by Steve Eagon, MA
In part 1 of this two-part series, I mentioned how we’ve all heard about the Baby-Boomers flooding our offices, and the unique challenges they bring. In this article, I’m going to make suggestions based upon what I’ve seen from various hearing care professionals around North America who are addressing these Boomer characteristics.
These new approaches involve the creative use of technology, changes in their personal approach with patients, and general thinking outside the box. As a result, these practices are differentiating themselves and thriving, while creating vocal fans who refer others.
First, let’s remember the basic attributes that today’s healthcare consumer (Baby Boomer) is looking for.
- The total experience
- They want the interaction to be easy – easy to understand and not overwhelmed with facts
- They want an emotional connection with you
- They want to hear positive messages
Make an “Emotional Connection”
Above all else, making an emotional connection with your customer is most important. First, begin to embrace a conversational approach built around identifying the key emotional motivators that will move someone to take action. Save exploring the typical yes/no communication checklist questionnaire for later, and ask a simple question that will open the patient to discuss those things that matter most to them.
Here’s a suggestion, “Mr. Jones, tell me 2-3 situations in your life most important to you where you’d like to hear better.” The customer will tell you in varying degrees of detail what matters most to them. Once you obtain this information, stay on their path, be curious, and ask several open-ended questions exploring these situations. Write down what they say and you’ll demonstrate you care about them and are actively listening.
Ask how their hearing impacts or affects them when doing said activity or spending time with loved ones, and you’ll tap into the emotion space. Lastly, make sure to empathize and reassure that you’re there to help tie it all together.
Make it Easy and Tell Positive Messages
What I’m about to suggest may make some of you uncomfortable. I’m going to ask that you put yourself in your consumer’s shoes as you read this next section.
As the consumer, you’ve just waited 7 years to make an appointment with a hearing professional and had to take time off work because the office closed at 4:00pm. You arrive for your appointment on time, and the following happens:
- You have 5 pages on paperwork to fill out that takes 15 minutes. You ask yourself, “Why didn’t they email or mail this to me in advance? My other doctors allow me to download the paperwork off their website.”
- While in the waiting room, you see brochures telling you about the warning signs of hearing loss, the latest research tying hearing loss to early onset of dementia, and you see posters of four different hearing aid brands you’ve never heard of. What do you think is going through their mind as they sit there? Is this info preparing them for a positive experience?
- After completing the hearing test, the professional spends several minutes discussing the results in great detail. Your head is now filled with information about things that make no sense, but yet you know you have hearing loss. You say to yourself, “While I appreciate the expertise of the professional, all I wanted to know was if I had a hearing loss and what can be done about it.”
- Lastly, you’re shown different styles of hearing aids and different levels of technology. The professional says these will all work and you’re given different price points and options. You say to yourself, “Wow, this is a lot of information. I better go home to think about it and do some more research. I might even consider a second opinion.”
Speaking to the Needs of Today’s Patient
So, how could the above experience be different and speak to the needs of today’s patient?
- First, pull way back on the jargon and the need to tell your patient details of everything. For example, I’ve seen numerous professionals successfully say the following when showing and describing hearing test results. “Mr. Jones, your audiogram shows you have a moderate amount of hearing loss which explains what you told me about not hearing well in situations X, Y, and Z. Are you surprised to hear this? I’d be happy to discuss the hearing test in more detail or we can talk about how to get you hearing better.” The key is to give your patient the option of asking for the detail. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. Of course there will always be exceptions and the need to explain detail, but the vast majority of consumers simply want to know how they can be helped.
- Proactively gather as many testimonials (letters, emails, thank you cards) as you can and proudly display them in your reception area. Buy a nice bulletin board and hang them on the wall, put them on your website, place them in your practice brochure, etc. Your reception area should be filled with the benefits of using hearing aids and not fear that comes from co-morbidity studies.
- Make it easy to interact with your practice. Use mail or email to send a welcome kit with paperwork, allow people to opt in for texting, encourage email communication, etc.
- Adopt a mindset that when someone comes to your office they need to experience better hearing the same day. Carry hearing aid stock and make it easy to demo and try hearing aids.
Make a “Total Experience”
Lastly, no matter how you feel about your business, employees, and your patient care standards, your patients see you no differently than anyone else. They expect first-class customer service in various aspects of their life, and they demand and expect it from you.
This means you have to look at every patient touch point and understand that if one part if broken, the whole experience is in jeopardy. You have to examine everything – the look and navigation of your website, training of your front office staff, convenient office hours, tone and message of your marketing, appearance of the office and staff, ease of communication (text and email), use of the latest technology (testing equipment, consumer apps, accessories, etc.), follow-up practices, and anything else that potentially affects how your consumers think, feel and talk about you.
In summary, today’s mature consumer has already influenced and changed other areas of healthcare such as the dental and optometry industries. We’re seeing it now because we see people later in life. It is incumbent upon us to be proactive and ahead of the curve. It’s never too late to begin laying the foundation for adapting to changes being driven by our consumers. Have fun and good luck!
Steven 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.
*title image courtesy nihdirectorsblog