WEBINAR COMPLIANCE: How your NDIS Audit can drive Revenue | MyCareSpace

WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT: How your NDIS Audit can drive Revenue

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Fiona McLoughlan – IHCA Certification
Emily Vertege – ARTD Consultants


Nicole: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our webinar on how your NDIS audit can raise revenue. My name is Nicole Gamerov, and I am the founder of MyCareSpace. We're a social enterprise that creates meaningful connections for people living with a disability. And we create those connections with service providers like you. Thank you to everyone that registered ahead of the webinar, and in particular for people that sent in questions. I'd also like to welcome our guest speakers. So Doctor Emily Verstege and Fiona Loughlan, who are experts in customer experience and satisfaction and compliance. So to make it more interesting, I thought maybe you can introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about your background. Do you want to start, Emily?


Emily: For sure. So my name's Emily. I'm a researcher and an evaluator, and I'm really passionate about connection. So I'm passionate about connections between people, between people and service providers, and between data points. And so in that - I feel that I'm in the perfect job, because it's literally my job to draw insight from the information that people tell us, and from disparate data sources. And we do that. In my role at ARTD Consultants, I do that to help service providers and commissioning agencies make really good decisions using really credible evidence.


Nicole: Great, thanks Emily, Fiona? 


Fiona: Hi, I'm Fiona Loughlan, I'm General Manager of IHCA Certification. So we're a third party certification body. We provide audits across Australia. We do a number schemes, and NDIS is one of them. What we are really passionate about is helping services provide better services to their clients or their participants. So we find that the third party certification process actually helps organisations to do what they do better. So we enjoy that. 


Nicole: Great. Well we're very, very lucky to have you with us today. So the reason why you're here is because you're a strategic thinker. And as a person watching this webinar, you understand the opportunity side to compliance or qualities, as we prefer to refer to.

Our objective today is to help you understand how your compliance and audit activities lead to greater customer experiences. And there's a direct link between greater and enhanced customer experiences and revenue.

So there'll be 3 main sections to our webinar. The first will be - how does your NDIS audit drive revenue and greater customer experience?

The second section will be around the NDIS audit itself. And we've got lots of questions there around how can we reduce the number of audits, and what are the biggest challenges. And Fiona, I think you'll be busy answering a lot of questions there.

And then Emily, we'll wrap up with the performance metrics and how can providers use performance metrics to stop their NDIS clients from walking out the door. So that will be the structure of our webinar.

So we know that the stats actually back up that greater customer experience leads to a greater revenue for organisations. And organisations that lead in customer experience outperform the laggards by up to 80% on the SMP 500. We also know that their customers are 15 times more likely to spread positive word of mouth. So the stats back it up. But in terms of actually understanding the link between compliance and revenue, people don't necessarily see that as an obvious link. So Emily, we may start with you. And how do you see compliance - the link between compliance and revenue and a greater customer experience? And if you've got an example, even better.


Emily: Yeah. So I think-- Warren Buffett - who's an American investor and philanthropist, puts it this way. He says, "Price is what you pay and value is what you get." And it's our job to deliver value to our customers, and if we're going to deliver value to our customers, we've got to understand what they want and what they need. And to understand what they need takes insight, and we get that insight through having really credible data sets. And so the link then between customer experience and compliance, is that compliance information's a really, really good data set. Which gives us information about how we're delivering our service, and how we can continuously improve our service on the basis of compliance data. Now compliance data is just kind of one source of learning information. We would absolutely be supporting service providers to collect a suite of data, but compliance is a really, really important one. And so it helps us deliver really high quality service, make sure that our customers are satisfied. And when our customers are satisfied, they're more likely to stick with us - which is where we lead to that sustainability and revenue generation on the service provider side. 


Nicole: Great. So Fiona, from your perspective - what audit activities are likely to lead to greater customer experience, or give you information about greater customer experience? 


Fiona: So our auditors look at everything about what a service provider delivers. They're not just looking at policies and procedures and practices. They need to actually see that they can integrate it. And they need to look at things from a service user or participant experience lengths. So that's why the audit spends a lot of time focusing on interviewing service participants, their advocates or the people that choose to be with them. As well as the staff who work for the service. We need to look at things holistically, not from a single lense?.


Nicole: So are you saying that the auditors - during the actual audit process, they actually interview participants? 


Fiona: Yes, absolutely, yes. 


Nicole: Okay. 


Fiona: It's a large part of our audit process. 


Nicole: And so would most service providers know that? 


Fiona: I would hope so. In our on-boarding process with service providers, we're very clear about what the requirements are in terms of sampling of service providers. So while they may not know at the point of engaging an approved quality auditor - at the point that they're preparing for audit, they should be very familiar with what they need to do. 


