I owe this article to my co-owner of Support For Home In-Home Care and spouse. She started vibrating at a dangerous frequency recently when we encountered a problem with a vendor.
The topic is not one which may be intuitively obvious. It is about IT (Information Technology) and how it relates to customer service, but even more importantly to safety of our senior and other clients in the home care industry.
As IT professionals for 25 years, ourselves, we have seen Information Technology evolve to be a utility that is expected to work all the time. We tend to think of reliability similar to the phone system in our homes or the gas / electricity supplier.
That having been said, what does IT have to do with senior home care? Actually, it has a lot to do with being able to deliver high quality, trusted care. Our computerized scheduling system (from vendor “A”) is integrated with another program called Telephony (from vendor “B”). Our caregivers call the computer (via our toll-free number) using client’s home phone when they arrive to “clock-in”. When a shift is over, they call (using Telephony) again to “clock-out”.
If the Home Care Aide does not clock-in using the computer system, those of us in the office receive an email telling us that the caregiver may not be with the client. The Support For Home administrative team then calls the client’s home to find out if the caregiver has forgotten to clock in or was delayed in getting to a client’s home.
Since we are providing critical support to our clients’ Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) , enabling them to safely live at home, being there on time when we say we will and working the stipulated shift hours are vital components of home care.
This past Sunday to Tuesday, we encountered an issue with the Telephony computer system, with caregivers encountering frequent but intermittent busy signals. Our scheduling system vendor only provided technical support on the phone Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Of course, we have Home Care Aides scheduled with clients 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
We contacted our scheduling system vendor about the issue on Monday morning and were told at 1:00 pm that the problem was resolved. The technical support said “We have no control over the situation, as Telephony is provided by a separate information technology vendor.” When we inquired about service level agreements and support between this scheduling vendor and Telephony, the person said you have to talk to our sales person.
As a customer, we are never going to be satisfied with this answer. We realized by 2:00pm that the problem was still not resolved and we had to wait yet another day and contacted them on Tuesday. The problem was only finally resolved on Wednesday. The email response we received was that it was some other company’s issue and “we have no control over it.” This is called not accepting responsibility.
In the eyes of the customer, when he/she buys service from a company, that company is responsible for the service delivered, period, no excuses. When the company further contracts and sub-contracts services, the customer does not care about everything that goes on behind the scenes. The company is responsible for managing its vendors and performance. If the vendors do not perform, the company looks bad. Worse than that, the client’s security and quality of life may be negatively impacted.
A mistake may be made by a caregiver or an office staff, but as the owners of Support For Home, we are responsible. If our scheduling software with Telephony does not alert us of a problem, we can miss our commitments, so we are making too many phone calls to clients, all of them are saying, “Yes, the caregiver is here.” But we have to add a minor disruption to their lives to ensure all is OK.
To our client, Support For Home is responsible for their care, and they are right! At our agency, we will never pass the buck. We just wish other companies, including those in information technology, would behave the same way, with the same level of passion, customer service and sense of responsibility.