Three Best Practices for Stronger and More Resilient Referral Relationships
Between COVID disruptions, increased competition and more general noise in the marketplace, providers are becoming increasingly open to best practices from the Fortune 500 world, including techniques for key account management.
Here are three best practices from my days in Corporate America that are helping providers build stronger and more resilient referral relationships. Hint: none of these involve donuts or in-service sessions.
1. Know which referrers matter most to you and what matters most to them – Do not manage all referral relationships the same and do not assume what referrers want from you.
To start, assess the overall health of your referral relationships. We at Transcend built a scorecard to help you. Then, look at your referral data. Identify which referrers provide the most frequent and highest quality referrals. Interview those referrers, similar to voice of the customer research, to understand what about your service they value the most.
Field a market-level survey for broader insights that you can use to compare and contrast with this core interviewed group. Recently, we conducted two research studies on what physician office professionals and hospitalists want from senior care providers.
Use these insights to do a simple segmentation exercise so you can visualize the concentration of key themes. This exercise is particularly powerful when you do one version based on the data and another based on what your liaisons say.
2. Build a value proposition that is unique and meaningful from your market’s perspective, not yours – To start, update your market and competitive landscape assessment. Make sure you have a clear picture of the size of your addressable market, the number and type of players – including nontraditional forms of competition. Remember, a competitor is any resource referrers may choose instead of you, even if it’s a different type of service. Document how competitors are positioned and what they define as their value proposition for referral sources.
A visualization exercise could help you see if you’re truly and uniquely positioned or if you’re dittoing the competition with messages like “caring,” “serving,” “quality,” “focused on our community” and providing “holistic care.” An objective third party like Transcend can help you go further faster and with insights from across the country and the senior care continuum to inform a lasting and meaningful value proposition.
3. Manage your referral mix like an investment portfolio – Define your level of comfort with risk. Higher risk strategies mean going deeper with a few large referral sources. In low-risk portfolios, no one-source type should comprise much more than 25 percent of referrals.
Defining your risk tolerance defines where you should focus.
If a higher risk strategy is your preference or the best option for your particular market(s), focus on optimized systems, processes and technologies that make referring easy, expectations clear on both sides of the relationship, and other options less appealing. Also, make sure you’ve got relationships at multiple tiers within the organization and that you’re feeding these relationships data and insights that support your unique differentiators and value proposition. Account-based marketing combined with training for liaisons are the right one-two punch for this referrer mix strategy.
If you choose a lower risk strategy, make sure you’re adequately supporting family and self referrals, including offerings of robust family caregiver support. Typically, providers are way under-indexed on these referrals, yet they tend to be the easiest to increase. Update your messaging framework, because COVID has impacted what patients and families want, and step up your marketing efforts. And, make sure your intake and admissions teams are supported in handling the volume and guiding conversations to all of your service offerings or other partners.
I’m excited to see more providers embrace these best practices for building stronger, deeper and more mutually beneficial relationships with referral sources. There’s a movement afoot that has agencies relying less on the Silver Tsunami and more on unique, sustainable and constantly cultivated competitive advantage. These are the strategies that will help ensure the long-term viability of best-in-class senior care options, which is why we all do what we do.