Home care owners are conditioned to believe in the saying, “The customer is always right.” This fallacy is further evidenced by our need to try to meet every client's demands, knowing fully well that some of their demands go beyond our control or even our moral code.
Home care agency owners want to be known as problem-solvers, not as someone who says it cannot be done. This is because it's believed saying “No” removes trust between the agency and the client.
But, saying “Yes” all the time has the exact opposite effect when it comes to pleasing the client. In this article, we’ll guide you on how you can handle problem home care clients.
Before you give the client an answer, you should fully understand their request, as what could be a simple request could lead to a misunderstanding. Here’s how to politely turn down your client’s request if it doesn’t align with the services you offer.
Be mindful that this client wants to do business with your agency. Keep this in mind to ensure that your response starts with appreciation for their business. A genuine thank you lets the client know you care about their needs and appreciate their request.
For example: “I would like to first thank you for doing business with us, it is a pleasure having you as a client. We appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention.”
This is very important. You want the client to feel like you understand them from a human perspective and not as a business.
On a personal level, you might have experienced calling a call center and receiving cold, robotic answers from the support person. It doesn’t give you a warm and gooey feeling, just the opposite, you feel like they are being “corporate,” and not trying to understand your issue.
As an agency, you want to avoid making this mistake. Train your staff to use sentences like, “I understand why you need this done”, or “This makes sense, I can see why you need this.”
Even though you might not be able to fulfill their request, this shows the client that you emphasize with them.
Integrity is very important in business and should be ingrained into your company culture. This means that you shouldn’t make excuses or outright lie to the client about why you are saying no to their request.
A client’s response could be positive or negative. Regardless of how they respond, you have told them the truth.
For example: “Mr John, I understand you would like us to provide medical transportation services for you, but unfortunately, we do not offer those services. However, we can look into some alternatives that might be suitable for you.”
Even though you don’t offer the services the client needs, this doesn’t mean that you need to end the call there.
This is a time to show them your excellent customer service. Start with offering other services that could solve their issue even though they may not be the perfect fit. If not, look outward for other solutions that can help your client.
This might sound ridiculous, but if you can’t provide the services to them, they will have to find another company to fulfill their needs. Doing the right thing and finding another agency that you have a good relationship with won’t hurt your business, and you can ensure that the client gets the required care.
It might not be your ideal outcome, but it communicates to the client that you put services over revenue and it helps you build relationships with another agency that can prove fruitful in the future.
For example: “We have looked into a few workarounds for you to make sure you get what you want. If these don’t work for you, that’s not a problem, we can reach out to another company that we trust to help you achieve what you need.”
If you pass the client to a competitor and they accept the client, you should check on the client to make sure the agency is taking care of their needs.
For example: “Hi John, I just wanted to reach out and check on how things are going with Agency A. Were they able to accommodate your requests?”
Using a productivity app, you can keep track of client requests. If you always receive multiple requests about a particular service, consider adding it to your list of services. It could make you attractive to other clients that require the same type of care.
Always offer valuable content to clients who leave your agency because you don’t offer the services they need for a while.
You should put together blog posts, research, and news articles, anything that interests your client and can help them with their needs.
If your client asks for a particular service you do not offer, here’s how to respond:
“I understand the importance of having someone to do X. However, we aren’t allowed to provide X services. We need to focus on what we do best so we can give you the care you deserve.”
“Unfortunately we don’t have a caregiver available to start today, but there is availability next Sunday (as appropriate); I understand the timing isn’t ideal, but we would love to have you as a client to provide you with our A+ service, would next Sunday work for you?”
If you don’t have the availability, refer them to an agency you trust and follow up with them using the steps outlined above.
Sometimes, a client might ask you to do something illegal or unsafe, or just uncomfortable. It could be out of ignorance or they might want to test how far you will go.
You should be able to handle this by outlining the state regulations and company policy. When this happens, this is what you should say:
“We appreciate you asking if we can do X, but due to XYZ reasons, it’s company policy not to do X.”
A client could ask you to reduce your hourly rate, but you know what your time is worth, and you don't have to accept anything less to provide the services.
Gently explain what they are getting from your agency so that they understand the value provided.
“The hourly rate allows us to provide you with a caregiver who will be able to provide the care that you need.
This caregiver has been trained to meet your specific needs which include providing you low-sodium meals to help stabilize your blood pressure. We will also do your shopping, prepare your medications, and help with your housework, all done at the highest level of professionalism.”