Nicole: A great way to get feedback--


Fiona: Yes.


Nicole: I'm assuming that those interviews are a form of qualitative feedback that you can give the service provider? 


Fiona: Absolutely, yes. And we triangulate the evidence. So we're looking at the information that we get from the service participants, the staff - as well as what we see through our reviews of files and records and other information that we see on site. 


Nicole: Great, okay. So in terms of the actual audit activities that offer the opportunity to get feedback, are there some specific activities that happen during the audit that service providers know will be a source of customer feedback? 


Fiona: So there's 2 that come to mind, top of mind right now. One is your incident management system. So your incident management system needs to align to the NDIS legislative rules. It needs to be relevant to your business. You need to be able to demonstrate that you've documented the incidents that have happened. But also that you're learning from those incidents, if you want to put a continuous improvement lens on what you're doing. So that - for instance, there may have been an incident with a participant. Rather than simply knowing what the outcome is, what are you going to do differently to avoid that incident in the future? The other thing that comes to mind is your complaints management system. Now a complaints management system is not just about registering complaints. It's also a mechanism to gather client feedback. So, again - it needs to be relevant to the size of your business. But also, how are you learning from the information that you're gaining through that system? The auditors will be really pleased to see evidence that you're considering the feedback or complaints that you're getting, and you're doing something differently in your service as a result of that. And doing something different may be adjusting policy or changing a practice, whatever. So a range of things that you can do there. 


Nicole: Great. And I think, listening to you talk about complaints management, incident management - we tend to think of compliance in a negative way. But actually, it's about the quality of the service that you're offering. So I think that was the light bulb moment for me. When people move away from thinking about the audit in a negative and compliance mindset, rather to - well quality, where's the quality that we're actually getting?


Emily: Right, right.


Fiona: It's really a fresh set of eyes. So it's the opportunity to have some independent, objective feedback about how you're going. And it's not just how you're going, it's how the organisation's going in providing a service to participants. Which I think is really valuable.


Nicole: And I guess at the end of the day, we're not talking about banking transactions, we're talking about human beings and servicing human beings.


Fiona: Yes.


Nicole: So that makes sense. If we know what, that good customer experience - Emily, and this question's for you. If we know the good customer experience leads to greater revenue, and we need to create value - how can service providers find out what their customers actually want? 


Emily: It's such a great question. And I think there are a couple of layers to my answer there. So I think that the first part is to make a distinction between needs and wants. Because whilst I might want a Louis Vuitton handbag, I just need a receptacle basically for my kid’s crap, which means I can carry it around in a green bag from Woolies. So I think the same is true about customers. They might talk a lot about what they want, but actually what do they need? And it's our job as a service provider, and with the support of an audit function and a compliance function, to get to the heart of what customers actually need. And one of the really critical things from my perspective, is understanding what people need comes from having a great data set. And as we've said, audit and compliance data is a great source of information.

So I reckon that there are 3 types of data, or 3 areas of data that you need to be collecting as a service provider to get that really good insight. And the first is on people.

So people who are using your service, people who are not using your service. Because that's kind of equally as important. And so some of that data might exist already. Some of it may not exist and you may have to go out and collect that data. So having some really good insight on the people who are using your service, or not using your service.

The second is on processes. So how you are delivering a service. And this is where people like Fiona and her business comes in.

And the third is on products. So what do you actually sell, what packages do you deliver? How appropriate are they, and what's the uptake of those and the use of those - and how are they used? Maybe in combination with a different type of product or a different type of service. I think as researchers and evaluators, we talk about data being primary or secondary data. 


Fiona: Yes. 


Emily: But to decode that as simply just, it's data that you've already got and the data that you actually collect. And one of the first things that we always do as evaluators, is to work with service providers to do a little bit of that - and I've got this as a resource to share after the webinar. What have you already got across those 3 people, processes and packages - and what data might you still need to collect in order to be able to get some really good insight into each of those 3 areas? And so to fill those gaps you might consider data that you might get directly from talking to your customers, or that you might get from the compliance management system, or you might get from conversations with your clients and people in their network of carers and supporters.


Nicole: So is that the quantitative--?


Emily: Qualitative or quantitative. And they're kind of technical terms. 


Fiona: Yes.


Emily: We basically can think of it as numbers and words. So the words that people describe your service or aspects of your service - or places that you might be able to get some quantitative or some numeric data about your performance. Which may be held internally by your service, or they might come from the NDIS, or they might come from other research that people have done or the ABS or things like that. So it can be numeric, or it can be qualitative information. And I think that what's really important, and I know that - you kind of, Fiona would endorse this as well. Is what we're really trying to do with all of this information is create a cycle of fast feedback. So we don't want to be finding out at the next, at the point of the next audit that there's a problem. We want to be able to identify it early and respond early, and demonstrate that we're learning from the information that we've collected. That's all we need to do.


