John DeHart and Ken Sim knew there was a good market for home-care services for seniors. Both have hired caregivers for older family members. But while they saw a promising niche for a new company, they also knew what the problems would be.
Before founding Vancouver-based Nurse Next Door in 2001, DeHart was a venture capitalist and Sim an investment banker. Both had experience with technology companies.
Sim says startups providing scheduled services tend to stall at about 50 employees. “The amount of work it takes to be on top of all the scheduling and all the phone calls is incredibly, incredibly cumbersome,” he says.
So Sim and DeHart looked for ways to help their franchisees over that hump. With five franchises operating now and three or four more opening early in the new year, they have just implemented a voice over IP system that will eliminate many headaches.
Up to now, Sim admits, Nurse Next Door’s phone system – a six-line PBX – was “just one step above having two cups and a string.” A receptionist asked enough questions to transfer calls to the right department, where the caller would often be asked the same questions again before reaching the right field worker.
The new Cisco Systems Inc. Unified Communications system uses the calling number to start routing the call before anyone even picks up the phone. If it recognizes the number as an existing client, the call goes right to the scheduling department. New clients always get a live operator, who gathers some information and switches the caller to a care manager in the right area, passing the information along.
For scheduling caregivers, the system will be able to make up to 30 calls simultaneously, greatly speeding that process, Sim says. Sim expects the system to give Nurse Next Door’s customers better service, save franchisees time and money and pay for itself within a year.