In This Market Your Patients Should Feel Like a VIP

The pool of patient’s willing to buy your product is already small.  Outside influences (big box discount stores, online retailers, 3rd party insurer’s) are cutting into not only your profitability but the number of potential candidates for your services.  What should you do?

I was made a VIP for a company that I frequent quite often.  As a VIP I’m now entitled to:

  • Free next day shipping
  • Advanced access to new styles
  • My own special phone number to call
  • And so on…

Did I feel special? Well maybe not special, but I had an immediate positive reaction that my business was important to them. More importantly, not only did they appreciate my business, they were willing to reward me for my effort.

What Do You Do to Make Your Patient’s Feel Special?

Do you offer a VIP service for your patients?

  • A walk in time for repairs.
  • A hotline number for existing patients.
  • Free battery tester with a card on their birthday
  • New cleaning tools every six months

My entire years worth of purchases from this store doesn’t come close to cost of the average set of hearing aids so it isn’t just a matter of how much I’m spending with their company. They’re rewarding me because they know I can shop anywhere I want to and they want to make sure I come back to them.

Your patients may not be purchasing anything new for a few years, but they will at some point buy again. And they probably know someone who’s in the market for hearing aids right now.

Provide your patients with VIP services. And make sure your patients know that these VIP services are being provided to them in appreciate for the business they’ve done with you.

Delivering Quality

What do we mean when we say “quality” and how do you know if you’re delivering it? 

Quality can be defined as: “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind or the degree of excellence of something.  Obviously quality can cover both ends of the spectrum.  We’ll take a leap of faith and assume you’ve chosen to provide your patients with superior quality.

Quality of What? 

You’ve opted to provide superior quality, but of what?  The product, the service or both?  In this industry the product is fixed.  Vendor XYZ hearing aid, Model ABC is the same no matter where it’s purchased.  That leaves you with service.

Time to Revisit Your Office

We become complacent, it’s human nature.  In our personal space there is a degree of disorder that we are willing to accept when it’s just “us”.  But if “company” is coming over suddenly that degree of disorder is no longer acceptable.  Too often we treat our patients more like one of “us” and less like the “company” they really are.

How Patient Friendly is Your Office?

From Wendy Leebov, the following five patient needs are primary in providing an environment conducive to patient comfort, satisfaction and a quality patient experience.

1. Wayfinding:  Patients are stressed when they have any sort of problem finding or making their way to your offices.  Maps, transportation options, convenient parking, graphics and signs are all important to consider in order to remove impediments and reduce unsettling confusion.

2. Physical Comfort:  Chairs, lighting, room arrangements, furniture design, assistive devices and railings, smells, colors, textures, and noise all influence the patient’s comfort level.

3. Privacy and Personal Territory:  People appreciate the ability to control the extent to which they interact with other people.  The optimal environment caters to people with different preferences. 

4. Peace and the Absence of Noise:  The Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce) defines noise as “a stench in the ear.”  Unwanted noise increases people’s perception of pain.  Noise interferes with relaxation and often leads to irritability and anxiety.  In their doctor’s office and other ambulatory care settings, people expect peace and quiet.

5. Sense of Security:  People want to feel protected, protected from slips, slides and falls, confident that the equipment will hold them, and so safe that they can let go of watchfulness and close their eyes.

Friendliness Questionnaire

Use this questionnaire to assess the friendliness of your office.

Questionnaire

Special Needs Assessment

Your demographic is older, less mobile and possibly larger (as we age we pack on pounds) than other demographics.  Here is a great primer developed by the American Medical Association about how to address the needs of obese patients.

Ensuring that your office is “senior friendly” should be an ongoing process.  Use this checklist as a starting point, adding features as they’re identified by you, your staff and your patients.

The criteria customers use to evaluate when making a purchase is rarely just the price point of a product. The decision includes an assessment of store location, convenience, hours, sales help, displays, policies and many more mundane but critical details. Each patient weighs each criterion a little differently (creating niches for you to possibly exploit), but in the end only one store gets the sale. Success in retail doesn’t mean doing it well; it means doing it the best.

Look for more regarding superior quality customer service next week.  I realized half way through this blog just how much I could write about providing quality customer service.

 

The Holidays…A Season of Giving

Do you tell your patients how much you appreciate their business?  It’s the Holiday Season, traditionally a time of gift giving and receiving.  You have been fortunate to be able to establish, achieve and maintain a measure of success in a business in a struggling economy.  Like anyone who runs a small business, you will experience some lows but along the way you will experience the joys of owning a business.

  1. You control your destiny.
  2. You can decide your work/home life balance.
  3. You choose the people you work with.
  4. While you assume the risk – you also reap the rewards.
  5. You can challenge yourself to fend off boredom.
  6. You are following your passion.
  7. You can get things done faster.
  8. You can feel the pride that comes with building something all your own.

I’m sure you could add a few more things to the list.  But now that we’ve made the list and you’ve looked it over, take pause.  All of this is only possible if patients show up at your door and buy your products.  So use this “season of giving” as an opportunity to thank the ones who have made your dream a reality.

