Three Ways to Protect, Build, and Improve Your Hearing Care Business During COVID-19

Written by Phil M Jones

Let’s not beat around the bush. This isn’t a road that any of us wanted to be on.

  • It’s bumpy
  • It’s full of turns
  • and we’re quickly running out of gas without knowing when we’ll see the next filling station.

COVID-19 has presented the entire world with a curveball that feels like a far-fetched Hollywood plotline.

But the most important thing that you need to remember during these times (or any challenging time in any context of your life) is that regardless of what happens, you’re in control of the wheel. 

We’re not on the road that we wanted or expected to be on, but you have full control.

In this article, I want to walk you through the options that you have available to you and share the three things that you could be doing right now to protect, build, and thrive during this unprecedented period.

I genuinely believe that this time will be looked back upon as one of the pivotal moments of our careers.

Deciding on Your Approach

During these crazy times, I’ve spoken to hundreds of different hearing care providers throughout the US, and what I’ve found interesting is that all of them are tackling these times differently.

  • There are some that are working crazy hours as part of ENT groups, dealing with risk and doing everything in their power to care for their patients and local community.
  • There are some people that are using this time to hibernate and close their doors with the hope of returning to their clinic when this has all returned to normality.
  • And there are some that are using this time to reassess the journey they are on, plan ahead, and look for the big opportunities among the challenges to build, thrive, and improve.

All decisions are to be respected, but as you are reading this, my assumption would be that you’re in the third group of people that are looking for the opportunities in this madness and want to come out of this stronger.

In this article, I’m going to share THREE THINGS that you can be doing today to continue to drive revenue, protect your business, and build the foundations to thrive in the “new normal.”

#1 – How to Continue to Drive Revenue

There aren’t too many businesses that can sustain an extended period of time without new revenue.

And as many businesses across different industries have to quickly pivot and reinvent themselves to survive, you must do the same.

I don’t believe any independent hearing care clinic will be having a record month over the coming months, but continuing to have revenue trickle in to cover overheads, protect your “rainy day” fund, and ensure you can pay your staff is super important.

The question is, how?

Well, I don’t think it’s by trying to attract brand new patients.

If somebody has been procrastinating and finding excuses to not have their hearing tested, then the risk of needlessly catching a deadly disease is a convincing argument to delay this even further.

However, I do believe there is a lot of opportunity within your database.

Because right now, every transaction that you do has to be at arm’s length, which means that having an audiogram on file with a patient and having some form of relationship are two important elements to being able to make a transaction.

On our recent client-only “Campfire Chat” calls, we recently shared a campaign that can be run to generate revenue during these challenging times.

Here’s how it works …

This campaign invites existing patients to beta-test a new “remote offering.”

It explains that they will receive new hearing devices programmed to their most recent audiogram, the devices will be mailed/delivered to them, and they will be supported through Tele Audiology appointments.

In exchange for upgrading during this time and beta-testing this new offering, they will receive a significant contribution to their investment.

It then has the safety blanket that once some form of normality resumes that the patient will be invited for an in-person appointment to make any adjustments, have an updated hearing test, and sign the required paperwork.

It’s a simple campaign.

But this messaging has allowed our clients to lean into their existing relationships, be open and honest, and continue to generate new revenue while caring for patients

Only yesterday I read an email from one of our clients that has upgraded 6 people in the past four days from this campaign.

It’s not ground-breaking.

But an extra $20,000+ in revenue eases a lot of pain right now.

It’s time to get scrappy, it’s time to recall the money you are owed, and it’s time to bend the rules to keep driving your business forward.

#2 – What Should You Do With Your Team?

I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

  • Some businesses have been breaking their backs to pay their staff.
  • Others have hit the panic button and furloughed/fired their employees.

Although survival is always the priority, there is a very important thing to consider and that is that the way that you treat your staff will be repaid to you long-term one way or another.

I’ve seen this time and time again.

If you show your team that you care and go through hardship to protect them, then they will reward you and repay you over time and work extra hard to repay you.

If you show your team that you will drop them at the drop of a hat, then you will have damaged your relationship with them and you’ll quickly notice that the “above and beyond” work that they may once have done for you will be a thing of the past.

But this leads to a bigger question – if you have no work for them, what are they supposed to do? 