Fiona: Yeah.


Emily: Right? 


Fiona: I know. Sounds simple.


Emily: Yeah.


Nicole: Great so, and in terms of actually getting this information, I mean I'm assuming that a lot of service providers - especially with smaller ones, they might outsource it.


Emily: Yeah.


Nicole: It's something that needs to happen while they're out there with customers a lot of the time. 


Emily: Yeah. And I think that's the distinction between a service provider who can get caught - like everybody's busy, you get caught up in doing it. What - the challenge for all of us, is to step from that doing to that learning lens - and identify opportunities in your business as usual, where you can collect data. We've been working recently with a service provider, who - the advice that we gave to them was, "Actually you've got the mechanics of a feedback process in place, got some surveys. But actually what if you took the survey, the point at which you collect the survey from the first time you meet somebody, to maybe the second or the third time or every 6 months? And what if you put that form online, and what if you offered to have people ring to collect that information?" 


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: So it's really - for people who are busy, it's really just getting some perspective on easy ways-- Most of the time, people are already - have some information about all to make decisions.


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: It's just leveraging that, and leveraging audit data and compliance data is really important. 


Nicole: And it is a mindset change, I know. Because even at MyCareSpace, we make it so easy for service providers to get customers to rate them and review them. We've even implemented a phone system where people can call in. And there's some providers who get it, and they are constantly getting clients to rate them. And what a wonderful and easy way to actually get that feedback. But not everyone has that open mindset, so-- 


Emily: And I wonder if part of that, maybe in the - audit, compliance, the tax man. Like it kind of speaks to this negativity. And there's, I think there's a real genuine fear in that. But I think - in my experience, it's probably the same in yours? Most people are doing a pretty good job--


Fiona: Yeah.


Emily: Of providing a great service to people who are vulnerable and who need it. And so really, I think it's moving beyond that fear to - what can we actually learn through this process?


Fiona: Yes, yeah. 


Emily: And that's, yeah - it's a simple reframe, but it's such a powerful one.


Nicole: Oh totally, and the only point of reference I had is that when we first talk to clients about using MyCareSpace as a way of getting ratings and reviews. They often say, "Oh well, people only put negative reviews." In fact, 90% of the reviews that we have are all positive. So I think it is changing that mindset and looking at the opportunity side of compliance and quality. And hopefully there's one key thing, that message that people leave with today - is about putting that learning lens on the quality and audit process. 


Emily: And I think when people do, there's a tendency - in particular sectors, but there has been a tendency to go, "What do our clients know about our business?" And my answer is always, "You will be really surprised. When you ask the question and you listen with genuine interest to the answer, you'll be very surprised at the insight that people who are the recipients of services that you provide have for improving the service." Like it just blows me away every time we do an evaluation, how on the money people who receive the service are. So reach out to them. They're like-- You've just increased your brainpower by 100,000% if you actually ask the people who you provide service to what they think.


Nicole: Well I mean, I just read an article on LinkedIn this morning about the days of push marketing are gone.


Emily: Yeah, yeah. 


Nicole: It's totally reversed. And one thing I understand that it's about, what is the problem you're trying to solve? And getting those clients as your best marketers on board, and that word of mouth. And we know that the disability sector is hyper-connected. So, and through all the research we've done - every single successful client has told us that it's been word of mouth, that is how they achieved their brand and profile, so-- So in the same vein about value creation and revenue generation, what is the role that marketing plays? And this is for you, Emily. I think a lot of people who registered were keen to find out. They understand that they need to do marketing, but they don't necessarily understand how to go about it and what the role is of marketing in the value creation process.


Emily: Yeah, marketing can be one of those kind of slippery - slippery kind of concepts. And I think an important starting point is to know that marketing is - in the modern era, it's simply a conversation. It's a conversation between you and your customers or your potential customers. And everything that you do - touching on your point, everything that you do is marketing. It's how your people turn up and deliver service. It's not just the glossy brochure in the foyer. It's not just the slick radio ad, it's not just how good your website is. I mean they're collateral's for sure, but everything that you do is marketing. And I think that that's really, really critical to remember. And I think the second point is that the specific purpose of the marketing that you're doing in this NDIS era, is to communicate with people about the way that you uniquely solve their needs. What is a unique value proposition? So of course, underpinning marketing is your business. Having a really good understanding of what your unique value proposition is, or what your USP and unique sales proposition is. And I think that is the most critical thing of all. To market successfully, you need to understand unique value proposition. So what is it that you do that makes you unique in the marketplace? And to communicate that successfully, you've also obviously got to understand your customer's needs. And I think one of the biggest mistakes that I see people in this space make, is to think that their customers are everybody and that their customer's needs are everything. And that's - it's so not true. And I think your specialisation is the point, the greatest traction - or great potential traction for your business.


