When you no longer wish to compete on price and your quality of service can’t go much higher, how can a business take market share?
There are plenty of in-home care franchises and this can sometimes put off prospective franchisees who worry about a crowded marketplace. We’re not the only sector where this happens. You’ll find numerous property sales and lettings, fitness and cleaning franchises all competing for their slice of the pie.
All good franchisors look to support their network to provide the best customer service and competitive pricing within the parameters of a profitable business. So, what else can we do to stand out? In some sectors, like care, we also have to contend with government cuts to budgets, adding another challenge to the mix.
The answer is innovation and not just for the sake of innovation but to make a big difference to all stakeholders in the business. How would we know if our new systems, products or services will make that impact? We have to involve representatives from each of our stakeholder groups. We must develop in a partnership.
Recent innovations we’ve seen include apps. If you combine appointments, delivery and loyalty functions, it can make franchisee activity clear for franchisors, operations easier for franchisees and upgrade the experience for customers. Other innovations could be as simple as a new product or a service extension but, if you want a seamless transition across the network, you need involvement during the research, planning, trial, development and delivery stages.
Over the last year, we’ve been doing just that at Caremark. With the delivery of social care under financial pressure and many clients still feeling terribly lonely with just a couple of very brief visits each day, we wanted to act. Our founder Kevin Lewis had always wanted to combine the best parts of the service in a care home with keeping people in their own homes for as long as possible. So, we decided that now was the time to innovate our way out of the norm.
We wanted to create a way of delivering in-home care that would fit current local authorities’ budgets but improve the lives of our clients and our care workers. Our idea to allocate clients into small geographical patches was tested in partnership with West Sussex Council and their occupational therapists, our franchisees at Caremark Mid-Sussex & Crawley, a group of existing clients, our head office team, the Care Quality Commission. The delivery system allows for care workers to be salaried, rather than being on zero-hours contracts, and clients can have more contact over the day as well as creating a sense of community for them. The results were great, with benefits spreading even further than anticipated, and it was agreed to extend PatchCare across our whole network. Formal processes, including support for franchisees to introduce the new delivery system to other Local Authorities, were shared with franchisees and their teams with the roll out of this innovation beginning this month.
Was it a risk to go against the grain? Was it challenging for clients to adapt to a new style of care delivery? Will it take a bit of getting used to for franchisees and their teams? Of course. But innovating in a partnership limited the level and longevity of these risks. I’d recommend this strategy for innovation in any franchise. We aren’t the only ones innovating and we hope more franchisors consider innovating in partnerships as it can yield results for everyone involved. A brand must continually develop to maintain a position of strength and innovating with partners is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.