Monday, 20 February 2012

Social Care Businesses: Welcome to the Real World

There is a general rule of thumb in customer service training that says if a customer receives bad service they will tell, on average, ten people. Yet if they receive exceptionally they are likely to only tell two or three people.

The advent of the internet has made the audience for peoples thoughts on a service much wider than just relatives, friends and acquaintances. Sites such as Trip Advisor offer people the chance to vent their frustrations publically and have become a first port of call for many planning a holiday. Would you choose to stay in a hotel that had consistently bad reviews?

With the creation of The Good Care Guide ( social care providers will need to be much more aware of customer service skills and the potential impact of giving bad service to care users and their relatives. It is not now just a matter of providing efficient care and support but the manner in which it is delivered also becomes important.

In one sense this new website means that social care providers are catching up with most other business sectors in the UK. Businesses will now have to ensure their ‘public facing’ image is as good as their image to the local authorities and care regulators who currently hold the balance of power over what is and what is not a good service. Care providing businesses are entering a phase of new opportunities to promote their company yet it is a phase that could be fraught with danger for those who choose to ignore the importance of this change.

Comment has been made that one malicious comment could ruin a business, that is certainly true however the issue has to be that providers will need to monitor the comments they are receiving and act accordingly. Business owners will need to be much more active in the image of their company and be prepared to make instant adjustments to their service delivery.

At some point it will be inevitable that Local Authority commissioning will also be influenced by the guide. It would be hard for any authority to justify using any care provider who constantly received critical reviews which will naturally mean a reduction in the number of referrals, by the same token anyone self-funding care will be unlikely to even consider visiting a poorly rated care provider.

The one question mark over the new web service is how the Care Quality Commission will use it and what happens if a provider is constantly criticised for its service yet it meets all the requirements of the essential standards of quality and safety.

That aside there will be an increasing need for social care businesses to look to increasing their focus on customer service and marketing skills in order to compete in this new environment.

Social Care businesses are entering into the real world of customer choice, customer service and marketing and those who will survive are those who adjust sooner rather than later.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Social Care Leadership: Visions, Targets & Goals

"Where there is no vision the people perish." — Proverbs 29:18

One of the hallmarks of leadership is vision. Vision encompasses everything that the leader wants to accomplish in the long term in order to achieve success in whichever field they are in. So in film, for example, the director has a vision of the completed film, in sport the athlete has the vision of winning major accolades, in business the CEO has the vision of successful business with high profitability etc. The leader’s vision becomes the focus of the whole team and marks the way forward to success.

One of the problems facing social care leaders may be defining that essential vision. The present system is a fragmented and diverse one which can lead to vision being eclipsed by the demands made on the service.

There is much ambiguity facing social care providers, those who receive frontline care services are not necessarily those who pay for it, therefore Local Authorities and the NHS are also customers (service users) as are families who pay for care services. In addition many of the terms of the service provided are dictated by Government policy and regulation, with all the bureaucratic involvement in social care it is easily forgotten that front line services are provided, in most cases, by the private and voluntary sector.

It is essential that, as businesses, social care providers have leadership and vision. Where do you want to be in five years time? What do you want your business to achieve? In the present climate of financial cuts and uncertainty about the future having a vision for the future is vitally important.

Vision inspires and motivates people. Vision allows businesses, teams and individuals to move forward. Vision brings success.

But a vision without action is little more than a dream or wishful thinking.

So how do you set out to achieve your vision, by setting targets and goals.

While a vision is the ultimate aim, targets and goals are the pathway that needs to be trodden to get there. Take your vision and ask yourself, what are the smaller things that need to be done in order to achieve this? This is, perhaps, the more difficult process but it is the essential part of good leadership skills. So, for example, if your vision was to be the best care provider in your district you would need to identify the elements that are preventing this from being true now, what actions you need to take improve those elements, how this can be done within budgets and limits on time etc.

From this you can begin to build a plan with targets and goals at key points in your timescale. You should always try to follow the S.M.A.R.T. principles when planning to ensure your plan is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Once the leader has their plan in place they can roll it out to the team, yet one of the important aspects of leadership that is often overlooked is presenting the plan of targets and goals without also presenting the vision behind it. We all have a natural reluctance to have targets imposed on us but if those targets and goals are part of the wider vision then people are much more likely to feel a part of that vision and be motivated to achieve the steps needed to achieve it.

The other important thing about setting targets and goals is that it allows the leader to regularly assess the road to success. By reviewing the achievement of targets and goals it is possible to make any necessary adjustments sooner rather than later, after all it would be devastating to learn that you had failed in one area when you were close to the time you had set to achieve your vision. It would be much better to be able to tweak and adjust your plan on a regular basis to ensure success.

Vision is the key to success but only if that vision is backed up with action and marked along the way with targets and goals.

Social care is no different from other businesses in needing vision to achieve long term success and it is something that every leader in social care should take the time to think about.