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Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

There are some industries which have a captive audience. If you’re the only game in town, like in a prison or an airport, you don’t necessarily have to pay attention to your customer service skills. But, what about those fields where it’s relatively hard to get in and just as hard to get out? Something like a long-term care facility or a nursing home? Do these industries have to worry about customer service?

Once a resident has entered into a nursing home, they can’t transfer to another facility without a world of hassle. It also used to be difficult for resident complaints to reach the outside world unless the situation was egregious. Now, it’s easy for residents and their families to leave complaints thanks to nursing home review sites and social media. This means that nursing homes have to step up their customer service skills to match their nursing skills.

The Needs of the Patient

The primary service of a nursing home is, first and foremost, health care. A facility that doesn’t provide adequate care will soon be on the wrong side of regulators and nursing home lawyers. The news is filled with horror stories about botched medical care and negligence in nursing homes.

But even in a nursing home that offers good medical care, the long-term nature of these facilities can cause small annoyances to build up over time into something huge. For instance, some caregivers treat all sick patients as if they were children to be coddled. It’s a classic image of caretaking, but no adult wants to be treated like a child all the time. Even doing something simple like referring to patients politely by their last name can make the patient feel less like an invalid.

As our loved ones decline in the nursing homes and assisted care facilities, the facilities themselves have two sets of people to please: the patients and the families. The best care is care which takes both parties into consideration. Questionnaires are an effective measure of satisfaction, and they could definitely be distributed to both families and patients at specific times.

The Needs of the Family

Nursing homes must never forget that the families of their residents are also part of their customer base. Traditional customer service is the key here. A smile and a sincere welcome to visitors can go a long way toward improving the impression someone gets of a nursing home. If they feel like they are intruding or interrupting the care, that’s a problem.

Families with residents in the facility also need to have a clear picture of the situation. Their desired service is to know that their relative is getting good care and the status of their health. This means that nursing homes have to be honest about the situations their relative is facing. Families must be notified promptly when health conditions change or if the resident wants to see their family and can’t reach out directly. While this may not be possible in all circumstances, it’s much better to make an attempt than for a family to be notified after the fact. That kind of delay can open the doors to a lawsuit. Nursing homes should come to an agreement with families on how often to contact them and with what information so that all sides are happy.

Quality of care in nursing homes and long-term care facilities should be one of the highest priorities, but it’s not an easy issue to sort out in one blog post. The needs of the patients, the staff, the families, and everyone else involved must be taken into consideration, and decisions which are made to positively impact one area might not necessarily be the best decisions for the others. It’s a delicate balance.