You might deal with clients that are difficult to deal with or have issues paying on time. In this case, find them an agency that is willing to deal with a difficult client.
“We have reviewed your needs and don’t think we will be able to provide you the level of care that you deserve.
We have spoken to Agency B, and they are more than happy to provide you with the care you need. We appreciate you thinking about us and wish you all the best. Here is the number to Agency B.”
When you run a home care agency, you will come across difficult clients. Whether they are upset at the care provided or they are making unreasonable demands from your staff members, you should know how to handle each unique situation confidently and professionally.
A difficult client can be easy to spot, with one of the biggest reg flags being that they have bounced around a few agencies.
A phrase they will often use is “Nobody does it right.” However, you should bear in mind that every difficult client may have a story behind them, such as a bad experience with another agency.
Consider the extent that you are prepared to take and if the customer persists and remains difficult, it is time to move on.
Here are the ways to handle these types of clients:
Home care clients can be indecisive about what they want – whether it’s what they eat, what they wear, or how they want something done.
The client will ask you to do something and then change their mind, which can be frustrating to your caregiver so it is important to know how to deal with these situations.
The caregiver is only in the client’s home for a certain amount of time and has other duties to complete. Having to redo work because of a client's indecision can lead to incomplete work, which can also cause the client to get upset.
To avoid issues with the client, here’s what you should ask before doing any task for them:
“I understand you don’t want to eat pancakes and I have no problem making you a different dish, but let’s make sure we agree before I start preparing the meal because I know you would like me to attend to the other chores, okay?”
This is a common problem that home care agencies deal with all the time. The overbearing family member comes in to critique the work your caregiver is doing, everything from the tools used to the technique.
If your caregiver complains about this, the agency supervisor will have to call up the client or family member to express the caregiver’s expertise and to set boundaries.
“As a parent myself, I understand the expectations that you have for your father’s care and that is exactly what we have set out to do.
Sheila has five years of experience working with Alzheimer’s patients, and she has been trained following our company guidelines, making this the right caregiver to take care of your father.
Your father is in good hands and you have nothing to worry about, but if you do have any concerns, you can always give us a call. In the meantime, we should give her the space to be comfortable so that she can do the best job of caring for your father.”
Not all clients with overdue payments are red flag clients; some may have issues with their bank accounts, while others are forgetful. These can easily be managed by sending them a friendly reminder, but regardless, this has to be solved before it becomes a cash flow problem.
To get these kind of clients to pay on time, do the following:
The payment terms should be written and explained thoroughly to the client. Drive the point home.
Send automated payment reminders a few days before the payment is due. You can use a system that not only sends email reminders but also text reminders. Download these automated payment reminder templates
Make it easy for clients to pay. Include a link on the invoice for the client to click on and pay. You can also have the invoice sent via text if they prefer.
“Just a reminder, Mr Johnson, we haven’t received payment from you in nearly two months. The outstanding balance will have to be paid before the caregiver resumes this week. Will you be able to complete that today?”
Get them to commit to a time when they will pay the balance.
Impatient clients prioritize their needs over what they are doing at any given time. They don’t have a sense of how long it takes to complete a job, but just have a timer in their head and when it goes off, their patience wears off.
They will need to be educated on your company culture because bad customers can negatively affect this and it needs to be protected at all costs.
“I understand that you want us to get to the laundry sooner. We have talked about the order of the tasks that need to be completed and how long each one will take.
If any of these tasks are rushed it will lead to a poor quality of work, which is not what we do. For us to give you the service you deserve, we will need to use the allocated time to complete the tasks. If you would like us to move things around, we are more than happy to do that.”
Here’s how to handle an impatient client:
Discuss the plan of care with the client and both parties should agree on which tasks need to be completed.
Explain to the client approximately how long it’ll take to complete each task.
Don’t put the relationship you have with the caregiver at risk over trying to please this client. If the caregiver no longer wants to deal with the client because the client is too demanding, it’s time to cut ties with the client. It proves to the caregiver that you have their best interest at heart.
If there are any delays and the agency is responsible, own up to it and make it right.
If your client is angry at your agency, it could be one of two things. Either they are justified in being angry for subpar services, or they could be the type of client that is impossible to please.
Be careful in dealing with angry clients because they can take to social media or Google reviews to damage your reputation.
