As a private practice owner, you’re always looking for ways to generate more traffic and grow your business. Here are some areas to focus on based on the kinds of trends we’re seeing in the hearing healthcare industry.
Your goal is to drive new patients into your practice for an appointment. Your mission is to ensure that every person that comes into your practice with a hearing loss leaves with a hearing aid. If they leave empty handed, you’ve missed an opportunity to close a sale. If they return their hearing aid because they’re dissatisfied, you’ve missed an opportunity to satisfy and retain a customer.
The real challenge is getting the patient into your practice in the first place. You need to focus on marketing to generate the initial inquiry and also on referral strategies. With a lot of ENTs attaching themselves to large enterprises, opportunities for medical referrals are dwindling. Larger entities have increasing control over the whole spectrum of care.
A satisfied customer takes you a long way. Surprisingly, patient satisfaction is proving to be a challenge for private practices. Industry statistics show that patient satisfaction with hearing aids really hasn’t increased over the past ten years. Why? Patients are not getting the most out of their hearing aids. Sixty-two percent of all fittings involve the “best fit” button and only thirty-five percent of fittings utilize the “Validate and Verify” protocol. Taking time to learn about a patient’s specific lifestyle needs and using verification and validation as part of the fitting process are critical to ensuring patient satisfaction.
Impressions are made in the front office, so it’s very important that you hire the right people. The way you meet and greet your patients and answer telephone calls all reflects upon your practice’s brand. It’s a relationship building industry and the people on staff are critical to those relationships.
Once you have the right talent in place, you have to work on retaining those people. Think about what you can do to help them develop in their roles and where they’re ultimately going within your practice. Work together to define both performance and career objectives, and tie compensation directly to performance metrics. Making your employees feel valued and properly compensated is a big step towards retaining them. You may also want to think about incentives such as profit sharing if you have an employee that could potentially take over your practice in the future.
Sound Financial Management
You must have a firm understanding of the financial health of your business and where you are making and losing money. It seems so simple but, when you’re busy meeting with patients, the operations side of your business may end up taking a backseat. Make sure you update and maintain profit loss statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements to provide you with the data you need to make sound financial decisions.
In our experience, if your practice is struggling financially, there are some key things to analyze:
- Retail Price – Are you priced competitively? Mispricing products is a common mistake.
- Cost of Goods – Make sure COGS represents about 30 – 35%
- Marketing – Successful practices spend about 13 – 15% of their net hearing aid sales on marketing initiatives.
- Your Salary – If the owner’s draw is above 20% of net sales (or below 13%), you may have a problem. The lagging issue is usually the retail price point.
2 thoughts on “Practice Building Tips”
While a lot of the content above is dead on, I STRONGLY DISAGREE with this statement:
“Your mission is to ensure that every person that comes into your practice with a hearing loss leaves with a hearing aid. If they leave empty handed, you’ve missed an opportunity to close a sale.”
With larger ticket purchases, there are a number of things that need to occur in the mind of a customer before they will proceed with a purchase. You can Google “purchase funnel” or “sales funnel” to see a variety of ways to explain this truth.
In an industry where it often takes several years for someone to go from awareness to stepping foot in your office, it’s unrealistic to expect that each person will be ready for purchase before leaving your office the first time. The old-school ABC mentality of “Always Be Closing” has never worked well – especially in service industry. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve ended-up dispensed hearing aids to who were previously turned off by another provider’s pushy sales tactics.
Now, having said that . . . I DO think it is the responsibility of an audiologist/clinician to do what they can to motivate and persuade that person to take action to improve their hearing. But this process sometimes takes longer than one appointment. Some people and situations need time.
If you ask someone to marry you on a first date – they will typically run away – and you’ll never get that opportunity. Luckily, purchasing a hearing aid isn’t as a big of a deal as marriage, but sometimes that relationship needs nurturing before you can seal the deal.
Don’t let the pressure to close the sale before they leave your office ruin your chances forever.
I totally agree with Matt’s perspective above. You need to tailor your approach to each individual. If you are perceived as being too pushy, it can scare people and they will steer clear of your office thereafter. It’s best to nurture and build a trust relationship. You can help educate patients so that they feel that they are making an informed decision. You are laying the foundation for a long term trusting relationship.