Nicole: Yes. 


Emily: And your ability to speak to that is going to deliver an incredible benefit. And then I think - finally the point around marketing is, that it's so important to remember that your most valuable customer is the customer that you've already got. And I think - a mentor of mine says, "Most of your business is actually in your inbox." And I think there's a parallel there, isn't there?


Nicole: Truth in that.


Emily: Where you know, we know there are various statistics that we could trot out about the cost to acquire a new customer - and it depends on the industry. But I think the salient point is to remember that the most expensive customer is the one that you haven't got yet. And the highest value customer is the one that you're already serving. So I would encourage providers to consolidate and concentrate their marketing on understanding who their current customer base is, how they could deliver great quality services that they're already delivering. And so improve the services they're already delivering--


Nicole: Yes, yes. 


Emily: And communicate that, because as you said - positive word of mouth is what's going to pull people in, as opposed to you having to do a lot of push communication and marketing, yeah.


Nicole: And we see this a lot at MyCareSpace - where we have service providers who have been working in sort of similar parallel states, but they see the NDIS as an opportunity and they tack a tab on their website about the NDIS. And it's very hard to promote organisations like us. So we - constantly encouraging service providers to say, "Well what makes you different from your competitors? Do you know who your competitors are and what makes you different?" So think some, some powerful insights there Emily, so thank you.

So that really is around the value creation, which - and revenue generation, which comes to how - how well do you understand your client, and how well do you understand their needs. But at the end of the day, there's the audit that people have to get through. And we're here to ease the pain. And Fiona has got lots of questions in this next section around the NDIS audit.

But before we jump into some of the more popular questions, I have a question for you Fiona - about NDIS auditors. Are all NDIS auditors equally qualified, are you all the same? 


Fiona: I would say theoretically, yes. In reality, I think there are differences. So we talk in auditing language about people with a human services auditing background, as opposed to more traditional background. And our point of difference is really that our auditors all come from human services background. We recruit on the basis of fit with our organisational values. And our organisational values align with those of our customers. So we're here to support organisations delivering human services, providing a service. And so I would be looking for-- If you're looking to help your organisation go further, I would be looking for an organisation with deep human services auditors, with that experience. In interviewing people with disability, and their carers and their advocates. And understanding the nuances and differences within that kind of service.


Nicole: Thank you. And this ties in neatly with-- In the first webinar that we did with you Fiona a few months ago, we spoke about the cost of the audit and how important it is for people to actually read the letter of engagement. However, even before people get to that point, we would urge you - when you are selecting your auditor, if you want to get value out of your audit, and if you want to understand the benefits that your compliance functions can generate - it's really important to select an auditor that has a human services background. So I can't imagine an auditor that has worked in the mining industry will be able to add the same insights that you bring. So thanks for that Fiona.

So really, again - one of the biggest issues for people is overcoming certain challenges. There's some key challenges that are quite common to service providers. And many people who registered ahead of today were keen to find out what are some of the most common challenges that service providers face in the audit? So Fiona, you might want to spend some time sharing those, how you can avoid them.


Fiona: Well there's quite a few. Start by saying - look, the on-boarding process should help to educate you and should prepare you for the audit process. So that's about understanding how ready are you to go through your stage one assessment? Which is a desktop review. We don't like to schedule anyone within 6 weeks, just so that we allow you sufficient time to prepare. And then we would be looking to do your onsite assessment another say 2 months beyond that. Just so that we - again, allow you time to address any of the issues that might have been identified during the stage 1 assessment. It's not about trying to catch you out. It's about trying to help you do what you do better.

Some of the areas that organisations do struggle though, in relation to - for instance, governance and operational management. So check there is strategic and business planning processes.

Demonstrate consideration of your requirements under the NDIS. If you've been operating under a different environment, you need to review those and make sure that they're reflecting the requirements of the NDIS scheme. Make sure you understand your risk management practices. And again, these need to incorporate the requirements that are specified under the NDIS practice standards. So make sure that you've got those up to date. It's so, so, so important to document and keep records about your participants. And this links into the feedback angle. So the care and support that you're providing to your participants. So your support workers and anyone who's working with, treating participants. Make sure you've got those records and they're in a format that can be viewed or reviewed by the auditor. 


Emily: "We've got great data, but it's in paper form in the back cupboard." That's not going to help. We see that so often. 


