Disability service providers (referred to as businesses throughout) have been shifting to a more inclusive approach for disabled persons (referred to as customers or residents throughout), as well as for their families and caretakers. Some understand the need for more customer empowerment, or giving disabled persons more choice, authority, and control in their care.
A more inclusive approach ends the act of simply being a “service provider” and instead forms a partnership. This team enterprise intertwines the caregiver and resident, allowing the disabled community and their families a voice in their routines.
As a father with a disabled daughter, I understand that how much control a disabled person has in their care may vary on the demands of their individual disabilities. My beautiful 22-year-old princess has multiple disabilities, both physical and mental, and communicates basic needs with pictures (pictos). She is wheelchair-bound and has similar capabilities to a 2-year-old child. The issue at hand is letting each person feel empowered by allowing them to have the most amount of say within their means, and allowing that flower of control to continually bloom.
While transitioning to an empowering approach, the provider becomes a “coach” instead of a caretaker, and in a team, there is no longer a “product” mentality of residents. And even as many more companies are embracing this methodology, there is much work to be done in advocating for more disability service providers to adopt more empowering methods in disability care.
How Disability Service Providers Can Become More Inclusive
The approach of becoming more customer-centric is simple: inclusivity. Bringing disabled persons into the folds of any and all process decisions, no matter how small, is a practice that lets the customer and family take the reins on their health. Each choice made plants a seed of growth that proliferates through all facets of the customer’s life. And the confidence gained through empowerment of choice has a value beyond anything monetary.
Giving disabled people a real choice is more meaningful in every aspect of care. I can give my daughter water to drink when she is thirsty, but in doing so, I’m choosing her path. So I let her choose between water, milk, and fruit juice. The simple yet “real” choices make care anything but superficial.
Lifting up disabled individuals through empowering partnerships is all about seeing the perspective from a customer’s lens. And to do this, there are certain steps disability service providers should take.
Define Your Audience
Any business that focuses on specialization creates a recipe for both quality and success. And by targeting a centralized group of customers, you’re fostering less generalization and more expertise with particular customers.
Generalizing disability services is difficult, as it’s hard to cater to a vast number of disabilities. Understanding the ins and outs of a specific group of customers, just like a specialist neurosurgeon, means you’re offering meaningful services and are furthermore able to create quality experiences for your residents or customers. In closing the gap on your services, you can then begin to create purposeful goals for each customer.
Mapping and Monitoring the Customer Journey
A customer’s journey is ongoing, and service providers are all responsible for walking along that journey with their customers.
The key to successfully evaluating and monitoring each customer’s individual journey is seeing things from an “outside-in” perspective. Instead of planning for services based on what the company thinks the customer needs, jump into the shoes of the customer and evaluate their true needs based on their perspective.
Each customer’s journey will have their own set of problems that they want to solve or improve upon each day. Having understanding, compassionate care from management on down is the best way to reach the customer on a personal level. Practicing engagement with everyone in the company that encourages empathy puts customers at the forefront of important decisions.
Identifying and Solving Needs
Ferrying along the path of experiences with each customer brings forth a puzzle of individual needs and focal points for continual progress. And once the pieces are identified, only then can they begin to be fastened together in a coherent way.
When attempting to solve each individual issue, different people in your business should be engaged. An effective strategy in inclusivity is not just involving the customer in the process; it involves bringing together your entire team to create many different solutions devoted to improving customer’s experience in every aspect. It’s not just individuals, but teams that create positive change.
Continuous Feedback and Improvement
Furthermore, through continual monitoring, identifying needs, and highlighting new goals, there’s boundless room for feedback and improvements. Crafting an inclusive operation involves frequent review of what’s working and what’s not.
The benefits of providing a customer-centric platform are not just better for the customer; it’s a sustainable business model. Residents want control and say in their lives. The ability to have a full scope of choice is more meaningful for them and the providers. Retention rates will be much higher than disability service providers providing a less meaningful service—a clock in, clock out, mindless rotation.
I’m a lucky father, and I’m overjoyed to have a beautiful, sparkling daughter, whom I call “princess.” I greatly appreciate the care center, De Vleugels, that she lives at—they do an outstanding job in inclusive care. And as someone who has seen many centers and has a firsthand notion of disability care, it’s my hope that more centers continue to improve upon empathetic practices with customer-centric care.
My gratitude for the staff of the care centre De Vleugels (Klerken, Belgium) for their engagement, each day , to provide my princess the inclusive care.