Are vulnerable clients your business?
The state of the nation
Recently, the UK Government announced a new English Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement which enables local councils to raise additional funds for adult social care over the next two years. This, coupled with the Adult Social Care Grant could, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (http://bit.ly/2hNQTTl), increase the amount available to spend on adult social care by a maximum of £700 million over the next two years. But, the IFS say, these initiatives provide no boost to spending beyond that.
Prestige Nursing, one of the UK’s biggest care agencies, highlighted in August 2016 that elderly people needing to go into care now face average fees of £30,000 a year with the costs rising 5.2% over the past year. The annual cost of an average care home room increased by £1,536, which says the Daily Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/17/care-home-fees-top-30k-for-the-first-time—and-are-rising-at-10) almost ten times more than the average income earned by pensioners over the same period.
Many practitioners specialising in the field of vulnerable clients will be fully aware that ‘bed-blocking’ is once again common in hospitals as local authorities struggle to find care home beds or domiciliary care facilities so the patient can be discharged back into the community.
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The state of the world
The UK is by no means alone in trying to find a solution to the growing care crisis. Deloitte’s, in their 2016 global health care sector outlook (https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/life-sciences-and-healthcare/articles/2016-global-health-care-sector-outlook.html), comment on the pressure to reduce costs, increase efficiency and provide value are starting to be seen around the globe. According to Deloitte’s report more than one in 10 people in the world will be over 65 by 2019. This is a potentially huge sector of consumers seeking help.
What should we be doing to help?
If our target market in 2017 is the older vulnerable client, then what might we consider focusing on to demonstrate our firm’s effectiveness and attractiveness to potential clients?
Law Society research identified the factors most commonly relied upon by consumers to make decisions about using a provider, which were (in order of importance):
- Reputation – you cannot create a positive reputation overnight. To acquire custom, you need to go out and talk about what you do and how you do it – write articles for local newspapers and magazines; write for your firm’s website; send existing clients e-mail newsletters and keep pitching what you are offering. Go out and speak to relevant local groups such as Age UK or Alzheimer’s Disease Society; network with other professionals who might refer work; volunteer yourself and always be prepared with your ‘elevator pitch’ – the quick explanation of your offering.
- Convenience – local people will seek local help from the provider who understands what the state, local authorities and the third sector in the area provide. If you keep a type of ‘check -a- trade’ folder of reliable organisations and businesses offering assistance that in itself will be valuable to those in need. Where can they loan a commode? Who provides respite care? Which person at the council do they need to talk to? Which charity offers a befriending service?
- The provider is a specialist in the field – to become a specialist takes effort –if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed (in his 2008 book ‘Outliers’) 10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness –This is where volunteering can be very helpful as well as specific study e.g. STEP Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients.
- Cost – inevitably a person who is not eligible for financial assistance of any kind will need to fund your costs personally. They will seek value for money. Knowing the difference between cost and value can increase profitability. The key differences:
- The cost of your service is the amount you spend to produce it.
- The price is your financial reward for providing the service.
- The value is what your customer believes the service is worth to them.
Your pricing should be in line with the value of the benefits that your firm provides for its clients, while also bearing in mind the prices your competition charges.
Research has shown that the following factors influence service quality and the perception of service quality:
- Tangibles – such as the physical facilities in your office;
- Reliability – the ability to perform the desired service dependably, accurately and consistently;
- Responsiveness – willingness to provide prompt service and help clients;
- Assurance – the knowledge of your staff, courtesy and ability to convey trust and confidence;
- Empathy – caring, individualised attention to customers
The vulnerable of the world need us – focus your effort, practice and tell everyone what you can do.
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