There are three things.

The first is TRAINING.

How many times have you listened in on your front of desk talking on the phone to a patient and cringed a little bit, or heard one of your audiologists speaking to a patient and witnessed a missed opportunity?

This time is the ideal time to focus on improving your team’s skill-sets and ensure that your team comes out of this stronger than ever.

This should be the time when you’re looking to either find training to help your team or personally train your team.

If you could slightly improve outcomes that directly lead to revenue, then these will compound to make a significant difference to your end-of-year profits and result in you being able to help more people.

It could be:

  • How to turn more “maybes” into “yeses”
  • How to overcome the biggest patients objections
  • Or even how to collect owed debts

The second thing that you could do is PATIENT CARE.

One of the things that makes you unique compared to big box online retailers or even the big branded dispensers is that you are a local small business that cares for your community.

If you’ve been using marketing messages that say that “you care about your patients” and “you care about your community” – then right now is the time where you need to be showing it more than ever.

  • When was the last time that you called your vulnerable patients to check on them and ask how they are?
  • If one of your patients desperately needed some milk and bread, would you be able to help them?
  • Would you be able to mail them replacement domes or batteries if they needed them and record a video to show them how to change them?

For businesses that value themselves on how much they care, you really need to be showing your stripes.

Your team is perfectly positioned to make this happen. They can pick up the phone, put people ahead of profits, and do the right things for the people that you care about.

The third thing that they can do is CREATE CONTENT.

The opportunity to win the content game in this industry is huge.

Have your audiologists answer the most commonly asked questions, whether via writing an article or on a video.

Could they answer questions like:

  • What are the most common signs of hearing loss?
  • How should I help a loved one with a hearing loss?
  • How to treat tinnitus

By creating content around all of these, it doesn’t only improve your SEO footprint by helping patients in advance, but it positions you and your team as experts and has a very long shelf life on the likes of Google or YouTube.

Brainstorm as many key questions as possible, split them between your team, and allow them to get to work. 

#3 –Introducing Tele Audiology

Although Tele Audiology isn’t something new, it’s finally something that both the hearing care industry and patients now understand as a solution to many of the challenges that have recently been presented.

Because although we fully expect many of the restrictions that are in place at the moment to be lifted over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be entering an unprecedented landscape.

  • Will people happily flock out of their homes even though COVID is still resulting in deaths?
  • Will the experts be right and will there be another spike (or combination of spikes) that will result in further restrictions?
  • Will everybody continue to look to minimize their contact with strangers and look to continue to utilize much of the ways they survived during lock downs?

The short answer is that nobody knows.

But my best guess is that this uncertainty isn’t going away until there is some form of vaccination (which recent reports have said could be as late as the end of 2021).

I strongly believe that now is the time where collectively as private pay audiologists that we revolutionize this industry and pivot the way that we care for patients.

This could mean that follow-up appointments are done through Tele Audiology appointments where appropriate, it could mean that you offer initial online consultations via your website before a new patient visits you, or it could mean that you physically sell a service/appointments through your website.

There is no rule book on this, and it’s impossible to “think outside of the box,” as what’s “inside the box” is yet to be defined.

But you should be giving serious thought to this and understanding that you need to build this into your value proposition, into your offering, and be the local audiologists that are revolutionizing the ways that you care for patients.

The lack of revolutionization in this industry has resulted in others being able to feed from you by under-cutting prices and offering varied models, but this really is your chance to put a huge distance between yourself and all other options.

I strongly believe that this is your Blockbuster video moment. Do you revolutionize to the way that world is changing, or do you hold on and hope preferences change?

The Verdict  

Although nobody wanted this, the way that you act and the decisions that you make will be directly responsible for what your future business will look like.

And although we can all focus on the negatives of this, there is a lot of opportunity to do stuff that will make a significant difference to your future, and although it won’t pay you today, it will pay you many times over in the coming months and years.

I can’t stress the importance of building Tele Audiology into your offering, being first to market locally, and changing the way that patients are cared for in the future.

Stay safe, keep doing the amazing work to care for the people that matter, and use this time to prove you are who you say you are.

WHITE-PAPER:

“The Four Biggest Online Trends That Show The Future of Hearing Care”