Ten rules every private NEMT business should follow to be successful
The market for NEMT and other forms of microtransit is hot right now. If you’re looking to enter the space or expand your current operations, it’s important to set your business apart from the competition in an increasingly popular field.
Although operating a successful NEMT business depends on everything from understanding funding sources to making sure your drivers are practicing great customer service, there are also some baseline best practices that can make all the difference. Read on for a top-ten list of things your private NEMT operation should be doing, developed by industry-leading experts in the field.
Rule # 1: Have a Killer Marketing Strategy.
As the popularity of NEMT services has continued to climb in the private sector, there is now both more opportunity for business and more competition than ever. This is why it’s extremely important to make sure you have a marketing strategy in place. If possible, hire an agency, even if it’s just for an initial consultation. A good marketing strategy will involve developing a presence in both digital and traditional spaces. If you don’t have a professionally-designed logo, invest in one; an important part of building your brand is coming across as professional, reliable, and safe. Curious for more insight on marketing strategies in particular? Read more here.
Rule # 2: Understand the Market.
There is a tremendous amount of complexity in the NEMT market, even if you’re operating as a private entity. Providing non-emergency medical transportation services means that you may be interacting with insurance companies and healthcare providers in addition to individual riders. Depending on the area you’re operating in, you may even have the opportunity to contract with public transportation agencies. Every entity may have its own requirements for NEMT operation; familiarize yourself with these so that you can provide industry-standard care. Finally, once you’ve decided on a geographical area of operation, make sure you understand what market options are available to you so that you can move on to rule #3.
Rule # 3: Get Contracts with Local Businesses that Need Transportation.
Contracts are the bread and butter of NEMT businesses; in fact, getting contracts in place is just as important as having working vehicles. This is why, besides following Rule # 1 (marketing your NEMT company), it’s also important to actively approach potential sources of ridership. When you’re looking for contracts, approach organizations like skilled-nursing facilities and retirement homes first. Especially when starting out, there is no such thing as too small of a contract! In fact, smaller contracts are a great way to get your name out there, build trust, and refine your business operations as you grow.
Rule # 4: Invest in Clean, Reliable Vehicles.
After you’ve got a strategy for getting transportation contracts, it’s time to invest in the transit itself. Although people new to the NEMT business may think that having a whole fleet is the way to start things out, there is actually nothing wrong with starting out with a single vehicle and scaling up. It’s more important to consider quality over quantity: your vehicle(s) should be later-year model and ADA-compliant. It should go without saying, but show pride in your organization and your dedication to good customer service by making sure that the vehicles are always clean and scheduled for regular maintenance.
Rule # 5: Hire Friendly, Professional Drivers.
Drivers are the face of your organization and are a key part of retaining ridership, so choose carefully. If you’ve followed Rule #2 and understand the market, you may have noticed that some potential contract partners will want your drivers to be professionally certified. At the very least, you should have policies in place for hiring and training drivers, as well as a procedure for alcohol and drug testing. Want to read more about how to improve the drivers in your organization? Check out some tips for drivers here.
Rule # 6: Have a Website.
Besides drivers and vehicles, every NEMT operation needs to have a professional-looking, easy-to-use website. This not only signals that you’re a legitimate business, but it makes it easier for potential contract partners and/or riders to find you. Additionally, make sure that any listings (Yelp, Google, etc) are claimed and completely filled out with accurate contact information. If you really want to set yourself apart from the competition, consider investing in software that will allow people to schedule a ride straight through the site.
Rule # 7: Be Active on Social Media.
Just like having a good website, being active on social media signals that your organization is legitimate, engaged with riders, and easy to contact. Having strong social media will also help potential riders or contract partners find and become familiar with your services. Social media can also be an important source of feedback as to how your organization is doing; always respond to comments in a friendly and constructive manner, whether they be positive or negative.
Rule # 8: Provide Amazing Customer Service.
Great customer service is perhaps the most important way to differentiate yourself from the competition. You can have the best-looking website and brand-new vehicles, but if your organization is bad at communicating, riders (and partner organizations) may not come back. Good customer service means that drivers, dispatchers, and decision-makers within the company are all on the same page and are willing to take the extra time to ensure that every rider has an optimal experience. These days, good customer service extends into the digital realm, which is why Rule # 7 mentions being responsive on social media.
Rule # 9: Have Comprehensive Policies and Procedures.
Although this may not be the most glamorous rule, making sure that all of your company’s processes are standardized is very important if you want to look, sound, and act with the utmost professionalism. Every small business will experience some growing pains as operations get larger. Having good policies and procedures for everything from hiring drivers to responding to complaints helps make running and growing a business as smooth as possible, for both you and your customers alike.
Rule # 10: Invest in Good Dispatch/Scheduling Software.
At the end of the day, to riders and contract partners, your NEMT company is only as good as its on-time performance rate. Well-designed dispatch software will help all aspects of your operations run more efficiently, saving you time, money, and headaches—while increasing your timeliness metrics. When going through rule # 2, you may have also learned that some contract partners (especially the larger ones) will want your organization to be able to track vehicles and riders in real-time; good dispatch software will offer this as a standard feature.
TripMaster, one such NEMT software company, provides a product that handles all elements of operations in one centralized place, and includes functionalities we’ve already talked about, like real-time tracking and the ability to schedule rides online.
Conclusion: Follow the Rules and Boost Your NEMT Business
Remember to take all ten of these rules into account, because good customer service doesn’t mean anything if your vehicles are dirty and the best website in the world won’t make up for rude or poorly-trained drivers. By the same token, if you don’t have good software at the foundation of your business, everything else on this list is going to be more difficult.
Although it seems like a lot, taking the time to read and educate yourself on all of the best practices for today’s complex NEMT market will ultimately help your business win contracts and come out ahead.