How to Earn The Kind of Reputation That Will Grow Your Disability Support Organisation

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When you’re in the business of working to make lives easier and brighter, there’s a good chance that you have happy customers. But that is not a given, nor something that can be taken for granted.

To earn the kind of trust and reputation that will increase your business, you need to look at what it is about your organisation that your customers rave about. It’s about looking beyond customer satisfaction and at what makes people feel valued.

What would your team need to do for customers to want to tell the world about it? It’s an important question to consider because it creates a significant impact on your brand and how you promote and provide services. When we surveyed Australian NDIS participants and primary carers on what they value most when choosing a service organisation, the number one answer was trust and reputation.

Invest in positive customer experiences to build trust and reputation

The better service you provide, the stronger your reputation is likely to be. But how do you invest in something as elusive as word of mouth?

Our research shows that people value good, prompt service that makes them feel like a human, not a number. Your customers are looking for responsiveness with care and empathy.

To determine what that looks like in action for disability support organisations, we asked respondents not what they expect, but what would improve their experience. From finding new customers to retaining loyalty, these are opportunities for service organisations to elevate their customer experience and deliver the kind of service that is reputation-boosting.

NDIS participants said:

  • Better communication / fast / straight and understandable answers
  • Better care and support / staff training
  • A Phone App / Online / Instant bookings / a central point of contact

Primary carers said:

  • More staff / service availability
  • Better communication / fast / straight and understandable answers
  • A Phone App / Online / Instant bookings / a central point of contact

As you can see from the responses above, providing noteworthy customer service means looking at how easy and efficient it is for people to communicate with your business at every point of contact, not just the interactions with frontline workers.

Here are five ideas that address some of these suggested improvements:

  1. Instant points of communication: Invest in online bookings or increase customer service support to give people the answers they’re looking for, fast.
  2. Audit your resources and response times: Review how long it takes for a potential customer to receive the information they need and make sure you’re delivering it with speed and understanding. This could be as simple as improving your FAQs and website information, or assigning a staff member to respond to online chat help and emails.
  3. Train first points of contact: Frontline workers are experienced with providing a level of care and empathy that make people feel valued. Ensure that your customer service team receives similar training and understands what people want and need assistance with so their experience is positive at every point of contact.
  4. Survey all customer enquiries: Send out surveys after someone has made contact with your organisation. This will ensure you’re seeking the opinion of people who chose another organisation over yours — you can gauge demand and identify opportunities to improve and capture more business in future.
  5. Ask your employees: Frontline workers and customer service representatives are ‘in the trenches’ speaking to your customers every day. They will be able to tell you firsthand where gaps are in their knowledge or in the customer experience based on direct feedback.

People sitting around the table and drinking coffe
The people on the phone were very understanding and patient and helped me through the whole process. The paperwork looked so overwhelming but once [our support organisation] was on board they made it simple...
Primary carer of a child (age 0-18)
People chatting and drinking coffe
The online reviews were good and the customer service from the firm I was looking to engage was excellent. The person was friendly, responsive to my questions, informative regarding pricing and what type of work their staff would do.
NDIS Participant

Trust and reputation can supercharge your marketing efforts

Reputation is more than a key decision driver — it’s also a trusted source that people turn to when looking for a service organisation. And investing in it could save you money in other areas, such as marketing.

Our research showed that while no single source dominates a customer’s search for new service organisations, what does stand out is seeking a trusted opinion. In fact, we discovered that advice from someone with direct experience is just as persuasive as a referral from other professional services, such as Support Coordinators and Local Area Coordinators.

Let’s look at this in terms of how you reach and acquire customers. If you have a strong reputation, backed by a network of referrals, you can reach a huge percentage of potential customers before spending money on marketing.

24% of all respondents said a referral from a friend or someone with direct experience influenced their decision on which service provider to use. Add in a referral from a GP or allied health worker and this reach rises to 46%. If you have good word of mouth and referrals from professional networks across allied health and support or local coordinators, this reach can be as high as 82% — before you have spent any money on advertising or local marketing.

Testimonial Illustration
It’s hard to know where to’s also hard to know who to trust. I’ve tried many service providers and the ones that have been best have been the result of a personal recommendation.
NDIS Participant

A proactive approach can unlock opportunities to retain and expand services

It’s important to remember that customer service doesn’t begin and end with onboarding people onto your services. People who have been with your service for some time provide plenty of opportunity for your business growth — whether it’s through referrals, retention, or increasing the number of services they utilise.

In fact, our report revealed that it’s very common for people to be unclear on what services they are eligible for, even when experienced with the NDIS. While service organisations don’t manage eligibility, there is an opportunity to provide a clearer understanding of all the services on offer and even help match existing customers with additional services they are eligible for. By making this information more accessible, your existing customers won’t need to look elsewhere for additional services. It’s also a simple way to make people feel that they’re getting personalised service, by ensuring they are getting value from their program and accessing the support they want.

This can be achieved by simple initiatives such as:

  • Running customer satisfaction surveys to identify gaps in your service offering
  • Following up customers via phone or email at regular intervals to determine they’re satisfied with your organisation
  • Offering a yearly review to ensure customers are accessing all the services they’re eligible for
  • Assessing consolidation of services so people don’t need to manage multiple service providers
  • Providing clear and accurate central records that all frontline and customer staff can access, eliminating impersonal service and the need for people to explain their needs over and over

A key learning from our research is that customer programs should never be ‘set and forget’. Retaining business is just as important as winning over new customers — so your team should place equal importance on ensuring people are happy and getting the most value from their program.

To get the full picture on future trends and what your customers value, access the Future of NDIS Support: Customer Trends and Values Report.

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