NEMT business owner shares how ‘human touch’ keeps members happy, business successful
All non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) businesses share a certain amount of DNA: similar business operations, financial goals and growth objectives. But what sets these businesses apart is their owners and their empathetic approach to run a quality and successful operation. In the case of Mel Gosal, CEO of BC Cab, an NEMT based in Sacramento, Calif., it’s the human touch, and it’s a big reason for his high member loyalty.
How Mel’s taxi company got personal
When Mel started his taxi business, he dabbled a bit in medical transportation but that was the extent. It wasn’t until a personal experience with his father, left stranded in a waiting room, that Mel knew it was time to shift gears.
“My dad used a transportation company for his medical appointments,” Mel says, “and after [one of] his appointments he was left there, sitting. When we called to ask where his ride was, they said ‘Oh, the driver was there, but he couldn’t find your father,’ when all this time he was sitting in the lobby. I’m like, wait a minute, that’s not right. He’s been sitting in the lobby talking to me and nobody came in there to check for him.” This prompted Mel to expand into NEMT to ensure people, just like his father, got to their healthcare appointments safely, securely and on time.
“I wondered how many people got the same treatment, that nobody’s even calling them, notifying them where they are. I saw a need and thought, well, we need to get into that side.”
Dispatchers build a humanistic foundation
Oftentimes, members are initially connected to dispatchers to organize their trips. Even without seeing the dispatcher’s face, the member is instantly drawn to their voice and the mood is quickly set. Dispatchers often are the first contact a member has with Mel’s company, so it’s crucial that they set the right tone.
Mel describes why dispatchers play an important role in human touch.
“The customer might never see the dispatcher, yet they talk to them all the time,” Mel says. “I’m a big believer that when somebody calls, we answer the phone and there’s a human voice. I don’t like ‘press one, press two.’ When you call, there’s a human answering the phone, whether it’s to tell them what the ETA for the customer is or where the rider is, or they want to just make modifications or cancel a trip. The dispatchers build a fast relationship with that member before the driver ever goes there.”
Drivers wear multiple hats, build trustworthy relationships
Mel trains his drivers to view their positions more than just transactional. Because members typically spend approximately 20 minutes in transit, on average, it gives adequate time for the members and drivers to build a relationship.
“I tell them, ‘you are not here to drive a vehicle, you are a complete package. You’re going to be the driver, listener, and psychologist; you’re going to discuss church with them,’” Mel says. “At the end of each trip, that passenger needs to get out of your car and have a smile on their face, like that driver made my day. You don’t know what they’re going through, what kind of health problems they have, how they’re feeling that day. So just make them feel good. And most of them just want to be listened to.”
While engaging in respectful, interpersonal communication between driver and member is just plain courteous, it’s also a best practice. “We train our drivers to talk to these people, listen to them more, see what they want,” Mel says. “And it’s good business, because you want them to call and say, ‘please send me BC Cab and their driver back.’ You’re not just taking care of them, you’re also taking care of business.” And if all drivers are occupied, Mel gets in the car and picks up members himself. This allows Mel to learn more about the members, how the overall experience is for the driver and any issues. It also gives members a chance to get to know Mel, too. A win-win.
Digital software, human touch makes ideal combination
While Mel’s business runs primarily through a digital platform, it doesn’t rely on the software entirely.
“Some members book their rides three days, a week, a month in advance. And sometimes they forget they booked. The minute we gather information from Modivcare, we put it in our system, and the member gets a text message right away, letting them know who we are and when we are going to pick them up,” Mel says.
The member is called the night before to confirm their trip, which alleviates potential no-shows and dry runs for the drivers. Just by connecting with members over the phone and not relying on technology, Mel says, allows them to learn whether members had their appointments rescheduled or cancelled.
On the day of service, the member will get a message informing them their driver is on the way. The driver will also call the member informing them of their ETA. Once the driver arrives, the member receives a message with the vehicle description and license plate number. “Members love this,” Mel says. “We had a member tell us ‘I wait for the message that the driver is getting dispatched and that’s when I put my shoes on.’”
The human touch makes all the difference
While every NEMT business has its similarities, it’s those businesses that operate with empathy and kindness, regardless of circumstances, that make the most positive impact on their members. For BC Cab, the human touch really makes all the difference.