Fiona: When we go on site, we get-- We don't say it has to be in a format. Because it's up to your organisation how you keep your records. But we do need to view your records, so-- 


Nicole: Are you saying that some service providers that you go out to don't have records of conversations that they had with their customers? Because I guess the first section of the core module is all about rights and responsibilities. So is that maybe where service providers are falling down? 


Fiona: Yes, yes. So support worker is out there supporting the participant. They're not actually keeping records of what happens on a regular basis. So and that links in back to what I said before about incident management and feedback. So your support workers and people working directly with participants - they're great, amazing sources of information. 


Emily: Yeah. 


Fiona: But they may not be capturing it. And it might be because the format doesn't meet their individual needs as well. So it's looking at things with a fresh set of eyes. While your auditor can't tell you how to fix things, what they will do is - not necessarily issue you with a non-conformance, but they might spot an opportunity for improvement. And they will know, they will talk to you about that during the audit. And they'll also note it in the audit report. It's up to you whether you choose to follow down that path and follow up on that or not. No penalties if you're not. But yeah, so there'll be things like that that come up during an audit. 


Nicole: Okay, okay so--


Fiona: And another issue that we're seeing quite a bit of at the moment, is understanding of behaviour support and regulated restrictive practice. The NDIS Commission has started to release a lot of great support material in relation to this. I really strongly encourage providers to make sure you're totally across the requirements within your state. And if you operate across states, make sure you understand the requirements in every state. 


Nicole: So this is for restrictive practices? 


Fiona: Yes. 


Nicole: And the Commission, has the Commission released that information or should they go to their state based authorities to find this information? 


Fiona: So in relation to what should I do in relation to NDIS quality and safeguards, my advice is always, "The Commission's website is your first port of call. They have a lot of links to other resources relevant to your jurisdiction on that site." So always start at the Commission's website. 


Nicole: Okay, good.


Nicole: Yes.


Nicole: But really restrictive practices go back to the state based legislation? 


Fiona: Yeah. That's right, that's right. Yeah. 


Nicole: There's no getting around that one, yeah.


Fiona: But it's - you're reporting on it through to NDIS Commission. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: You're reporting on the use of restrictive practices, and having those who pay for support plans - that's going through to the NDIS Commission. 


Nicole: Okay. 


Fiona: Governance in general. Make sure your board is up to date with what's going on. They're the accountable body. So NDIS requires also that you have clearly articulated or identified delegations, even for when someone is on leave. So that there's always somebody accountable within the organisation and that's clear. So, and people need to be able to answer questions about that as well. I guess in this space, the final thing I would say is in relation to quality management. The whole purpose of quality and safeguards is to support organisations providing better, safer services to participants.  It's about encouraging continuous improvement. It's not about trying to catch people out.


Nicole: Yes, yeah. 


Fiona: Or slap people on wrists or close people down or anything like that. And one of the aspects of quality management and how you can start your own continuous improvement process, is through internal audit. So--


Nicole: Internal audits, okay, good.


Fiona: Internal audit. So you're audit team when they come on site to do your certification audit, they'll be looking for evidence of internal audit. One of the outputs of internal audit is a continuous improvement or correction action plan. That you're continuously working on to improve your service delivery. 


Nicole: So just on the internal audit. So if you're a small organisation with maybe 5 employees, who does the internal audit? Is it the same as a self-assessment tool? 


Fiona: It's - so a self-assessment tool is looking at where you're at at the moment in relation to the practice standards. An internal audit is looking at your business. Yes, still relevant to your practice standards. But you would be operating under a lot of other legislation than simply the NDIS practice standards. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: So it's looking at taking a holistic look at your business. Now that sounds really daunting and challenging. How do we do that, we're so--? We've got to comply with so much. And my advice is to chunk it down. So at the beginning of every year, for instance - work out, "Well this month, our focus is going to be on this. This month our focus is going to be on finance," for instance. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: "The next month will be on customer feedback. How do we do that better?" And if you say that you're going to do something, then apply it - what have you learnt through that process? So internal audit - again, is about learning. So anyone with an organisation is going to be quite well placed to do the internal audit. 


Emily: And it could be to, couldn't it Fiona - that different people are in different roles, responsible for different aspects of it?


Fiona: That's right. Reviewing - if I'm working in service delivery and somebody in another area of the organisation is reviewing my work, that's perfect. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: That's what we want. Because - again, it's that fresh set of eyes. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: Because we all know when we're caught up in what we're doing on a regular basis, it-- We tend not to see where, things that are glaringly obvious to somebody who's not within that space.


