My Experience With Aging Service Marketers: Home Care Agencies

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After twenty years of employment in the Aging field, including approximately fourteen years as Long Term Care Coordinator and Assistant Director of a local area agency on aging, I retired to become one of those people who is far busier now than I was when employed. In spite of my years of experience helping older persons and their families, I was not at all prepared, for my new role as a caregiver. This summer I suddenly found myself in the position of trying to encourage two reluctant members of my family in their 90’s to accept home care or assisted living services. During this period I called several agencies and facilities for information. It didn’t take long to discover that some made a much better impression than others. Perhaps “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” is an exaggeration. Better categories might be “the Outstanding, the Adequate, and the Inadequate.”

Here are some details of what worked and what didn’t:

An adequate response included the phone being answered by a live person during the workday, not a machine, and having the person with the information either readily available or returning my call within 24 hours. If the person who spoke with me did not know all the answers, he or she would make a point of finding out and calling back within one working day.

Inadequate responses by individuals with whom I spoke included the following – responding in a cursory fashion and attempting to conclude the conversation quickly, lack of familiarity concerning terms commonly used in aging such as “high functioning”, seeming bored with their work or disinterested in the problems presented, unfamiliar with services provided, fees, etc., and in one instance, misreading my considerable stress as hostility, when a little empathy might have gone a long way.

The outstanding responders brought their individual talents and personalities to bear upon the situation, but shared certain common traits. They projected genuine warmth, caring, and concern in their voices. They asked questions about the two women I was calling about to better understand the needs and respond appropriately. In at least three cases, I sensed that the person with whom I spoke was actually forming a mental picture of my relatives. Some people used a sense of humor to lighten the situation and help me deal with the stresses of caregiving more effectively. The effective marketers were thoroughly familiar with their services and able to discuss regulations and requirements, that were not necessarily to my liking. They demonstrated the ability to be flexible regarding some matters, and clearly explained why they could not be flexible re others. They allowed me all the time I needed to get the information I wanted.

We have been told that follow-up is important in whatever we do, and that certainly is true in marketing aging programs and services. The really outstanding people with whom I spoke offered to provide a tour (if relevant), or to send a brochure (and did so). They often called back to see how things were going, without pressuring me to make a commitment.

The experience of being on the receiving end of information and help was a real eye-opener for me. I hope others will find my discoveries useful.

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