In 2011, Ready Hands logged another year of record service volume, exceeding 2010 numbers by about 30% in both offices. In Alexandria, we also relocated to larger space and added additional administrative staff in order to position our home care agency for continued growth. Reflecting on these developments reminds us of the key practices that we feel have something to do with our good fortune. Here are a few:
- Hire good aides. Proper credentials, competence, experience, references and background checks are important. But just as importantly we seek aides who exhibit a friendly, willing attitude and understand the need for punctuality, initiative and a constant focus on client needs. To attract and retain good aides we treat them with respect and kindness and we try hard to meet their needs too. As a result we are rewarded with a steady stream of applicants from which to choose.
- Set high expectations for our office personnel. Our office employees know that we want every single caller to be treated with impeccable courtesy and responsiveness. They are expected to be productive and efficient. We also ask that they accept responsibility for challenging standards of performance.
- Make sure that owners take ownership. All callers know that they can reach the Bensons at any time for any reason. The owners are the public face of Ready Hands Home Care. We don’t employ marketing personnel or “community liaisons.” We don’t use an answering service or a delegated on-call staff.
- Assign each client his or her own primary aide. We want the same aide to work daily except for occasional relief. (Or, for round-the-clock care, the same two aides). We want a mutual bond of trust and good feeling to form between each client and his or her assigned aide. Many agencies will routinely assign aides to multiple clients each week. Ready Hands never does this.
- Strive to deliver on every promise. (And don’t promise what we can’t deliver well.) We know that generating happy clients through consistent high quality service is our best form of advertising—but that also requires knowing our limits. Prospective clients often present with unusual scheduling needs or other factors that we know will jeopardize our ability to the job well. In such cases, which arise virtually every week, we courteously decline and instead direct them to other home care providers in our area.
- Don’t cut corners with staffing and scheduling. Getting the right aide to each client every day is practically an art form. The aides’ abilities must be matched to clients’ needs. Commuting time, the presence of pets in the home, aides’ income needs and even personality considerations all must be taken into account. Those doing short-term relief assignments must be given careful advance preparation, often “orienting” to a client under the direction of the primary aide. We spend a lot of time trying to get staffing and scheduling right.