Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Shift from Care Service to Customer Service


I am fairly certain that you, like me, have been to a restaurant at some point in time where the staff rushed you through your meal and that you, like me, found it irritating and uncomfortable. I am also pretty certain that you, like me, would think twice about using that restaurant again and that many people who experienced that would, like me, probably tell any number of people about that bad service.

Now transpose that scenario to social care.

The now infamous 15 minute care visits are just one aspect of this, longer visits may equally involve care staff having to rush around leaving the individual who needs the service bemused and bewildered at the very least. At the worst it will leave the feeling a burden, someone in the way while the care staff do what they have to before shooting off to the next person. Add to this the times when the individual never knows who is going to turn up to help as staff rotation is based on the needs of the provider rather than continuity for the individual.

Of course this is not limited to home care, many care homes I’ve seen have a task-orientated culture where staff rush around trying to get jobs done and individuals merely become another box to tick on the endless ‘to do’ list and in the worst cases, as demonstrated on the Fiona Phillips’ Panorama programme last year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01gybn7) sometimes staff even fail to acknowledge the individual when they are undertaken their jobs.

The crucial issue here is that the person who needs the care service cannot just suddenly stop using the service because they are unhappy with it and if they are left feeling like a burden to the care service then they are unlikely to complain anyway and, equally, there may be a lack of opportunity for them to mention the bad service to anyone else.

Unfortunately we do not look upon those who need care services as customers. Look at the terminology, ‘service-user’, ‘client’, ‘resident’ or even ‘patient’.

Could you honestly imagine sitting down with your bank manager and having a ‘co-production’ meeting about your finances?

People who need social care services are getting a service and, as such, should be treated as customers no matter how that service is paid for. In many instances of course they are paying directly for that service.

We need to become a customer focused service which starts with acknowledging the individual as someone who has the right to be treated as a paying customer. Social services departments need meet the needs of customers rather than ‘commission’ services and regular reviews should not be just about immediate care needs but should also focus on customer care and the level of customer service that goes with the tasks being provided.

The needs to be a culture change in social care with a shift from task based commissioning to real customer service and customer service skills need to be high on the training list for all staff of undertake services for their customers. Personalisation must mean the customer comes first and what we want as customers will always vary. Some may like short sharp visits just so they can get on with their lives without strangers getting under their feet, many others will prefer visits that include a chat about what’s happening in the world, especially if they are isolated and unable to leave home. Whatever they want though it should be at the top of the list of services provided, after all, the customer is always right.