By Steve Eagon, MA

Given the work I do, I frequently interact with and train hearing professionals on a variety of practice management issues. A hot topic among many these days is the changing consumer dynamic over the past 5-10 years. When I ask professionals what they notice about today’s mature consumer, it usually centers around a few key observations.

  • They are not afraid to question me.
  • They are skeptical and even cynical about the hearing care process and products.
  • They are well-educated and have done their research – online and talking to people.

One man recently said, “It’s like pouring salt in the wound.  We’re already seeing a decrease in response to our marketing, and the new patients that do come in question our recommendations, are informed about pricing and technology, and are aware of competitor’s ads locally and online.  So, I find myself defending everything I do and working even harder to gain someone’s trust.” 

 

There’s a reason this is happening and it brings to light a fundamental observation I’ve made.  We have been told for years the Baby Boomers are coming, but yet we’re woefully ill-prepared to understand who they are and how to modify our clinical approach to meet their expectations. 

 

From the work of Matt Thornhill, John Martin, Edgar Keehnan and others I’d like to summarize some key findings of who this demographic is and what we have to do in order to reach them.  One blog isn’t enough to cover everything, so please look for part 2 in the coming weeks.

By the way, despite the defined years cited as the Boomer period, we are frequently seeing the below characteristics up through a person in the their mid-70s.

 

Characteristics of the Mature Consumer:

 

They expect a total experience. They want a personalized and customized approach from beginning to end. They expect a first-class appearance and interaction of everything – your website look and feel, the way the phone is answered, the appearance of your office, the way you are greeted, convenience of office hours, etc.

They want an emotional connection. Your patients expect you to be human and to forge an emotional connection with them.  Research shows that when people have an emotional connection with a business, they are at least 2X more likely to take action with you. 

A hearing professional recently told me, “I’ve always been good at building rapport.”  This concept goes way beyond building rapport.  We can build rapport in a minute or two with virtually anyone.  But to build a lasting emotional connection with someone, you must commit a little time, ask good questions, and show empathy and reassurance to the person.  It is imperative to find our consumer’s emotional motivators.  More on this in part 2 of this article.

They expect “easy”. The average adult is bombarded with about 35,000 conscious and subconscious decisions a day according to a 2007 Cornell University study.  Sounds absurd, right?  The last thing we want to do then is inundate them with even more information about frequencies, decibels, telecoils, speech bananas, etc.  And whatever you do, try not to give people a good – better – best hearing aid option.  Matt Thornhill talks about the mature consumer thinking, “Don’t fact me to death!” 

It is well known that our decision making process actually begins to shut down when we try to process too much information. Think about it – the last time you made a major purchase, did you decide what and where to buy based on all the technical info and specifications of the product, or did the user reviews and connection you made with the business interaction win you over?

They want to hear positive messages. As hearing professionals we frequently try and convince people they need hearing aids by showing the audiogram, describing it, and then commenting that the sooner a purchase is made the easier time they’ll have adapting.  Our marketing and industry messaging even goes so far as to say, “You’re at greater risk for dementia if you don’t buy hearing aids.”  Guess what?  Scaring people to act based on facts, figures, and research doesn’t move people to purchase hearing aids. 

Laura Carstensen, PhD., a professor of psychology at Stanford University, has completed numerous studies that show people are generally much happier in life as they age and that the brain suppresses negative images and messages in our later years.  What does work?  Sharing success stories, asking for and displaying testimonials, and being bold by telling people about the benefits of wearing hearing aids and that you’re the right person to help them. 

 

A New Approach Needed

 

As I said earlier, there is so much more to cover.  In summary, today’s Mature Consumer wants to feel something when interacting with you and they need to be motivated and inspired to take action.  They want a personalized approach that answers the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “How will this product help gain control of what’s most important to me?” 

Look for Part 2 in the coming weeks with tangible steps you can begin applying in your office immediately.  I’ve seen people make small changes in their office operations and patient care practices that have a positive influence on not only their patients and business KPIs, but on their personal satisfaction being a hearing professional.

 

*title image courtesy mtmicro

 

eagonSteven Eagon, MA, is Unitron’s Director of In-clinic Success, a new role that underlines the company’s commitment to supporting hearing healthcare professionals. Prior to assuming this position at Unitron, Eagon was director of learning and development for Sonova Group,  and Vice President of Professional Services for Sonova Group’s Connect Hearing. Steve also served as Vice President of Sales and Audiology for HearingPlanet, and for more than 10 years practiced as a clinical audiologist.