Call Them Customers
My last three posts may have caused some anxiety among professional hearing aid dispensers, especially when they read the obituary of the hearing aid. Some readers of this post may think these comments are extreme. I ask readers to read this with their minds, not their emotions or from biased perspectives.
This post intends to focus on the directed words of the first hearing aid obituary post.
Failing to receive proper life support, the hearing aid died a natural death. However, its legacy is expected to live and thrive via a transformational series of devices falling under the heading of “Listening Systems.”
Many believe that a massive paradigm shift in the hearing aid distribution system is required, because that which is currently being provided may allow for continued repeat sales and service charges, gradual and long-term eventual acceptance of hearing aids, but no substantial growth. Exchanging hearing aid purchasers with one’s competition to grow sales is not only costly, but also unproductive. I recall from a few years ago that 25% of a dispenser’s sales consisted of the buyer being someone else’s customer for their last purchase. Some have furtively referred to this as “stealing from the competition.” Is this the way to grow the market?
Real growth is not going to be accomplished with renewed efforts essentially mimicking the same, failed procedures of the past, only with greater intensity. What directions might be taken? A suggestion might be to look at reality and not theory. And look outside the box, so to speak. A questionnaire and statistical analysis are not required to determine what the problems are, especially when common sense is likely to provide more realistic answers, and in a much more timely manner. True marketers seize the moment at hand, not push the problem down the road continuously. Projecting the future, in the future, is a road to nowhere, and, the future has already come and gone, many times over. The future must be projected now, not “down the road.”
Call Them Customers
If a person wants to be a physician or work within the medical model, call the people you serve patients. However, if one wants to grow business, call them customers. I don’t think I am wrong, but I believe that there are MANY more customers than there are patients. As previously mentioned, amplification is in reality a consumer, not medical product for the most part, regardless of its current FDA classification. So, why limit the distribution of amplification products to patients? All one has to do is look at the various amplification products available worldwide to know that these are not being used just for individuals with measurable hearing loss – whatever that means to the potential purchaser. If limited sales growth is desired, then continue to sell hearing aids to patients and not customers.
Change the overall image. Call potential purchasers what they are – customers! Not patients, clients, elderly, hearing impaired, or handicapped persons. Attempting to impress by using medical terms is not a road to voluntary expanded amplification use. Accepting a medical solution to a hearing loss is perhaps the most desirable resolution, but a recommendation for non-medical amplification is not what individuals seek. As mentioned in a previous post, the use of negative terms to describe an individual’s plight is most likely to result in a reluctance to voluntarily seek help, regardless of how much time one spends in “educating” the person about their hearing loss and how important it is that they purchase hearing aids. Satisfying amplification interests should not have to be an “over time-related event” intended for a “select population.” Accept the fact that amplification, perhaps for the majority of purposes, is a consumer product.
Any use of the words “hearing loss,” “hearing aid,” “hearing help,” “elderly,” “hearing impairment,” “hearing instrument,” etc., automatically hinders discussion and willful involvement. These are negative, limiting, and perhaps even scare terms for many individuals. Over a long period of time these terms may become acceptable, but the clock is ticking now. The concern of the individual may have nothing to do with measured hearing levels, but with communication or personal preferences, which I believe may involve higher order processes, and reflect their actual interest. And, this goal can be accomplished with a variety of products not called hearing aids.
As long as the hearing aid industry continues to use the stigma words of “hearing loss,” “hearing aid,” “hearing help,” “hearing instrument,” etc., color me a skeptic – a skeptic in believing that any educational/informative program intended to make them aware and then accepting of their problem (which they already recognize), will be deemed to provide the wished-for, projected massive influx of hearing aid use.
If one doesn’t think words make a difference, all one has to do is observe the face of a person suffering from tinnitus and tell them that what they need are hearing aids. This is like hitting them with a double whammy while they are down.
Don’t Sell Hearing Aids, but Perhaps, Hearables?
Don’t Sell Hearing Aids (a negative term), but perhaps, Hearables, a more consumer-friendly term more fitting of a consumer product, and not a specialty product intended and promoted for individuals who are “defective.”
A following post will continue this discussion, asking where this all leads.