Seven best practices for managing service creep

Josh Malbogat, Senior Living Director at TheWorxHub by Dude Solutions
Josh Malbogat, Senior Living Director at TheWorxHub by Dude Solutions

As senior living communities focus on becoming more resident choice focused, providers have come to recognize the challenge of service creep. Oftentimes, the focus is on the care side but service creep runs much deeper - impacting a multitude of areas across all departments. Whenever additional services are offered to residents without an associated bump in revenue or at least the consideration of the revenue side of the equation, you're selling yourself and your offerings short and potentially creating problems down the road in terms of serviceability of resident needs and operational viability.

With proper tracking and billing, there is a path to successfully being able to differentiate your community with additional services while at the same time charging for said services and increasing top line revenue. Often, organizations have the opportunity to bill for services already being provided that are beyond the scope of residency agreements. We recently worked with one community who found almost $20,000 a year in billing opportunities in maintenance alone – work they were already providing but not charging for. The problem they faced is one that many organizations are challenged by – how to easily track billable services and document them, eliminating the missed billing opportunities that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

For providers who are addressing fees for operations services in areas like maintenance, housekeeping, transportation, there are a number of best practices that can help, including:

  1. Review and streamline residency agreements. Communities with one standard agreement have a much easier road versus those with 15 or more different standards. I know this can be a challenge – working to minimize non-care related service differences is a great start.
  2. Ensure agreements are clear. Pricing for additional services should be stated upfront including hourly fees, etc. I've seen great improvements here over the last number of years as we move to more clarity in pricing.
  3. Set expectations. When a resident moves in, be clear about expectations during one-on-one department head meetings. Sitting down with new residents and explaining what's included and what's not will help mitigate future confusion. A best practice that's particularly successful is having the department managers sit down with new residents once the dust has settled from moving in and review expectations.
  4. Include staff in determining and rolling out any program for residents. Make sure all team members understand what will be billed for and how the process will work.  The more engaged they are in the creation of the plan, the more likely they are to follow through on it.
  5. Monitor for trends. Keep track of the most common type of work that is being requested.
  6. Remain consistent. Don't vary pricing and services across work and residents. They talk.
  7. Get support. Investigate solutions that reinforce tracking for billings and simple exports to accounting (without this the admin time may kill your initiative).

By following these best practices, you will be able to offer more services without having to raise monthly rent and eliminate the risk associated with use of outside vendors by residents. You could even increase revenue by ensuring you are paid for the collective services you provide to residents.

Josh Malbogat is the senior living director at TheWorxHub by Dude Solutions.

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