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Au Pair Agenicies Winning in the New Global World of Business
In the new world of globalization and technological change, the Au Pair Industry is rapidly changing.
The Information Age has forever changed our personal and economic lives. It has changed the environment in which businesses run their companies, and for those companies who have not kept up with the rapid and vast changes the Information Age has incurred, they have met with economic disaster.
Just until recently, companies, like Ford, were falling hopelessly behind. America's entire car industry was in danger of becoming extinct! Our new economic age must keep pace with the way customers have changed.
How au pair agencies retain and expand their customer base, while they invent new products and maintain their bottom line, is the subject of this article.
To understand the power customers have for businesses, it is important to understand what customers demand today in the Information Age. Today's customer is tech savvy, and because of the power of the internet, they are are well-informed and engaged by cyberspace. This makes customers very powerful and their wants and demands must be met by businesses, otherwise the companies will quickly fall behind their competitors and eventually, fail.
So, what do today's powerful, engaged and tech savvy customers want?
According to Richard W. Oliver, author of "The Shape of Things to Come, " they want just five things:
If you are a host parent, and you desire the Top Five customer service demands listed above, you may be a keystroke away from finding the au pair agency that will deliver them.
- In today's economic climate, au pair agencies are being rated and reviewed for the first time by third parties.
- Host parents have the capability to register their complaints, testimonials and demands online. This is a first for the au pair industry!
- For au pair companies, the twenty-first century customer's "Top Five" list is a challenging one.
- Au pair agencies that cannot deliver these 5 things will lose customers and face failure.
For years, the au pair companies marketed themselves as "putting the customer first" but few agencies actually followed through 100% of the time. Host families got used to settling for what the agencies provided, rather than what they needed and wanted.
Agencies that learn how to deliver speed, quality, variety, excellent service and cost-effective pricing to their customers, will enjoy strong economic growth and success.
Let's take a look at each of the Top Five Things today's customers demand and expect from businesses and apply each one to the au pair industry:
What about "speed?" According to current economists, the ability of a company to improve their "response time" to customers is critical and the key to success today. Customers want instant gratification!
- How do au pair companies respond to their customers' demand for speed? How fast can an agency interview and accept a new family? What is the turn-around time receiving applications? To enter a match? How quickly do staff respond to customers' questions, complaints, requests? Busy, demanding families don't want any "wait time" today!
When au pair companies first started in 1986, all business was conducted by phone and the USA postal service! Today, it is not unusual to fill out an application online and start to receive au pair profiles in 24 hours. Family interviews with their local LCCs and counselors can be scheduled within 24 hours and matches can be had in less than a week of application!
- However, for those companies who still lag behind on the internet, with slow and outdated websites, coupled with slow response times, market share will continue to suffer.
Host parents today are very demanding, but that is a postive thing. Demanding host parents create program niches that au pair agencies never considered before, and if you can fill these business opportunities, you are on your way to developing a great company.
For example, let's look at one of the leading au pair companies in the United States, and how they stepped-up to fill a much-needed demand for trained infant care workers.
For decades, host parents tried to match with trained au pairs who could take care of their babies successfully. Leading au pair agencies only offered au pairs who were "infant qualified," however, all this meant was the au pair had to show she had "200 hours of infant care or experience." They were not required to have any formal training or educational classes in infant care.
Host parents began to demand more training, education and specific orientation of infant care au pairs. As a result, an infant care "au pair" niche developed.
- Even though this infant care niche was placed in right in front of their noses, au pair agencies ignored the need, despite the continued clamoring of desperate parents who had to leave their babies at home, while more mothers entered the workplace full-time.
Au Pair Care stepped up and met the challenge by filling that need with their Infant Specialized Program. Their new program, that is priced well and provides unique infant care training, meets host parents' demand for qualilty and specialized infant care service.
The Infant Specialized Program is now a highly successful program that fills a once empty business niche created by host parents! The remaining au pair companies that ignored this niche missed out on a very profitable opportunity and as a result, they now lag behind this innovative agency when it comes to infant care - an area that continues to grow as more young couples pursue dual careers!
You only have to look at the success of Japanese cars to understand what the term "quality" means today. With their drive for quality, the Japanese car companies were able to gain global market share of the auto industry, while other auto companies slipped and lost the foothold they had held for decades. USA companies and other car manufacturers were slow to follow suit, but other industries and businesses jumped on the "quality" bandwagon and put into place "quality assurance teams" that researched how to improve the quality of their products and services.
