As aging in place professionals who advise clients on improvements that can be made to their homes to help them have an easier time of remaining in those homes or who actually create those improvements for them, we can’t do it in a vacuum. We have to have a lot of input from them. Otherwise, it is our plan superimposed on the home without any regard for what they might want or need.
This brings us to the client interview and the importance of it.
Often we get the opportunity to talk with the client, the caregiver, the referring healthcare professional, or someone else close to the client before we actually meet the client face-to-face and see the inside of their home. This can be an extremely important interview and needs to treated as such.
After the formalities and pleasantries of the introduction and small-talk have been taken care of, it’s time to learn what is going on in the client’s home, why they or someone looking out for their needs and ability to function successfully in their home feels that their living space is not working well the way it currently is configured, what they would like to see done to improve what they have or what they think can improve their situation, and the money they have designated, allocated, or been able to set aside for the project.
While this needs to be a pleasant and cordial call, it’s much deeper than just having a conversation. While it may seem to be just gathering some data, the real essence of the project is being ascertained. Questions detailing information being shared and ones delving into topics not being volunteered need to be covered. At the conclusion of the phone conversation, we need to feel good about our ability to help this client, have a reasonable understanding of their budget or ability to pay for the work that we are beginning to envision, and actively look forward to getting to their home and beginning to formulate a plan of action for their home.
During the phone conversation, we are gathering information, but we also are listening, discerning, and deciding if this is someone we want to work with and if they have realistic expectations of what can be done with their home to help them.
At the conclusion of this polite interview where they are likely asking us questions about our experience, ability, and pricing, we will make a determination of how to proceed. We will suggest a time to go to their home and begin the field assessment part of the project, or we will thank them for contacting us and essentially decline to go any further with this home and potential client. In other words, it did not seem like a good fit or a good use of our resources even though we like to help as many people as possible. In this case, it didn’t seem like they have realistic expectations, they were not forthcoming about the types of changes that would help them, they were not willing to discuss budget or were quite vague about it, or it seemed like it was going to be difficult to please them.
Assuming that the conversation went well, however, we will have set a date and time to visit their home. Then the interview starts all over – some of the information previously obtained will be confirmed and verified. Some will be dependent on our observations and questions that need to be asked face-to-face.
We need to understand exactly what they need to have done and how specifically our changes or recommendations will help them. There are no generalities allowed at this phase. It’s time for very specific questions and suggested solutions. We have to take seriously our assessment and evaluation role as part of the interview process. If when we leave their home we don’t have a firm idea of what will help them, what they might accept as an improvement, and their budget or funding for accomplishing it, we didn’t do our job. We can’t move forward.