Complaining Nation: Should Audiologists and Hearing Aid Manufacturers Keep the Bad?

Economics is all about data collection–lots and lots of data.  To what end, you may ask?  The idea is that if you have enough data on all possible responses in the market, you can probably develop models that will predict consequences of what you do right now.  For instance, wouldn’t you like a model that lets you know the consequences of raising or lowering the prices you charge for goods and services?  Wouldn’t it be great if the model’s predictions were accurate to the 99% confidence level?   With the exception of Sergei Kochkin, most of us are not in a position to collect huge amounts of data, so we all need to thank MarkeTrak once in awhile for giving us guidance on the hearing aid side of our practices.  But, we can and should be surveying our patients, probably more than we do.  For many years, I have promoted the Satisfaction with Amplification in Daily Life (SADL) survey developed by Robyn Cox and associates in Memphis.{{1}}[[1]]Cox RM, Alexander GC. (1999). Measuring satisfaction with amplification in daily life: The SADL scale. Ear and Hearing, 20(4): 306-319.[[1]]{{2}}[[2]]Hosford-Dunn & Halpern. Clinical Application of the SADL Scale in Private Practice. Parts I & II. JAAA (2001).[[2]]  It is an incredibly easy and helpful survey that patients and physicians love to look at, plus it absolutely helps us do a better job with our patients at follow-up visits from 1 month to 5 years post-fitting.  In the process, you end up collecting a lot of data.

But wait, there’s more! What about those much-talked-about-but-never-found dissatisfied customers who either complain to everyone but you or leave your practice or both, eroding your brand irreparably in the process?  And what about the old complaint box of yore? Does anyone still use those?  Does anyone ever check the boxes?  It seems that social networking is the solution to ferreting out complaints and complainers, according to advice to “Keep the Bad” from an Intel conference on social networking{{3}}[[3]]Consumer Complaints Made Easy.  Maybe Too Easy.  By RANDALL STROSS. Published: May 28, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/technology/29digi.html?ref=todayspaper [[3]].   For some reason, the white goods appliance industry is leading the pack on getting the goods on Bad.    Whirlpool has set up up Facebook pages for each of its brands (Maytag, KitchenAid, Whirlpool) where visitors publicly “let loose…… in discussion threads like ‘Failed Diswasher‘ and ‘Defective Dishwashers.'” They even have a “senior manager of social and emerging media” to follow the threads and respond. That has got to be a tough job.

Huh.  I decided to see whether the hearing aid industry was keeping up on this one.  I referred it to hhm.org’s own “manager of social and emerging media” (MSEM) — our own Judy Huch, AuD MSEM.  She went out on Facebook and did the research.  Horrors — none of the hearing aid brands or models even have individual Facebook pages, much less “Keep the bad” sections where complaints can be aired and collected as data.  How did we get behind dishwashers when it comes to data collection?  I hope we’re ahead of garbage disposals.

I say it’s high time that our manufacturers create MSEM positions and while we’re at it, I suppose each of our practices had better get people in those positions as well, just so long as it’s not me.  Actually, I do have a practice blog site and email newsletter through which I get more than my share of complaints, which I air publicly on occasion.  So far, it hasn’t hurt anything but my ego and it does seem to benefit the practice.  I say let the data flow:  bring on the Bad so we can do more Good!



About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.

6 Comments

  1. Holly, another thing I have learned is how you search on Facebook. It has to be name specific and not search words or themes similar to what we are used to in a Google search (do not type in ‘hearing’ and expect to find a manufacturers page). Several companies do have Facebook pages, but you have to be very exact in the wording in your search. For example, you can not type in “resound” you have to type “gn resound” to get to their page. I know in another company’s page there are some complaints being vented, but the person in charge of the page is struggling in knowing how to answer the issues. Still learning how to navigate the Social Media waters!

  2. Thanks for the comment, George. Do you have suggestions on the best way to collect these complaints, categorize them, and respond to them on a company-wide basis, or do you think the latter is an important part of the mix?

    1. Holly,

      1.) Just as you have on this site, your webmaster could set up a “Remarks/Comments/Feedback/Forum” section (we won’t call it ‘Complaints.’) on your business website allowing for patients to share their experiences.

      A good web designer should have multiple options for setting this up. Look at similar feedback sections offered by major companies to get a sense of how they manage their publicly displayed customer feedback. From there you could provide your web designer with a direction, in addition to their input.

      I know people who have had good success with web design from Enlarge Media Group (http://enlargemedia.com) for a first or second opinion.

      2.) You want to share your victories and embarrassments throughout your organization – especially since most of these practices have small staffs, everyone should carry the same banner, and recognize the role they play in the overall success. When things go well, “the office and individuals” did well (never you) – when things go badly, that’s you as the leader that needs to accept responsibility for the failure and implement corrective action.

  3. When I started my business I attended a number of SBA/SCORE workshops, and one was on social media. The point was made that companies that present a public forum for customer complaints served multiple purposes. The two most significant were, 1.) Since some customers like to complain publicly (rather than privately) it gives you the chance to gather more data about product/service dissatisfaction – ALLOWING YOU TO MAKE A COURSE CORRECTION; and, 2.) Surveys have shown that although there was a customer complaint (which is inevitable); HOW WELL THE COMPANY RESPONDED to that complaint played a major role in the buying decision – both good and bad.

    Airing your dirty laundry sounds painful on the surface, but it’s potentially one of your best feedback and marketing tools, if used correctly.

  4. Great suggestion. Practices and manufacturers both should actively try to find out what their clients/patients think.

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