Updated: Jul 17
Occupancy is the beating heart of a successful care service, and an effective Enquiry Management process is key to increasing occupancy.
The ability to process enquiries quickly and efficiently puts you in the driving seat ahead of your local competition for the simple reason that most care homes don’t do this well. In this article I’ll share with you the practical steps you can take to improve your enquiry management process.
Whilst more enquiries are coming through websites such as carehome.co.uk and Autumna.co.uk, there are still enquiries being generated by making calls direct to care providers. And even those potential customers who first find you through an internet search will invariably call you at some point.
With that in mind how slick is your enquiry process from the internet search through to that crucial first telephone call? You may think it is fine - but is it really?
Let’s put ourselves in the position of the enquirer. Invariably they will conduct an internet search on your home. This is likely to bring them to:
These sites could be the first interaction that an enquirer has with your service.
Today it is important to have a professional looking internet presence in the form of your own website. What does yours look like? Is it professional looking? Does it display your CQC rating, carehome.co.uk score and Autumna score? Does it contain useful information about the service? And don’t forget the increasing importance of video content such as staff and resident interviews, a walk through including a selection of bedrooms and links to your social media activity.
These days websites are relatively easy to build yourself using professional templates, or you can employ a designer to do it for you. Try fiverr.com for a choice of hundreds of designers at competitive prices. For more practical tips to ensure your care home’s website is working as hard as you do, check out the blog here
Probably the most well-known care home comparison site. It is hugely important that your home has good reviews, a high score (above 9.5) and up to date information. Results for your area are displayed in order of the service level you have, Enhanced, Premium or Platinum so it can be that homes with a lower score than you will feature higher up the search list.
What is your care home’s current score? How many reviews in the last 6 months?
A fairly new player in the market but becoming increasingly important. A basic listing is free but subscribing to a higher package will enable you to provide more information, video tours, more photos and 200-300 searchable fields. Their focus is on self-funding families and they can take referrals through the website but never charge referral fees.
What is your Home / Companies current % rating?
This one speaks for itself. Ensure your latest rating in displayed in the home and summary reports are available for enquirers. Be prepared to deal with questions regarding any Inadequate or Requires Improvement areas, or better still, have a fact sheet available stating what was found at the time of the inspection (they can read it in the report anyway), a little background information regarding the circumstances, and actions you have since taken, to provide reassurance to enquirers.
Social media presence is very important to drive a sense of community and promote the home. Facebook, Instagram twitter etc are all great Social media tools, but ensure you have permission to post any photographs. Posts should be regular (at least 2 a week) and encourage interaction.
The Telephone Enquiry Process
Finding care for a loved one is one of the most difficult choices an enquirer will face. They could be feeling any, or indeed all, of these emotions:
Panicked - They have been put under pressure from the hospital / social worker to choose a care home quickly.
Lost - For many this will be the first time they have had contact with a care provider and may have no idea what to do or expect
Upset - A loved one has deteriorated so badly that they require regular care in a care home setting, or from carers in their own home
Worried - They may have little idea of how the finances work, what choices they have, and the best course of action to take
So, in this state of anxiety and desperation they reach out and start ringing round providers.
Will the person representing your company or care home provide reassurance, or add to the confusion?
The winners will be those providers with a slick, professional telephone enquiry process. They know that they need to quickly move from the position of Salesperson to one of Trusted Advisor, and the most successful Customer Relationship Managers intrinsically know this .
The Most Common Mistakes
But before you think that your enquiries are ALWAYS handled properly, it is an unfortunate fact that many Home Managers and Care Providers would be appalled if they phoned their homes or companies as a mystery shopper, especially out of hours.
Unfortunately you are likely to encounter such things as:
Hello? (No standard telephone answering). This sounds unprofessional. If staff are unable to answer a phone adequately, can you trust them with the most treasured people in my life?
No details taken at all. This is a cardinal sin. Of course we can come across an enquirer who is reluctant to give out personal details, and whilst we cannot push, many professional Customer Relationship Managers will work quickly to establish a relationship with the caller, and in doing so, earn their trust.
Can you call back tomorrow / Monday. Be assured it is unlikely they will. Many people have day jobs that only leaves evenings and weekends to make enquiries.
Background noise (Shouting, wailing, poor language)
Or worst of all
Hello? The telephone remains unanswered.
The Ingredients for an Effective Enquiry Process
So, ask yourself? What processes do you have in place to ensure a superb enquirer experience?
Trained team members
Do you have at least one person in the home 24/7 who can deal with an enquiry in a polite, professional manner that exemplifies your core values?
What happens at weekends?
What happens in the Evenings?
Is the standard maintained?
Do you check? How often?
Do you do it or get an independent third party?
Once the first hurdle is over and the call is answered professionally, and a good rapport established, then details need to be gathered.
The Enquiry Form
Do you have an enquiry form by every telephone?
Are your staff trained in how to complete it?
Are they able to answer the basic questions, including the ones regarding fees.
Have next steps been established? Is the enquirer left in any doubt as to what will happen next? Has a date for the next contact from you been firmed up?
Do you have a range of promotional material that accurately portrays your home or the services you offer? Materials to consider
Manager Bio with photo.
Activity plan for a recent week
An actual weeks menu (not a fictitious one)
Any recent reviews you have received
A summary of last CQC report
What if your last CQC report has some ‘Requires Improvement?’
Enquirers will find the full report online anyway so be open and honest. When in this situation as a Turnaround Manager I produced a simple table with each domain rating, why that domain was rated RI, and the steps we have taken to improve the situation.
An enquirer wants and needs to be able to trust you. Being open and transparent can help you build that trust.
Make sure you follow up when you say you will. Don’t be pushy. People generally don’t like being sold to. Make yourself the natural choice.
Measuring Performance and Training
Enquiry management should be discussed in your senior team meetings as an agenda item. Make sure you keep on top of any enquiries and everyone knows there part in the process. Is enquiry training part of your induction process? Do all staff know the basics of how to handle an enquiry?
It all sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But you would be surprised how many get this so very wrong. So how are you doing? What is your enquiry process like?
Martyn Dawes is a Coach, Social Care Consultant, and Author of The Overwhelmed Manager: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do
Website: www.martyndawes.co.uk .
Martyn has put together a simple Enquiry Process Self-Assessment. You can find the link here: https://form.jotform.com/201535484081351