Eliminating traditional barriers for patients who need, but are not sold on, hearing aids
How can you reduce the number of patients who leave your practice who are “tested and not sold”—or those people who are unable to commit to a hearing aid? Based on the feedback provided in a recent study, there are several ways to minimize the number of these important would-be patients.
Here is some news that may surprise you: Patients who leave your practice without purchasing a hearing aid after being tested are virtually always a lost opportunity. A recent study we conducted with 500 patients who left hearing care professionals’ offices without purchasing hearing aids after being tested revealed that only 3% of them returned to purchase hearing aids. The 97% of patients who were “tested and not sold” represent a significant business opportunity—literally walking out of the door.
|Don Minchow is president and founder of Inquire Market Research, Santa Ana, Calif, and a consultant for CareCredit. Correspondence can be addressed to HR or .|
So how can you lessen the number of patients who leave your practice tested and not sold? Based on the feedback provided in this study, there are several options.
Focus on Customer Service
The level of courtesy and professionalism with which patients are treated has a strong influence on their feelings about the practice. Actions that patients respond to positively include:
- The availability of convenient appointment times;
- Getting the opportunity to speak with the hearing care professional during the initial phone call;
- Having all of their questions answered during the consultation; and
- Receiving the results of their hearing tests in a manner that they find helpful and informative.
Developing good, strong customer service skills is imperative for maximizing sales. Hearing care professionals should do everything they can to make patients feel comfortable and cared for.
Hearing tests should be performed thoroughly and patients should clearly understand why they are being done. Explain the results of the tests completely and communicate how they help determine your hearing aid recommendation. Finally, present your recommendation along with payment options that make it easy for patients to accept.
All patients surveyed who felt like they were treated courteously, professionally, and had all questions answered stated that they would recommend the hearing care professional to other people (even when they did not purchase a hearing aid themselves). In contrast, patients who felt they were not treated courteously and professionally stated that they would never recommend the professional to others.
About one of 10 patients (9%) left the practice without purchasing a hearing aid because they felt they had been treated poorly. Specific issues included misleading advertisements and dissatisfaction with the professional’s attitude or manner. It is imperative that patients be made to feel comfortable and treated with respect. Losing 10% of sales to inappropriate behavior is an unacceptably high loss ratio—especially when customer service is one of the biggest variables within your control.
Be Proactive About Cost
Nearly three of five patients (58%) walking out of a hearing care professional’s practice cite a financial reason for leaving without having made a purchase. The most frequently mentioned obstacle is that the hearing aid is more expensive than expected. The second most frequent obstacle is that the patient cannot immediately pay for the hearing aid.
These responses are perfectly understandable given that hearing aid purchases are often unexpected and unbudgeted expenses that patients would have no reason to be familiar with prior to needing them. To help make patients more comfortable investing in a hearing aid, communicate the value and benefits of your hearing aid recommendation in relationship to the cost. Get patients comfortable with the fact that they have a clinical need that is best addressed with a professional solution. Once you have achieved this, address their questions and concerns, and provide as much information as the patient needs to be confident that the purchase is both fair and the best solution for their condition.
In addition, concern about the cost of hearing aids can be addressed by offering a convenient low monthly payment plan like those offered by CareCredit® Patient Payment Plans. Giving patients the opportunity to improve their hearing health with an affordable monthly payment option helps eliminate anxiety about the expense of the device. Low monthly payments and interest-free financing provide patients with a high level of comfort when contemplating the purchase.
Reduce Patient Price-shopping
Patients may also be reluctant to accept hearing aid recommendations because they don’t have a real understanding of alternatives—in terms of both technology and price. So, they choose to shop around.
Of the patients surveyed in our study, 43% chose to visit another hearing care professional because of price. This can also be translated to mean “I’m not convinced that the hearing care professional I visited offered me the best price, so I must satisfy myself that the price is fair.”
To help assure patients that your hearing aid recommendation is priced competitively and fairly—without having them leave the practice—do the legwork for them by becoming an informational resource. Have available competitive pricing information, such as promotional materials, newspaper ads, Web site pricing, and the results of telephone “price shopping” of other practices in your area to demonstrate that your price is fair.
Enhance Patient Follow-up and Retention
When a patient leaves your office “tested and not sold,” it doesn’t mean that they are no longer in the market for a hearing aid. In fact, our research shows that 53% of patients who leave a practice without purchasing are still looking to improve their hearing with a hearing aid purchase.
While not all of these patients will make a purchase, knowing that 53% of tested-and-not-sold patients are still serious prospects means that all practices should consider developing a retention program. It’s much easier to nurture relationships that you have already developed than attempt to attract new patients. Following up with patients by telephone, direct mail, or e-mail not only keeps your services “top of mind” but also demonstrates your concern for their care.
Practices invest a great deal of time and expense motivating patients to make an initial visit. Once a patient is scheduled for a consultation, all resources must be focused on achieving the desired outcome: fitting them with an instrument that improves their hearing health. In order to help patients, practices must remove the barriers leading to a successful fitting. The best way to do this is to anticipate the objections a patient is likely to offer, and devise a compelling response that addresses each concern. Once initial objections have been overcome, you can focus on the patient’s clinical needs and recommend a hearing aid that best meets their needs.
As a hearing care professional, your goal is to improve the lives of your patients. In order to do this, barriers to purchasing hearing aids must be addressed—or else the revolving door of patients leaving “tested-and-not-sold” will continue to spin around and around.