5 Ways to Stand Out in Highly Competitive Audiology Markets
Yes, a rising tide lifts all boats. But let’s face it – the audiology industry is swamped with competition, and it’s about to get a lot more crowded very soon. Big box stores like Costco and Wal-Mart are entering the hearing health arena. National chains continue to expand, bringing their big budgets and ad campaigns with them. And over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids will be available within the coming months. How can established audiology practices position themselves for growth, too?
Follow these 5 proven tips for staying ahead of the curve.
1. Know your patients
This sounds like a foregone conclusion, but it’s not necessarily as simple as it sounds. You have many different patient types – older seniors (who may be more technology averse), younger seniors (who may be very tech-savvy and have the latest iPhones), busy professionals, stay-at-home parents, active athletes, young adults and children. Getting to know them – REALLY know them – can set your practice apart in many ways.
- Conduct an internal analysis of your patient data. Understand their average ages and see if you can draw commonalities about their life experiences. It’s all about building greater understanding and relationships – one of the last true differentiators of any business, but especially audiology services.
- Conduct an online and/or direct mail poll of your patients to see how they feel about your practice, your staff, their biggest pain points, and what they’d like to see in the future.
- Think like a new patient! Spend some time searching the internet for information, browsing online forums and social channels to see what questions are being asked.
2. Know your competition
Gone are the days where word of mouth alone carried audiology practices from generation to generation. Yes, you’ll always have your existing patients and their recommendations going for you – but what about new patients?
You need to know what your competitors are doing, how they’re advertising themselves, and what they’re saying in the marketplace. Otherwise, how else can you hope to avoid blending into the background with them?
- Start online - look at their sites, follow them on social media and read reviews of their practice.
- Pay attention to how and where they advertise. What type of images are they using? How do their logos, colors, service offerings and patient experience compare to yours?
- After all that, where do you see opportunities? How can your practice use this knowledge to elevate your patient experience and stand out from the pack?
3. Find your difference
This will take a bit of self-reflection… What makes your audiology practice the right place for patients to trust their hearing health and, essentially, their quality of life? Gather your leadership team or even your entire staff, if numbers allow, and spend a few hours digging through that question. Resist the easy outs, like “Our people are the difference” (everyone says that) or “We are obsessed with quality” (everyone says that, too). Your goal is to stand out, so really try to think different. Try these questions at your internal session to get the ideas flowing:
- How do we want patients to feel when they visit our office?
- How do we want patients to feel when they leave?
- What are our biggest strengths?
- What aspects of the practice/patient experience do we need to work on?
- What opportunities are we missing right now?
- What are some of the best experiences we’ve had with patients?
- What are the recent reviews for our office online?
4. Invest in customer experience
Are your customers spending excessive amounts of time on hold? Do you frequently have a waiting area full of grumpy people, thanks to backlogs of appointments? Is your staff professional and polite? Do patients often recommend your services to friends and family, or do you tend to miss out on those referrals?
Customer experience matters, no matter the size of your office. In fact, if your practice is small the service level can be easier to control than if you’re running a larger organization. In today’s fast-paced, “better faster cheaper” world – customer experience might just be the only true differentiator any business has left.
Forbes contributor Larry Myler emphasizes how important good customer service is:
“Customers equate experience with brands. If they have even one bad experience that remains unresolved, they will write off the brand. And negative feedback spreads like wildfire through social media and word of mouth. You need to be on top of your game to improve the customer experience, sometimes by going far out of your way.”
5. Stay ahead of the technology curve
Wow – can we all just take a moment to appreciate the dizzying leaps and bounds technology has taken in the past 20 years? Not only has the Internet of Things changed audiology treatments and hearing aid device technology, it’s forever changed how we all relate together as a society. Imagine the difference between your oldest patients, who may still prefer touch-tone phones, your younger patients with home automation technology and smartphone apps, and the patients of the very-near future who may be using Artificial Intelligence (AI) apps and devices, too.
- Never stop evolving. Make innovation a key part of your long-term practice business plan.
- Invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) – your future patients will be looking for answers online, and your business needs to be there.
- Stay connected on social media – either on your own, through your staff or by hiring consultants.
- Consider adding eHealth audiology services to your long-term practice plan.
- Learn more about how smartphones can be used for hearing testing and intervention.
It’s a lot of work to ensure your practice always stands out in a crowded, ever-changing marketplace. But isn’t that the point? Armed with your new information, prioritize which initiatives to put into practice first. Improving your patient experience is always a smart investment!