Pat Marotta, is Executive Sales Director, American Hearing Aid Associates, West Chester, PA. His office is in Cheshire, CT. Readers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An effective third-party presence can increase your close rate by up to 20% and decrease your return rate. This results in more and happier hearing aid wearers and more revenue for your practice.
Usually, a close third party—let's assume a spouse or other family member—feels the adverse effects and frustrations of a loved one's hearing loss even more than the patient. Moreover, the person who lives with the hearing loss often becomes aware of it before the person who has the loss.
That's why making sure the third party is present at the first appointment helps reinforce the need for treatment, helps eliminate possible objections, helps the patient receive and absorb the information given during the presentation, and provides a sounding board and support for the patient during the decision process.
When setting up an appointment, always ask the patient whom he or she will bring along. If the patient asks why, explain that a third person will provide an objective perspective that will be valuable to you.
Further, you can say that it is helpful to have a familiar voice in the testing and add that the patient will be receiving so much information about his hearing during the testing that it is beneficial to have another person to review it with later.
If a patient has no spouse or other obvious person to come with him or her, ask about family, friends, or neighbors. Always do your best to ensure that someone will accompany the patient to this crucial first appointment. And record the name of the third party in the appointment book.
GETTING THE THIRD PARTY INVOLVED
Include the third party in the introductions, but always make the patient the main focus of the initial greeting. Start involving the third party early in the consultation. Ask the person to cite an example of how the patient's hearing loss has adversely affected communication between them. This helps the patient understand the impact the hearing loss is having on the other person and helps build acceptance of the need for help. Often during testing, the third party can hear tones and words the patient cannot, which reinforces the patient's realization that his or her hearing is impaired.
During the demo stages, you may want to use the third party's voice. That way the patient will observe that a voice that used to be hard to hear is made clearer by amplification. With current technology, the third party can actually “experience” the hearing loss along with the patient. This allows the third party to understand the difficulty the patient is having.
More often than not, the third party is the reason that the patient has come to your office in the first place. Using that person's desire to improve the communication situation will help move the patient toward deciding to get hearing aids.
You give patients a great amount of information during your presentation, and there is much for them to remember. Therefore, they need someone to confirm what they are hearing and to validate their decision. The third party provides a sounding board for the patient during the decision-making process.
Recall that the third party deals with the frustrations caused by hearing loss every day. So the third party is key to making sure that the information provided is tied to the quality-of-life issues facing the patient.
It's important that every question the patient and third party have is answered before they leave your office. And both should know what the next step is: fitting, medical appointment, TNS procedure, etc.
THIRD PARTY'S ROLE
At American Hearing Aid Associates (AHAA), we frequently remind our associates that even after a successful fitting the third party continues to help. He or she will play a significant role during the adjustment period in helping the patient become more comfortable with the aids. This person can reinforce the decision the patient made to get hearing aids. He or she will also remind the wearer of the realistic expectations that you presented in your office and will share with the patient the positive changes in communications and relationships that are occurring.
All this allows the third party to quantify the success of the fitting, and returns will decrease. Moreover, you have created another valuable ally and referral source.
If you handle the situation properly, having a third party present at all appointments with a hearing aid prospect/patient is valuable for everyone. Keep track of how many patients come in with third parties and your success rate in fitting them. This tracking will give you information you can use to improve the process and to impress upon your staff the importance of good relationships with third parties.
© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.