As a result, the concept of "quality" has taken on a global dimension and customers now demand high quality of all products and services they pay for. But, how do economists define "quality" today?
Richard W. Oliver ("The Shape of Things to Come") states that companies need to find out what their customers define as "quality" and not what the company sees as "quality." This means listening to your customers, making sure they have access to the company so they can let them know what they "expect" in terms of a product, service or consumer goods.
- If au pair agencies strive to meet their customers' expectations of what quality services mean to them, but then begin to exceed these expectations, their high quality services and products will trounce any competitor!
Today's business mantra "Give it to them their way, or don't bother" replaces the old mantra "The customer is always right." If you cannot meet your customers' needs, the way they want it, they will find another agency that will!
For years, a leading au pair agency refused to release au pair profiles to new host families until the family interview was done by their local counselor. It made good sense, since the company wanted to ensure that families were in good standing and would take good care of their au pairs. The interview had to wait until the counselor scheduled the meeting, which could take between 24 hours to 2 weeks or even longer! Then, as other companies began to immediately send new host families au pair profiles before the interview date, all new customers expected the same service at this agency.
Customers saw the company's refusal to show them profiles while they waited as poor quality service and lack of "response speed" and many of them switched to other agencies.
- This leading au pair agency lost market share - they refused to listen to their customers and improve the quality of the application process until it was too late - several agencies had already changed their application process and many new customers were lost to these more adept companies that listened and learned from customers about what they demanded and expected.
As twenty-first century customers, we demand the best price in almost every product or service we buy. A well-known corporate name is no longer a guarantee of quality and brand loyalty among customers is fleeting. If companies focus on value with quality, they win!
- A high-quality, low-price au pair agency, like Expert Au Pair, enables them to take on industry giants. Not only do they provide competitive pricing (they have the lowest fees in the USA and the best health insurance for their au pairs), they also provide good customer service and high quality programs. They are a smaller agency, but they are one of the better, smaller programs in the industry, due to their high-quality and lower-price strategy.
Customers demand best cost deals with high quality. Au pair agencies that continue to increase prices, while at the same stand by and do nothing to improve the quality of their services, will fail miserably.
Customer service is very important to the continued success of any au pair agency. Service can be broken down into several parts: accountability or response to complaints/problems, anticipation of potential problems and the "preemptive" solutions to potential problems. How can an agency collect this kind of information before potential problems ensue? Interviews, surveys, service questionnaires, etc. are the traditional methods of collecting these data.
However, sophisticated companies are using advanced information and focused employee training to capture customers' anticipated or potential problems! If companies collect information on who their customers are (and their unique needs) and then train their staff to meet these needs, potential problems are lessened and service dramatically improves.
For example, Home Depot knows their customers, through detailed interviews and online research, they know their customer is a home owner who wants to try his hand at "fix-it" jobs around the home. Customers want staff to help them with questions they have about how to do this and what is the best product to get the job done. Staff are trained to be experts in their respective departments: paint, lumber, electricity, gardening, etc. If they don't know the answer to your question, they radio someone who does. They will also walk you to the aisle where they will show you either a range of appropriate products or the one that should do the job. Staff are trained to be competent, friendly and helpful, far exceeding customer expectations!
- One of the primary objectives of this kind of "preemptive" customer service is to retain customers. When au pair agencies spend too much time and money on attracting new customers, they overlook the obvious: customer retention is the key to long-term success!
One of the top leading agencies took their eye off this business model and basically ignored customers' complaints over a long period of time. You can see the complaints that go back to 2005 on the internet, where customers share their stories of not getting assistance with this agency with both minor and major problems. The agency forgot the often quoted business lesson: "It costs five times more to attract a new customer than to keep a current one."
What is the lesson to be learned by au pair agencies today in our global business world? What are the imperatives for winning in the new world of business? Learn who your customers are, let them direct your programming, listen to them, provide quality programs with cost-effective, lower pricing, increase the speed in responding to customer complaints/requests, improve websites to make them faster, more efficient, and, most importantly, provide the best customer service possible.
All five strategies will not only improve an agency's bottom line, it will drastically improve the quality of childcare for American families nationwide.
Read all our reviews of the 14 au pair agencies in the United States