, and this statistic is the talk of the industry right now for a reason; it proves that the struggle you’re having with keeping your caregivers isn’t a solitary problem for your agency, your area, your state, or even your region. It’s a major problem across the country and so far it’s only getting worse.

While there are a host of hard-to-address economic and social factors that contribute to widespread caregiver turnover, you can minimize its impact on your agency by doubling down on caregiver experience and earning a reputation as a truly stand-out employer.

To tackle turnover, you’ll need to be willing to recognize areas of improvement and learn what’s most important. Which brings us to the next point:

2. Caregivers’ biggest beef is with scheduling.

It probably comes as no surprise that scheduling is a major issue for caregivers. However, what many agency owners may not realize is that according to our research, it ranks far ahead of any other complaint—even pay.

To gather this data (found on page 113 if you have the Spring Edition of the 2019 Study), we surveyed thousands of caregivers and used text analysis of a sample of their responses to determine the most frequent complaints. Then we analyzed those complaints to better understand their context.

The results? Caregivers overwhelmingly tend to want more hours, more consistent hours week-to-week, and the ability to build their schedule around other commitments like family, school, and other jobs.

To deal with the issue of scheduling, we’re seeing agencies take innovative steps like switching to guaranteed-pay models or utilizing quick communication through their scheduling software to quickly allow caregivers to pick up extra shifts. The solution varies depending on the circumstances of your agency, but being able to offer the right schedule to caregivers is one of the single most important ways you can improve your recruitment and retention.

3. The biggest thing that clients want? Better communication from their agencies’ offices.

We measured this in two ways: first, every survey we conducted with clients in 2018 asked the client to rate their agency in various categories. The agencies receive reports showing scores and feedback from their clients; however, we also aggregate the data to show what scores look like for the industry at large.

Of the various categories we asked clients to score their agencies on, communication was the lowest score for the fourth year in a row.

We also gathered qualitative data (information based on stories and experiences rather than numbers). We found that over and over, clients complained of issues like not being told when a caregiver couldn’t show up or families not receiving updates on their loved one who is receiving care. In one survey, a client’s family member complained that the agency only communicates with the client themselves. The client has dementia.

It’s Time For a Little Soul-Searching

It’s always easy to say, “That’s not a problem in my agency,” but over a decade of working with home care agencies, we’ve learned that the agency owners who see the least need to improve are often those with the greatest need to improve.

Most agencies are doing a great job of taking care of their clients and caregivers, but there’s always room to improve. Focusing on creating an exceptional client and caregiver experience is key to success. What will you do to show your clients and caregivers that you’re putting them first?

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