Nicole: And I'm really interested where you've highlighted the governance structure as one of the areas where people fall down. Because you'd imagine that for people to have, organisations to have this culture of setting the high standards - that has to come from the top. So yeah, I'd imagine that that then filters through - if you don't have that embracing of quality standards at the highest level, it's going to impact people at the coal face. 


Fiona: Absolutely, yeah. 


Nicole: So just to wrap the, so some of the areas where people fall down in the audits - is the risk management, the governance structure, the restrictive practices - and then of course, the quality management system.

So Fiona, thank you. And I'm sure you see, you see lots of organisations who are doing it really well. And I'd imagine that there are lots of resources out there and tools and tenders and applications for people to help them through the process. What are you seeing in terms of, in communication strategy? So a lot of people who registered said, "Well we know what the quality indicators are, but how do we go about implementing all these different standards?"

So are there any tips or advice you can give some service providers on implementation? 


Fiona: Yeah, so my advice around that - it really comes down to 2 things. One is change management. So think about what you're doing differently, and how you communicate with your people and your clients about what you're doing. And the other one is integration. So integrate it into what you're doing every day. Same for instance - you've got a suite of policies and procedures that are NDIS ready. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: And you've downloaded that from the internet, for instance. 


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: Having that ticks one box. The audit's not about ticking boxes though. So you need to be able to demonstrate that you've integrated those policies and procedures into your everyday practice, and you've communicated with your team and your participants about how that impacts on them. So take it from a fairly static document or tool and then actually integrate that via into what you do every day. That is probably the strongest advice that I can give. If you have done that though, if you have purchased something - it will generally show up in your stage 1 assessment that that's what you've done. So your auditor will have a conversation with you, and let you know that, "It appears that you're not conforming," at that point. While the auditor won't directly tell you that, "This is what you've done," because that could be perceived as consulting. Reflect back on what you're hearing, how do we actually demonstrate that we're integrating this into our everyday practice and implementing it? We will have - as I said earlier, you will have at least a 6 week gap. 6 week to 2 month gap between your stage one and your onsite assessment. So that's a great time for you to be able to start demonstrating that your staff know what it is they're meant to be doing and delivering. And that you've communicated the impacts through to your participants as well. And also that your governing body - which may be a board or a managing director--


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: Is also aware of what's happening. 


Emily: Right.


Nicole: So I think we spoke earlier, and you said that the auditors should be able to share a self-assessment tool with service providers, so--?


Fiona: So we help them. We do have a self-assessment tool that I can make available after this. Also we, when we take on board new providers - to help them to prepare for the audit, we have a checklist that we provide as well. And that takes you through the key things that our auditors are going to be looking for as part of the stage 1 assessment. You get to understand more about the onsite or the stage 2 assessment, through the actual onsite audit plan. That details out what the auditor is going to be looking at, at what kinds/at what frames? 39:18 of business.


Nicole: Okay. So really the key, the key thing that I'm hearing there, is you need to work with your auditor. Do get as much information as you can. There is help out there, there are tools and - I guess, you just want to go into this being informed, right? 


Fiona: Yes. 


Nicole: So, and we will share some of the tools and resources that Emily and Fiona have kindly offered. We will share them via Teams afterwards, so that's great to hear. But at the end of the day - for me, what I've seen - is that the implementation, a lot of it depends on staff. So you can have a quality manager who is pumping out policies and procedures. But if that's not filtered through to-- Well both upwards and downwards - it needs to filter through to the staff. And in some organisations, it's a cultural change that we're talking about. Are you both seeing this? 


Emily: Absolutely. 


Fiona: What we're talking about, it's a culture of continuous improvement. 


Emily: Cultural learning. 


Fiona: Yeah, yeah. Learning, yeah. 


Emily: And if I think about what that looks like, I think - there's a mindset of where, there's a skill set of learning in there - there's a data set that supports learning. And I think you kind of - you recruit for the mindset, which you guys - I know you do at IHCA.


Fiona: Yes. 


Emily: So you recruit for the mindset, you can train the skill set. And develop the data set as you go. And a critical part of that is that short feedback loop.


Nicole: Yeah. Okay, so in terms of-- And we're going to come back to that short feedback loop, Emily - and how that relates to the audit. But Fiona, one last question for you - before we move onto the last section of the webinar is-- Many service providers still feel that the audit and the cost involved is placing a burden on them. And so any opportunity that they may have to reduce the number of audits is something that people would grab with open arms.

So can you talk to us a little bit about what is the opportunity for providers to reduce the number of audits they have. 


