Hearing your customer

Posted 3 years ago by Rebecca St Clair
“Not only are care recipients our customers, the families and caregivers of these consumers are also seen as customers, so it’s important that they too are heard.” [Source: iStock]
“Not only are care recipients our customers, the families and caregivers of these consumers are also seen as customers, so it’s important that they too are heard.” [Source: iStock]

OPINION – As we progress with consumer choice in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) it is increasingly important to ensure you are hearing the voice of the customers. But who are your customers, how do you collect their feedback and what do we do once we have this information? Donna Foley from Health Business Solutions shares her insights.

“Customer choice is at the heart of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding standards for disability support. In NDIS, we have many customers, usually called participants. The families and caregivers of the participants are also seen as customers so it’s important that they too are heard. 

There are a series of tools, also known as ‘Voice of Customer’ (VOC) methods, which can be used to collect feedback from service users, families and other stakeholders. These methods use different channels to collect information from customers and given the range of technology available we can then use software programs to analyse feedback.

VOC methodology can be used to capture the customer needs – both current and unstated needs. It helps capture the needs of customers through verbatim comments, what the customer actually said, as well as asking customers specific questions about their experience.  

Different ways to capture Voice of Customer (VOC) can include:

Surveys – A set of questions which ask customers about their experience of our services. Surveys are usually emailed to customers and whilst cost effective, surveys have an exceptionally low response rate.

Interviews – Individual meetings with customers, with the opportunity for answers to be discussed with the participant/resident to understand their point of view. Interviews are useful in getting feedback about complex issues and can be conducted by staff, however, be careful not to influence the customer.

Focus Group – A group of people coming together to discuss specific topics. Focus groups are excellent for identifying items which are critical to quality. It is important to have a trained facilitator conduct focus groups, so that all voices can be heard.  

Suggestions – Capturing client/customer/employee feedback can be seen as suggestions for service improvement. Employees will frequently have suggestions on improvements. Remember, suggestions usually relate to one aspect of care, so it is important to evaluate the overall process to understand how improvements can be implemented.

Observations – When services are being provided, individuals can share their observations and provide feedback on what works and what does not work. This is unbelievably valuable information.  

Complaints – A focus for most providers, complaints provide you with information about what is not working in your service. It is a requirement of the care standards to keep a register of complaints. Consider investigating major complaints in the same way that you investigate incidents. Actions taken in response to complaints will address both the immediate issue for the person who raised the complaint as well as the system failures that may have occurred. It is helpful to categorise complaints and the categories can match those on the quality plan/continuous improvement plan.

Translate customer feedback into service improvement

The feedback given by customers can be translated into customer requirements. Customer feedback can be clustered and assessed with common topics and recurring themes being noted. A score can be allocated to each category of feedback based on how important the issue is for customer satisfaction.

Responding to customer feedback, to directly acknowledge that you have received their feedback, is as important as hearing your customer’s voice. It is vital to communicate with customers who have given you complaints or feedback. 

We know that customers appreciate acknowledgement of the feedback they have given, customers want to have a two way conversation with you about their experience. Even if the issue cannot be fixed directly, it is a good first step to thank customers for their feedback. Responding to customers is known to build customer satisfaction and loyalty to your brand.

It is also important to give all staff feedback about the ‘voice of the customer’. Feedback can be given to staff at staff meetings, in staff newsletters and you might even like to try a Voice of the Customer Board, where anonymous feedback is presented in pictures so staff can relate to the customer feedback more easily.

You can make a flow chart of the customer journey and add the customer feedback at any given point on the customer journey again, this gives staff information on the types of issues that may lead to customer complaints.

Better care

In the broader organisation, the quality improvement plan will often include actions taken in response to customer feedback. It is worth noting that both a complaints management process and a quality improvement plan are requirements of the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding quality standards for NDIS.  

It is common to write up the specific actions taken in response to a complaint within the complaints register. Whilst issues with care, which come to light through the complaint, may also be a symptom of a failure in work processes, these could be documented in the quality improvement plan.

Customers may want to know what actions are being taken in response to their complaint/feedback. NDIS providers can give customers information through a quality improvement section in your newsletter, publish some items from the quality improvement plan on your website and tell customers about specific actions taken on items that are considered high risk for safety and quality of care.”


The VOC model mentioned in this article was taken from the ‘lean six sigma’ method of quality improvement (link to:.https://goleansixsigma.com/what-is-lean-six-sigma/ 

Six Sigma in healthcare delivery byInternational Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, ISSN: 0952-6862 Publication date: 23 August 2013 

Donna Foley is a registered nurse and health service manager who has worked in healthcare for more than 20 years. With expertise in quality and safety management systems, Donna has been an auditor/assessor for the NDIS and health services regulator giving her in-depth understanding of the accreditation process. Donna and the team at Health Business Solutions can assist you with writing procedures, improving care processes. HBS works with organisations, large and small, to improve care processes and supporting cultural change through active engagement and coaching for both care staff and the management team.