1First, tell us about the initial impact that COVID-19 had on your practices last year.
Our doors were physically closed for six weeks. However, we maintained most of the staff throughout our closure and were still able to help our patients from inside the office. We had employees available to answer calls, troubleshoot hearing aid problems, and hand out supplies. We also implemented curbside, telehealth, and remote care appointments to accommodate our patients and keep everyone safe. While our offices were closed, we focused on reaching out to our database to let them know that we were available. We were even able to gain some hearing aid sales from our care calls!
2With COVID cases rising again, are you encountering any new challenges?
We’ve noticed that patients are hesitant about coming in so, we are having to provide more assurance that we’re following CDC guidelines and taking these procedures very seriously. To ensure the safety of our patients as well as our employees, we’ve also locked our doors and are only allowing patients in by appointment.
3Have you noticed any changes in patient attitudes/behaviors since the start of the pandemic?
It really varies on a case-by-case basis. Some are reluctant to invest in hearing aids, perhaps because they’re no longer in the workplace and not in difficult listening environments as often as they were pre-COVID, while others are struggling more with their hearing because of facemasks making it impossible to read lips or catch visual cues.
4You’ve shifted your marketing strategy this year to put greater emphasis on database outreach. Tell us about it.
We put a hold on our direct mail and some digital marketing, and during this time, we asked all employees to focus on database outreach on a daily basis. When COVID first hit, these calls were focused on checking in on our patients. We asked questions like, “how are you?” and “Is there anything you need?” While it wasn’t the focus, a lot of these conversations then led to patients upgrading, sending in their hearing aids for repair, or even purchasing accessories and cleaning supplies. We’ve also sent out mailings to our database and held a four-day Consult Upgrade event in August.
5Tell us more about the success you’ve had with the Consult Upgrade and Database Programs and why other owners should make them part of their marketing strategy.
Through the Consult Database Program in June, we booked 17 appointments and sold 20 units. The Database Program makes it easy for us to reach out to our patients in a timely manner. As far as the Consult Database Program and Upgrade program coordination and execution, the communication between our office, the marketing team at Consult, and our YPCC [Your Patient Contact Center] coordinator was excellent. The marketing team at Consult and YPCC made themselves available if we had any questions and scheduled phone calls with us to make sure they understood how our office was handling COVID. As far as the Upgrade Program, we sold 46 units and made over $100,000 in revenue during our event this summer.
The templated marketing collateral also provided by Consult [COVID-19 Resource Center
] made it easy for us to inform or patients about changes to our services and assure them we would continue to help them through COVID-19.
6Despite the pandemic, you were able to grow by double-digits last year over 2019. What do you think was most instrumental to your success in 2020?
Having a business plan in place and re-visiting it monthly with our Account Manager was essential to our success last year. Continuing our Daily Huddle, following a Block Schedule, and database outreach also played a part. Specifically, we added another opportunity to our Block Schedule to help make room for our growth. We’ve also continued with weekly trainings for our Front Office Professionals and Providers, which has helped us stay focused and learn new strategies from our Account Manager as well as from each other.
7What are some of your key goals for 2021?
To grow my practice by at least 10 percent from 2020, increase staff communication by conducting more one-on-one meetings with my employees, and continue to focus on the fundamentals—database outreach, block scheduling, Third Party, and the Daily Huddle.
8What advice would you give to practice owners who are uncertain about the future?
Focus on what you’re doing well and continue to find ways to market to your database. Also, have an annual business plan in place that includes a marketing plan and revisit it frequently. Last but not least, stay positive and focus on what you can control.