BY JASON LEWALLEN
When a home health agency experiences a decrease in the flow of patient referrals, it’s easy to turn a critical eye toward the sales and marketing team. That’s exactly where the evaluation should start, but all too often, it’s also where the evaluation stops.
To experience true referral growth, agency management must shoulder some of the responsibility for the decline in admissions.
Sales is a vital and important part of driving growth, but home health agencies which fail to deliver an in-house customer experience matching sales expectations are stacking the cards against success.
Here is where the tough love comes in: In many situations, we tell our sales team to sell a service that our employees are not inclined to provide. We assume our operations side is prepared to deliver what our sales side has promised, but without intentionality on our part to have the two sides work together, we won’t feel that synergy. An agency which does have that synergy in place almost never faces a referral decline.
Thousands of blogs and articles have been written about evaluating and motivating a sales team. Below I have outlined 3 key steps to evaluating the other parts of your agency to ensure that you are providing the experience that encourages referral sources to work with you.
Step 1: Evaluate your approachability
We all work with that one person who lacks a proverbial “filter.” Some folks can be incredible clinicians, but have communication skills that are lacking. It is really our responsibility if we let those individuals communicate with our clients and referral sources. One bad attitude on a bad day can lose a referral-providing physician or facility forever. With stakes that high, we cannot afford to risk our customer experience.
The resolution here is to evaluate and educate. When you find that a team member lacks the level of customer service you would expect, take the time to educate them or simply remove them from the phone queue.
Step 2: Consider your referral process
Some referral sources will seriously consider which agency provides the best service, the best care, and has the most trusted outcomes. However, many will simply look for the one that is easiest to work with.
When you get an order, do you call the referral source, ask for more info, ask them to fax a slightly modified version of the order, or request a new order to reflect your inability to admit the patient in 48 hours? We all have those days — and many times it is crucial to take these steps in order to secure accurate documentation needed for compliance.
Bear in mind, however, that another provider who is prepared to admit the patient without bothering the referral source for more of their time and effort may be perceived as more efficient.
Education is the key to resolving this conflict of interests. It’s not just your staff that needs the education here, it comes down to you having to educate your physicians and discharge planners on the process. Either way, keeping referral sources content is often directly related to how simple and streamlined it is to work with you in comparison to other providers.
Step 3: Cultivate a sales culture
If you cannot keep your patients and referral sources engaged and content, you are one good competitor away from losing your position in the market. Considering the steps outlined above, this may be the most important and the glue that keeps the other two steps together. Without your patients you have no business.
Taking the time to set solid expectations and guidelines foryour entire company – and focusing on providing an out-of-this-world customer experience – will have far reaching returns.
If you are seeing your referrals falling, consider treating the whole agency instead of just the symptoms. You will most likely see an increase in census and a prevailing culture of growth from a team that knows each person makes a difference.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Lewallen serves as Director of Sales and Marketing for Home Health Solutions. Jason is an accomplished speaker, blogger and author, with work published in Caring Magazine, The Home Health Technology Report, HME News, and Curaport. This article first appeared in SOLUTIONS, the monthly e-newsletter produced by HHS.