 

 

 

The 5 Worst Signs to Post in Your Waiting Room

The following waiting room signs can currently be purchased through several office supply websites.  Don’t buy them.

“If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you.”

Ha, ha, ha…. The 3 Stooges, Roseanne Bahr, George Carlin…humor is best left to the paid professional.  Your attempt at humor will never amuse everyone so why bother?

“Please be aware that this office is under 24-hour surveillance.” 

Why?  If I’m your patient, I believe I may be asking myself if I really want to return to an office that has a need for 24-hour surveillance. 

“A No-Show fee of $35 will be billed to you if you do not give at least 24-hour notice prior to cancellation of your appointment.”

What you’re telling me is that time is money.  If I’m kept waiting, can I expect a credit on my account?

“The nature of our practice is to give our patients the utmost in care and service.  Please excuse any delays.”

If you have taken the time to turn this into a sign, then I guess I can safely assume that I, as the patient, will be kept waiting…a lot.  And this would be because you haven’t figured out how to provide the utmost in care and service in a timely fashion.

“We welcome your comments about our office and or staff.”

Really?  Would you like me to blurt it out right now, right here, in the middle of the waiting room?  If you feel a need to ask for the comments and suggestions, give them options on how.  Give the patient a form to complete and return at their discretion.

And while we’re on the topic of signs in the waiting room, if you must have them, pay attention to how they look.  There is no place in your waiting room for signs that are torn, dirty or mismatched. Signs should not be held up with pushpins, thumbtacks and/or duct tape.  Signs should serve a purpose.

Walk out into your waiting room right now.  What do your signs say about you, your staff and your office?

The Biggest Problem for Small Business Owners

Google (or search for), “The biggest problem for small business owners”, you’ll get over 120,000,000 results in .23 seconds. The results will range from weak demand for your product to the cost of health insurance to government regulations. No one can tell you what the biggest problem is that you’ll face in your business, primarily because your “biggest” problem tends to be the one that is causing the biggest problem today…right now.

So how do you handle today’s “biggest problem”? Here are 4 easy steps to follow to solve most problems you’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t  Panic

Ok, something happened or is about to happened, accept whatever it is and give it a name. Mr. Jones will be here in 10 minutes and his repaired hearing aid is in a FedEx truck somewhere.

Simplify the Issue

In this case you have two choices (and whining and complaining are not number 1 and number 2).

1.  Contact Mr. Jones immediately and reschedule the appointment.
2.  If he’s already on his way, plan right now what you will say to him when he walks through the door.

Get Real

Is this a problem? Yes, it is. Is it the end of the world? No it isn’t. If this is a major calamity in your day, week or month…count your blessings and act accordingly.

Future Solutions

This is a problem, that should never have never been a problem. Yes, you solved it today. Your next step should be to prevent the problem from happening again. The status of all deliveries should be confirmed 3 days before the delivery date. With that much lead-time you can either take the steps necessary to speed up the delivery or you’ll have ample time to reschedule the patient appointment.

And remember, when all else fails call us. Solving problems is what we do, every day all day long.

As my husband is fond of saying, “there’s no such thing as problems, only solutions.”

Make Your Patients VIP’s

Twice this week I was made a VIP for two companies that I frequent quite often…Zappos and Peapod.  Zappos is an online shoe and clothing store and Peapod is an online food store that offers home delivery (clearly I never leave my house, but that’s a story for another time).

The email from Zappos came first.  As a VIP I’m now entitled to:

  • Free next day shipping
  • Advanced access to new styles
  • My own special phone number to call
  • And so on…

Peapod offered perks (not as generous, but none the less perks).  Did I feel special?  I had an immediate positive reaction that my business was important to them.  More importantly, not only did they appreciate my business, they were willing to reward me for my effort.

What do you do to make your patients feel special?

 
Do you offer a VIP service for your patients?

  • A walk in time for repairs.
  • A hotline number for existing patients.
  • Free battery tester with a card on their birthday
  • New cleaning tools every six months

My entire years worth of purchases from Zappos doesn’t come close to cost of the average set of hearing aids so it isn’t just a matter of how much I’m spending with their company.  They’re rewarding me because they know I can shop anywhere I want to and they want to make sure I come back to them.

Your patients may not be purchasing anything new for a few years, but they will at some point buy again.  And they probably know someone who’s in the market for hearing aids right now.

Provide your patients with VIP services.  And make sure your patients know that these VIP services are being provided to them in appreciate for the business they’ve done with you.

 

Creating an Effective Patient Recall Program

Patient recall programs are activities that bring the patient back into your office on a routine basis.  The program should be directed at both active and inactive patients.

The Method

The only effective method for activating inactive patients is to have a well-trained person from the practice initiate telephone calls.  Even for someone who is effective at this task, it’s probably their least favorite thing to do.  Knowing that up front means it is important to set goals and monitor their activity, both in terms of time allocated and the successes they are having.  Attaching incentives for the person charged with this activity can only improve performance.

