Gyl A. Kasewurm, AuD, is Founder, President, and Owner of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, MI, which receives more than 16,000 patient visits a year.
While I'm not an Oprah worshipper, I record her show and watch it when I awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. A recent episode featured O posing challenges to several women who were stuck in a rut and needed a change in their lives. Roller derby, skydiving, and skinny-dipping were the challenges posed to the women.
As I watched these women face their fears and emerge with a rejuvenated sense of strength and confidence, I was impressed and inspired. While I'm not too anxious to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I had to wonder if I had got stuck in a rut. It's easy to do when you own your own business. So, motivated to push myself and my business to a new level, I considered:
“What do I need to do to get my business out of the box in 2010?”
The practice of hearing healthcare is changing. Consumers can purchase hearing aids anywhere. They can go to Costco, pick up some socks and underwear, sample free snacks, and get fitted with hearing aids—all in the same visit.
There are many opportunities for consumers to purchase hearing aids on the Internet. Even the Bionic Man (Lee Majors for you unknowing GenXers and Millennials) is promoting his own version of better hearing.
Meanwhile, insurance companies are cutting reimbursement, eliminating coverage for hearing healthcare services, and promoting “discount programs” to their subscribers that reduce profit margins and dictate how we have to conduct business. And that's not to mention that manufacturers have increased their presence in the retail market.
Because of changing times, many of us may be forced to adjust the way we do business. While this can cause concern, I am reminded that with obstacles comes opportunity. However, to maximize opportunity, a business must be ready to change. So, if you are concerned that your business is in a rut and in need of change, here are some tips to help get you out of your box in 2010:
You can't take advantage of opportunity if you don't know it exists. In a recent article in HJ, Brian Taylor reported the results of an investigation into the business practices of many hearing healthcare providers. It seems the average practitioner “thinks” their business is doing much better than it actually is. Numbers don't lie. If you only do one thing in 2010, implement a tracking system that will help you get a finger on the pulse of the business. Once you know the facts, you can decide what you need to do to make your business better.
RAISE THE BAR
Historically, the number of patients who shop around or decide not to buy hearing aids when it is time to repurchase is more than 50%. While most practices offer a diverse range of services and devices, most rely on profits from dispensing hearing aids to sustain their businesses. Therefore, the close or help rate of the professionals dispensing hearing aids has a dramatic influence on the profitability of a business. Just imagine the impact to your bottom line if you convinced an extra 10% of patients to obtain amplification!
Every return and exchange costs you money, so set a specific goal to limit your rate of returns and exchanges.
How many inquiries does your front desk fail to convert to an appointment? There are resources—CallSource.com is one—that will record incoming calls and track the results to help you measure how effectively your front office handles phone calls. Once you know the facts, you can set goals to help drive your practice to a higher level of profitability. Setting goals is not a complicated process nor does it take a lot of time but, “You have to set them to get them.”
COMMIT TO EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE
Simply providing good service is not enough to get people talking about you. You must excel and be responsive to every request a patient makes. A wowed client will not only return to you but will tell everyone they know about your business. The goal must be to exceed patients' expectations. Make a commitment to talk to one patient a week and ask them how you are doing. If you don't ask, you really don't know how your patients feel about you and your staff. It can be an eye-opening experience.
Breaking out of a rut isn't easy, but the outcome can transform a business. Achieving starts with believing. You must have faith that you can and will accomplish your goals. Don't settle for mediocrity. If you believe that your practice or organization is the best place for hearing-impaired people to obtain help, then make a commitment to “get out of the box” and make 2010 a banner year for you and your business!
To get you started, I will happily send you an example of an Excel tracking sheet. Just write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.