As the home care industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, the opportunity for agencies to grow their individual businesses is great. To capitalize on all of this growth, optimizing your referral process is becoming more important than ever. When it comes to referrals, documentation, connection and marketing are three main elements of the process. However, based on our own experience with the customers we’ve worked with over the years, we’ve identified five common mistakes some agencies may be making when it comes to managing referrals. To help overcome these pitfalls and reap the benefits of a growing market, we’re also offering some solutions. Read on for a closer look to see if any of these may apply to you and your business.
Not necessary to document where your referrals are coming from
We see this often! We’ve heard customers say, “I’ve got plenty of clients. They seem to be coming my way and I’ve got more important things to do with my time than dedicate effort to tracking each referral.”
Living in the moment in the home care business can be a recipe for disaster. Even when things are going well, like in any business, you need to have a plan in place to maintain steady growth over the long term. In the home care industry, that plan needs to include a method for managing the referral process that will help you to cultivate a really strong referral network that will keep new clients coming your way.
Your best first step when it comes to managing referrals is to simply recognize that your business can indeed be vulnerable on many fronts and that you may not always be able to easily attract a steady stream of new clients. However, taking steps to proactively manage the referral process is one excellent way to help reduce the risk of losing revenue and to keep your business growing.
No process for collecting referral information.
If you don’t have specific guidelines for how and what information should be collected regarding referrals when new clients come to you, you won’t have a complete picture of what is happening with your business and sound data to base your marketing decisions upon.
Your best first step is to develop a specific process for gathering information during the initial new client inquiry. Identify the specific person or people in your agency who are responsible for managing new client inquiries and make sure they are trained to gather and record all of the information you need to build and maintain an accurate referrals database. Require that they collect and record the following:
- The inquirer’s contact information and relationship to the potential new client
- The name of the referrer (and organization if this applies) that recommended your agency
- Details around what specific information the referrer shared about your agency that made the inquirer consider your agency
- Whether the referrer recommended any other agencies besides yours
The inquiring person is incorrectly recorded as the only referrer.
Believe it or not, the person inquiring about your services can easily be mistaken for the only referrer. Here is an example: Patti calls the agency to inquire about services for her father, Harvey. Emily, the intake staff person, goes through the first steps of discovery about the client with Patti. Eventually, Harvey is signed up as a client with your agency. However, Emily never asked Patti any of the questions we emphasized in Mistake #2. In fact, in the referrer field she mistakenly put Patti, the daughter, as the only referrer. What Emily did not discover during the intake process was that Patti actually heard about your agency from the receptionist, Mrs. Paige, who works at Dr. Vig’s office.
Now there is no data trail to this client’s actual referrer, Mrs. Paige. This is a missed opportunity to strengthen a connection that already exists, or to start a relationship with a new referral source, but you’ll never know because the information is not there. This could have been the perfect occasion to make a personal connection with the referrer, a connection that can be every bit as important as the client for the ongoing health of your agency.
It would have been an excellent next step to send Mrs. Paige a thank you note to help keep the connection with your agency strong and front of mind. She just may be one of those people in your referrer community that, over time, could bring you many new clients. Don’t forget Patti and Harvey, and Dr. Vig, herself making the number of potential, future referral sources from this one inquiry, FOUR.
You’ve just quadrupled your numbers!
Your best first step is to take the time to educate the intake individual(s) in your agency on the distinctions that there are for the different players in the intake continuum. Then, by giving context for this process you can make it abundantly clear how important it is for your agency to collect and record the correct information each and every time a new referral comes in.
Not maintaining relationships with your referrers.
Ignoring your referrers, even for a short time, can wither an otherwise vibrant referral network. At this time, when the home care industry is growing rapidly and new agencies are launching all the time, it’s critical that you maintain relationships with your referrers to ensure that your agency is always top of mind for them.
Your best first step is to always respond with a thank-you note or call to your referrers when they send potential new clients your way. Over time it can also be a good idea to create automated reminders that prompt you to conduct quick check-ins with your referrers either over the phone or in person to maintain your on-going relationship. It offers you a chance to let them know how much you appreciate their recommendations and what it means to your business. It also gives you a chance to keep your referrers updated on any new improvements or services your agency may now be offering.
Not using the referral data you’ve collected to create or refine your marketing plan.
If you are collecting all the right information about referrers when new clients come on-board, but you aren’t analyzing that data over time for strategic insights, you’re missing a major opportunity to further know and grow your business.
Your best first step is to use the wealth of information you’ve accumulated to run reports that will really help give you insight into your business and how it’s performing in various areas. Then let your data tell you where to focus your efforts and spend your marketing dollars.
Here are some sample reports that you can run specifically related to referral sources:
- The number of new client inquiries during a specific period
- Conversion rates (how many of those inquiries resulted in new clients)
- The reason for non-conversion
- The breakdown of types non-conversions
- The number of billable hours per conversion for a given time period
- The different types of referral sources recommending your agency and their contact information
- Communications and contact of referral sources
Finally, Document Your Referrals Process
If you aren’t making any of these mistakes in your referrals process, kudos to you! However, if you found one or two that made you stop and think, we’re glad we could help to identify these issues and offer some solutions. With any and all of these items, it’s also a good idea to document your agency processes so they become repeatable by current and future employees. This is a very important step to help ensure and secure a successful future for your agency.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION:
What do you think? Are there other common mistakes you’ve made in the past around the referrals process that you’ve since corrected? What were they and how did you fix them?