Fiona: So great, yeah. I guess this fact hasn't been highlighted a lot. Because, yeah - I think probably only the auditors really know about it. But the practice standards allow - if the situation is such that a provider has gone through one audit cycle, which is 3 years. So stage 1, certification and 2 rounds of surveillance ?. So they've gone through that. And through that process, they have demonstrated a culture of continuous improvement. Now that would be evidenced by consistently conforming with the elements of best practice within the standard. So going through with no or few non-conformance’s. If you have had non-conformances or opportunities for improvement, you've actually embraced that and done something with that. If you get to the end of that audit cycle, your auditor can recommend to the NDIS Commission that you are demonstrating a culture of continuous improvement and that you can actually be considered for a reduced maintenance cycle. Which means you cut out one of those maintenance audits.


Nicole: Okay.


Fiona: Now I think that's great. It's great acknowledgement of the standard that you're providing.


Nicole: Yes.


Fiona: I also see it as an opportunity to celebrate with your clients and let them know that, "This is what we've achieved, and this is where we're going in the future." 


Nicole: Definitely, so it's-- We've spoken about continuous improvement a lot. But I guess it's even more critical for service providers to understand how do they demonstrate that.

So Emily, from your perspective - how does the short feedback loop that you spoke about - and we've spoken about before as well. How does that relate to this continuous culture of continuous improvement? 


Emily: I guess in the human services, we often talk about action research or action learning. And I guess that's what we're talking about here. Where you take a data element or some information, and then you explore it qualitatively or quantitatively - which gives you a bit of insight as to, "I'm doing well here, we're not doing so well here." And so it doesn't stop there. And I think this is what you're getting at as well. It doesn't at insight, you've actually got to take some action upon that. And you - in taking that action, to continue to drive around through that cycle - you basically don't stop learning. It's continuous improvement, right? So the thing though that I think where continuous feedback and fast feedback is really, really crucial - is when you are talking about asking consumers or asking clients in their care network--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: To provide you with some information about how you're doing. Oh my gosh, you've got to close that feedback loop. 


Nicole: Okay.


Emily: You've got to go back in whatever format - whether it's 1 to 1 or 1 to many--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: To go back and say, "This is what you told us, this is what we've heard and this is what we're doing about it." Because if you don't close that loop, then 1 - the auditors are not going to be happy. But number 2 - your participants, your clients get really cheesed off. Because - and rightly so, because they've given up their time and they've gifted you with their insight.


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: And you've got to receive that gift and do something with it. And it might be feedback that you're not comfortable with. Or it might be feedback that challenges you. But gosh that's good for learning, isn't it? 


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: And I mean, as you said before - your observation. That 90% of the feedback--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: That comes back, comes from either positive or a learning lens. So I think, don't be afraid of it. But please, please go back to the people who've shared their insight and talk about what you're doing. 


Nicole: Yes well, I mean this is ever more important in the world of NDIS, right? And I guess that's a great segue from talking about the audit and moving on to performance metrics. And how can we use performance metrics to stop our NDIS clients taking their funding out the door. And Emily, you've been quoted as saying that, "In this world of NDIS, well customers bring their NDIS funding through the door - but they can just as quickly take that funding out the door."

So what is the role that performance measurements plays in stopping your clients walking out the door and taking their funding with them? 


Emily: Well I think the first thing is understanding that they can. I mean if we look at NDIS participation data, we find that more than half of the people participating in the NDIS - 55% are aged younger than 24 years. Which means that they're generation Z or generation alpha. Which means that they don't remember life before a mobile phone. They don't understand why phones would have been attached to a wall at any point. And they don't remember, they don't remember dial up internet. They don't remember the world before the smart phone, basically. And that means that they have a certain level of expectation. 


Nicole: Yes. 


Emily: And rightly so, of the nature and the type of the service that they're going to get. And rightly or wrongly, they're comparing us to the world leading digital giants, the famous - the Facebook's, the Apple's, the Netflix and Google's. And the other thing which you talked about before, was that digital natives--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: That's what we call this cohort.


Nicole: This cohort. 


Emily: Yeah, they're so heavily networked, and I think if we-- The statistics are saying, say that a digital native has 394 Facebook friends. And I'm sure that most people don't have that.


Nicole: That's impressive. 


Emily: But what that means is that there's a platform, right? So it means that a consumer or a carer who is happy or sad - equally, has an opportunity to pay you a compliment or make a complaint from the top of the mountain. It's little giving a toddler a drum kit. I mean it's not just a saucepan anymore, a wooden spoon--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: It's a drum kit, and they've got an opportunity to make a heck of a noise. And I think that the-- The state of the disability sector report also shows that choice - which is what underscores the whole of the NDIS, choice - means that people are moving. And some of the patterns that we've seen in what I would call the regular market place.


Nicole: Yes.

Emily: The retail sector and the banking sector for instance. Where people have the opportunity to go, "We don't like what we're seeing here, we're off." 


Nicole: Yeah, "We're off." 