It is important to differentiate between patients who should be followed for medical reasons and patients who are being recalled to maintain their active status within the practice.  A determination needs to be made at the end of the initial office visit which category the patient will fall into.  For existing patients where the determination was not made at the initial visit the staff needs to be given the criteria and the chart should be reviewed prior to making the call. Again, you will be calling three types of patients.  They are: 

  • Patients who purchased hearing aids from the practice but are no longer active.
  • Patients who were tested and did not purchase.
  • Patients were seen for medical reasons and were not candidates for hearing aids, but who should be monitored.

Each month your files should be reviewed and patients who need to be recalled should be identified.  You can contact them with a reminder card and then follow-up with a telephone call taking the same approach above.  Your staff should have a much higher success rate with the active versus inactive patients.  There may still need to be some prompting on their part but the majority should make appointments.

Why is a patient recall program a good idea?

  • By updating your files, you eliminate mailing correspondence to patients who are inactive.
  • You will increase the opportunity to provide existing patients additional products and services.
  • The value of your practice will increase based on the active number of files you have, should you decide to sell it.
  • You have an opportunity to reclaim patients that may have switched to a competitor.
  • You can eliminate an unhappy patient making negative comments about your practice.

Not sure how to get the ball rolling?  Call us.  We can help you to identify and to train the right person in your practice.  A effective patient recall program is an ideal way to lessen your reliance on advertising to meet your monthly goals.

 

 

How to Answer the Price Question

You know your practice will get this question at least once a week, if not once a day.  Does your staff know how to answer the question?  Do you know what they’re saying?  One of two things is currently happening.  They are either doing a good job of answering the question or they are doing a less than stellar job of answering the question.

Here are few “scripts” your staff can use to answer the question.

“Thank you for contacting our practice.  To answer your question, there are several things that influence the price of a hearing aid. This tends to be true at our practice and probably most other practices you contact.”

The first thing you need to consider is whether you want to pay a one price for the hearing aid and then pay a fitting fee or do you want the fitting fee to be included in the price.

Secondly, almost every hearing aid will need to be reprogrammed several times as your hearing loss changes. If reprogramming is not part of your original purchase price it can cost several hundred dollars each time you need a change to the programming.

Service can also be included in the price and hearing aids will need periodic maintenance and repairs and these fees can add up as well.

Finally, comprehensive programs that include things like free batteries and are also available.

Because there are so many options I would encourage you to make an appointment to meet with our audiologist/hearing aid dispenser in the office. They can talk about what level of options you would be interested in and can provide you with a realistic price that meets your expectations initially as well as over time.”

The exact wording that your staff will use is not as important as the consistency of the message they convey.  More importantly the potential customer asked a question that they expect to have answered.  Telling them that you don’t provide prices over the phone is not what they expect to hear.

The better prepared your staff is to answer the “price question”, the more likely the customer is to make an appointment.  And after all that is the point of the entire exercise.

 

When Was the Last Time You Asked a Patient What They Wanted?

Or are you spending every visit with them telling them what they need, what they want and what they should do.

If you asked you’d find out one of two things.

    • They don’t have a clue what they want
    • They know exactly what they want.

If they don’t know what they want, then it’s ok for you to provide options.

If they know exactly what they want then you have two choices.

    • Give it to them.
    • If you’re unable to give it to them, negotiate.

We all know how to do this, we learned it when were young.  Here’s an example.

We nagged our mom…”Mom, mom, mom.”

Her response “What do you want?”

Our response, “A cookie.”

Her response would vary,

“Here have a cookie.”

“No, it’s too close to dinner, how about a (fill in the blank).”

She was a busy woman who learned that the quickest most efficient way to communicate and to understand what we really wanted, was to ask the obvious question.

 

 

 

I Have No Idea How I Got My Newest Patient

When I ask the question, “Tell me the top 5 ways you get a patient through your door? If just once, someone would be honest with me and say out loud, “I have no idea where my patients are coming from” I’d probably keel over on the spot.”  Invariably the answers I get range from, “Well I’m pretty sure they’re coming from…or “I’ll have to try to figure that out.”…or the always popular Well it varies.”

If you don’t know the answer to that question, you’re wasting your advertising and marketing dollars.  You need to understand not only what draws patients to your business but what doesn’t.

Ask your patients questions.  I don’t mean strap them to a chair under a bright light and threaten bodily harm if they don’t come up with the right answer.  I mean be genuine.  “Mr. Patient, we really value your business and we would love to have more patients just like you.”  “Can you please tell me how you first heard about us?”

If they answer, the yellow pages, or online, or any other non-specific response, it’s okay to dig a little deeper.  “Hmm, interesting, were you looking for us or did you just stumble on our page…or our website?”

You will never know for sure if the answer they give is really the “correct answer”.  But I guarantee what you will uncover is a potential market you didn’t know existed.  Maybe a neighbor really is raving about you and sending links from your website to her friends.  Yes, they found you online, but it’s because Linda sent them a link.

Ask the right questions, track the responses and hopefully you’ll be spending your advertising dollars on financially rewarding opportunities you didn’t even know existed.