Here’s what you could do to appease angry clients:
Talk to the angry client in person, if possible.
Do not tell the client to be calm. Let the client vent without interruption. Do more listening and less talking.
Pay attention to key phrases that can guide you on how to fix the issue.
Work with the client to find a solution.
Properly communicating with the client whether it’s the office staff or the caregiver is a skill that needs to be taught. You have many different personalities that work for you and these different personalities must have one voice –a professional one.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the long-term effects of dealing with a contentious client, but over time, the effects start to show as your resources are drained and your caregivers’ morale is affected.
When you spend more time with one client than other clients, you’ll notice that the time spent handling their issues doesn’t attract any additional compensation. The time isn’t profitable.
Not only is there not enough profit to balance out the investment, but your caregivers become stressed and frustrated. There is a risk in keeping this client: the caregiver may decide to quit.
The longer you keep a difficult client, the more problems compound, which will ultimately affect your business. Here are some signs that you need to fire a client from your agency:
They abuse or harass your staff members. Usually, it is the caregiver who suffers the aggression. They are yelled at, cursed at, and/or harassed. If you have a client who has been warned about this unacceptable behavior, it is time to let them go.
If the client assaults, threatens, or uses colorful language, that is an instant dismissal. Document the occurrence in the incident binder after interviewing the staff member who was abused.
Depending on the severity of the abuse, law enforcement should be involved. If people are rude to your staff, protect them by parting ways with the client.
The quality of your work is satisfactory and, yet, this client doesn’t appreciate it. Instead, they take to social media, Google reviews, or call your office to constantly complain about the service.
You’ve done everything you can to satisfy them but they keep finding new things to be displeased with.
This is when it’s time to cut the cord, they have taken enough of your time and resources away from other clients. Let them go so you can focus on those that appreciate your services.
A client who constantly misses payments becomes a liability to your cash flow. Their excuses range from "it's in the mail" (if you accept checks) to claims that they just obtained a new credit card.
Some even assert that fraudulent activity on their card necessitates a replacement and they'll get back to you once the new one arrives.
If it’s been a few months of non-payment, you have sent them reminders and they haven’t paid the balance, then it’s time to cut ties.
Here’s what you should do to prevent this issue:
Consider hiring a collections company to recover your hard-earned money.
To avoid payment delays, transition all your clients to ACH payment systems, as collecting check payments can cause delays.
If a client has violated the values you have set for your agency, there are ways to let them go peacefully.
Raising your prices can lead to one of two things. The client leaves because they can’t afford to pay the new prices, or they stay and pay the new prices which might be enough compensation for the client to still be serviced.
If you are fed up with the client, however, no amount of money will make you want to keep the client then there are other ways to let go of the client.
When you have made up your mind that you want to end things, draft a letter to email to the client informing them that you will no longer be able to take care of them. Download a sample of a termination letter.
Meeting the client might be the best way to end things amicably. It allows them to share their perspective about parting ways. Allowing them to vent reduces the chance of them hopping on social media or Google reviews to paint your agency in a negative light.
Try one of these scripts for firing a client on the phone or in person:
“I don’t believe we are the best option to provide you with the services you need. We have found an agency that might be a better fit. Here’s their contact information.”
“As you may have noticed, there have been issues with our business relationship lately and we are concerned you aren’t happy with the services provided. On that basis, we have decided it is best to part ways, but we can help you in finding a suitable agency that is a better fit for you.”
“The agency is going in a different direction, so we have started closing some of our contracts including yours. We will complete the week so that you can have some time to find a suitable option.”
It is always good to end things on a good note, it shows the client and your staff the standard of professionalism the agency runs on and it stays true to your core values.
Try these tips to end the relationship amicably:
Finish any work for the week.
Give them time to find a new agency.
Regardless of your feelings toward the client, always stay professional.
Keep your emotions in check. The last thing you want is to have a shouting match with your soon-to-be ex-client. There is no faster way to get them to give you a bad review.
Understandably, firing a client is a difficult thing to do, but ending a toxic business relationship is a good thing for you and your employees.
Managing problem clients in home care is tough. Politely decline requests with appreciation, empathy, and honesty.
Suggest alternatives and consider referrals. Maintain records and, if needed, part ways professionally. Prioritize quality care and your agency's reputation. Remember, it's okay to say no when necessary.