Emily: Is now starting to be replicated in the disability sector. And so I think it's bringing our attention to the fact that people do have a choice. And going right back to where we started from. Which is to say that customers who are satisfy-able who have a positive experience - they don't want to go anywhere, they want to stay. And so it is about understanding - gathering up that data about people, about processes and about the products that you offer or the packages that you offer. Understanding what people want, and if there's a gap between what people want and what you deliver - and then working to close that gap through that sort feedback cycle. And the performance metrics, the performance indicators - they kind of are a product of that cycle, or that mindset of continuous learning.


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: Because, yeah - the - when you close that gap, people don't want to leave. They want to stay with you. Because you're meeting their needs. 


Nicole: Yeah, and I know - I understand it's quite inconvenient to change service providers. So people will not move if they're satisfied. And not only are they likely to remain customers, they're likely to bring new customers through their peers. 


Emily: Yeah, yeah.


Nicole: Very powerful stuff thinking about the customer, the future customer - and each of them have their own platform and network to be your best source of marketing. 


Emily: And there are-- I mean, as you would well know - there are Apps, that are kind of like the NDIS and disability sector TripAdvisor. 


Nicole: Yeah.


Emily: That allow people to go, "This was awesome." "This was not so awesome." And all of a sudden, it's like a wildfire of--


Nicole: Yes.


Emily: Your reputation well precedes you..

Nicole: Oh absolutely. We definitely see trends on MyCareSpare where certain service providers are just running away with great 49:43 palliative service, and we can see how they're thriving. And interestingly it's not necessarily those that have glossy marketing brochures. It's the people who genuinely, genuinely spend time understanding their customers. And we love seeing that. And we're seeing more and more of that. So it's just really, really great. So Fiona, coming back to the audit process and how the audit process can generate revenue and greater customer experience - can you maybe add to this, to what Emily's just said about the performance metrics?

How does the audit process lend itself to the performance metrics again? And we have spoken about it, but you might want to touch on it again. 


Fiona: So I look at it as a point in time temperature check on how you're going. As a result of the audit, you get quite a detailed report that provides you with evidence or-- Evidence, yes - against how you're going against each of those performance indicators. It's objective, so it's done by someone who's not inside your organisation. And their intent is honest.


Nicole: Yes.

Fiona: Their intent is not - as I said before, to bring you down. It's about helping you to improve your service. If your service quality is high, if you're managing this well, if you're looking after your people - both your staff and your participants, communicating well - you're going to do well. 


Nicole: Great. And we see lots of service providers embracing this. So I see service providers on LinkedIn, putting a big tick and underneath saying, "We've just passed our quality and safeguards."

Fiona: Yeah.

Nicole: "With flying colours." And I think, "Great. You should be doing that, you should be letting your stakeholders and your customers know that you aspire to the highest possible standard of service."


Fiona: Absolutely. 


Emily: Yeah.

Nicole: So hopefully we'll be seeing more and more of this and-- So in terms of wrapping up and trying to bring this all together, think we've spoken about the fact that everyone wants to provide a great service and people are trying. It's just about how do they do this in a viable way. So if both of you had a closing sort of statement or tip that you could leave our service providers today, I don't know who wants to start with a closing tip. But I think, just in mind, that people are finding it - it is hard, it's a complex scheme. So, and it's a process. We're at the beginning of the process. So Fiona, do you want to start?

Fiona: So I would say - view your quality audit as an opportunity to gain an independent assessment of how your business is going and how you can potentially improve your service delivery in the future. 


Nicole: Great, okay. Emily?


Emily: Yeah, look - mine's similar. I would say that what this process of NDIS certification and compliance is an opportunity to do - it's to step from that delivery mode in discovery mode, where you're really embedding continuous learning. And what's going to drive-- My great love is understanding what customers want and using great data to help you understand that. And then to - through a short feedback cycle, deliver on it. 


Nicole: Great. So that brings us to the end of our webinar. From our perspective, we understand that sometimes it can feel like your NDIS audit is driving a stake through your heart. But hopefully with a positive approach and knowing that through the audit process you're gathering really critical and valuable data. You've got your auditor to give you feedback. That this is a process through which you can deliver the highest quality standards. And at the end of the day, you'll have much happier customers. And you know that happy customers bring revenue, but they also bring friends and peers. So that's the bottom line. So thank you to Fiona and to Emily for joining us. It's been a pleasure chatting to you.


Fiona: Thank you Nicole. 


Emily: Thanks for having us. 


Nicole: To everyone that's attended the webinar, we will be providing some useful resources after the webinar and we'll be emailing these directly to you. So thank you. 


Fiona: Thank you.


Emily: Thank you. 



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