Patient Care | February 2016 Hearing Review

How an in-clinic success strategy can help you compete and win lifelong patients

Within the four walls of the clinic you have an opportunity to create impact and gain sustained competitive advantage. After all, your most effective marketing tool–the patient–is right in front of you every day. Nothing is more powerful than patient advocacy.

I was speaking to an independent practitioner recently about what’s happening in the hearing healthcare industry of late. He was pretty emotionally charged up about pricing wars taking place and the competition he was facing online and from the Big Box players. We talked about the challenges of fighting against the winds of change, and what you can and can’t control when it comes to the competition.

Then I asked him this question: “So what can you control? When a client finally picks up the phone and calls your clinic, what experience is that person going to have?”

Patient careThink back to a time when you made a major purchase. Did you use the Internet to research your options? Did you engage in some price comparison between vendors? You probably did. And, if you received extraordinary service, did you tell others about your great customer experience? Very likely. It is 2016, and smart consumerism is the way of the world. So why would we expect the hearing healthcare industry to be any different?

In our industry, we are accustomed to viewing the patient journey as a linear trajectory where people move from inaction to action and where the role of the hearing healthcare professional (HHP) is that of a facilitator to help them move along this journey. However, the truth is, our industry has a pretty poor track record at moving the patient through the early stages of the funnel. Even if people are moved into action after 7 or 8 years, there still exists between a 20%-50% dropout rate from patients who visit a HHP and those who actually proceed forward with a purchase of hearing aids. On the brighter side, it also presents opportunity.

Today, the reality is that our patients—many or most of whom are very smart and savvy consumers—are changing. These “healthy agers” use the Internet to conduct research on their options. They want to take an active role in the healthcare decisions that affect them. They aren’t simply waiting to be moved through a methodical process and told what to do anymore.

They expect more and demand it. They also aren’t looking for the best hearing aid or the best deal. They, like all of us, are looking for the best provider—a practitioner who not only has the best product and competitive pricing, but one they can trust to deliver an exceptional patient experience.

Focusing on In-clinic Success

The comprehensive patient experience. So what does all this mean to the clinician and the practice? First, it means that as the buying and decision-making behaviors of patient/consumers change, the way we market and sell to these individuals also has to change. Past methods, such as flyers in the mail and time-sensitive pricing discounts, aren’t pulling people into the clinic. Messages that focus on product features or the consequences of hearing loss and aging (dementia, low income, depression) are not building the desired connections. It’s a marketing and sales dilemma that has many HHPs scratching their heads and wondering what tactics to try next.

Fortunately, the answer to this sales and marketing challenge actually lies right within the walls of the hearing healthcare clinic. By focusing on creating a patient experience with each interaction, from that first phone call to time spent in the waiting area to post-visit follow-up, clinicians and their staff actually can turn patients into their very best marketing resource—raving fans who will go out of their way to tell others about their fantastic experience.

This “in-clinic success” concept is all about creating an exceptional patient experience that is memorable, patient-centric and reflects your professional values as a HHP. It is a cumulative, often emotional, experience that begins with a patient’s first impressions, grows into a trusting relationship, and endures with continuous care. It encompasses your practice, brand, employees, procedures, and products. And when patients enjoy this positive experience, they’ll actively promote your practice to others. This patient-centric experience—made possible by you and your staff—ultimately leads to practice growth and success.

A change of focus that places you in the driver’s seat. A new focus also means that HHPs have to be prepared for change. In-clinic success is not a marketing program. It is a long-term strategy that begins by understanding the professional philosophy and values that help form your practice’s brand, and flows through to the way you handle each and every patient interaction.

On the plus side, it puts you in the driver’s seat. Everything within your practice is now within your scope to change. However, you have to be ready to raise your hand and be open to accept and often change behaviors.

There is so much we can’t control as practitioners and business people in this world. We’re unable to impact the decisions our competitors make, or influence the pace of technology change. We have also learned we have very limited ability to coax individuals to pursue help for hearing loss. But when, for whatever reason, that trigger happens, and a person walks through the door of your clinic, you are now in a position to influence the patient experience and the outcome, and magic can happen. Within the four walls of the clinic you have an opportunity to create impact and gain sustained competitive advantage. After all, your most effective marketing tool is right in front of you every day. Nothing is more powerful than patient advocacy.

This article is the first of a three-part series on in-clinic success. Parts 2 and 3 of this article will address some of the ways you can set the stage for longterm practice success, and help you forge stronger emotional connections with patients through understanding their “why.” 

Steve Eagon

Steve Eagon

Steve Eagon, MA, is Director of In-Clinic Success at Unitron, Plymouth, Minn. He is responsible for the mySuccess partnership program designed to support customer success at the clinical and business levels. Eagon has served as an audiologist in private practice and ENT settings, and is a co-founder of one of the largest retail network services in hearing healthcare.

Correspondence can be addressed to Steve Eagon at: [email protected]

Original citation for this article: Eagon S. Steering into the Winds of Change, Part 1. Hearing Review. 2016;23(2):34.?