Improving Perceptions of Customer Service in Aged Care

“That one, she’s not quite all there. She talks to people all the time”, came the earnest advice to the inductee at the Elysian Fields Aged Care Facility.

“Coffee?” asked the personal care worker of the dementia patient.

“I said to my Mum, she just needs support at school” opined the nurse to a co-worker. “I’ll be with you in a minute, dear” she added in response to the veteran asking for assistance to get out of the bed beside her.

Sound familiar? Are these situations acceptable examples of providing high levels of service in aged care?

In our view, they are not. They are not, because in each situation there is little respect shown for the consumer of the service. Referring to people in the third person, speaking in incomplete sentences, not addressing people by name and carrying on personal conversations in preference to providing service are all customer service faux pas of high order in the hospitality industry. They should be seen in a similar light in aged care.

They are unacceptable, because they all create a lasting negative perception of service.

A consumer’s perception of service depends on their mood and, in order, these three categories of personal approach;

1. Concern

When interacting with a consumer, we must show concern for the them – rather than our policy, or meal break, or other such internal issue.

2. Congeniality

Matching the environment of surroundings and staff appearance and posture helps consumers perceive that service is good. Having staff with gravity defying hairstyles, wearing hospital uniforms and creating a clinical environment in a low care aged care facility seeking to attract wealthy, independent consumers is unlikely to engender a sense of good service.

3. Civility

Using rude language and aggressive body language are obvious destroyers of the perception of service. However, so are over-friendly terms, slang, over-officious terms and incomplete sentences.


Would an accreditation audit of an aged care facility pick up any of the above situations? Would a survey of residents and their carers pick them up? The answers to these questions is ‘probably not’.

However, situations like these are normal in my observation of the aged care facilities my mother resided at in her last five or so years.

In an era when government regulations are changing the nature of care to what is called Consumer Directed Care, my fear is that service will not improve if the approach to improving service remains audit focused, and customer satisfaction survey focused. What’s needed is an approach that focuses on understanding what good customer service looks like in the mind of the aged care consumer and recruiting, skill building and performance managing people to achieve a common standard of achieving high levels of service in the consumer’s mind.