Tech Topic: Waiting Room | July 2015 Hearing Review

?Why the waiting room is crucial to setting the tone for the entire patient experience, and how you can dramatically impact and positively address the emotional triggers and questions of first-time patients.

There is power in waiting. But waiting creates anxiety. Waiting without engagement creates frustration. The waiting room has come to represent a containment space of inevitable frustration for both patients and practitioners.

But what if the waiting room were good for more than just waiting? What if you could turn your waiting room into a powerful patient engagement and point-of-care marketing tool? This article provides insights into the power in waiting—when you have the right message.

Incubator of Passion

Michelle Ahlman

Michelle Ahlman, HHN

They say the eyes are the windows to your soul. Your waiting room is the window to your clinic’s soul. It is your customer’s first impression, and you have approximately 7 seconds to make it a great one. The atmosphere, how they are greeted, the materials provided—all of these elements are processed rapid-fire by your customer’s brain. An impression is formed instantly. The challenge is to make your waiting room consistent with your mission as a professional, quality hearing care provider, or an “incubator of passion” for your products and services.

I recently read an article in the AARP Bulletin by David Wallis titled “Selling Older Consumers Short.”1 The article addressed how advertisers still tend to ignore the over-55 crowd; when mature people are included in an ad, they are perceived as decrepit and old. Wallis referenced a Taco Bell ad that features a couple of old “codgers” who are the spitting image of those grumpy Muppets in the theatre balcony. And, of course, what do they make obvious? The old guy is wearing a hearing aid.

It’s bad enough society already associates hearing aids with the cranky old guy who wears a bow tie and smells funny. And, yes, some of your patients may fit that description; however, we all know there are a larger number of people with hearing loss who are active, involved, and young, or at least young at heart.

You’ve spent time, money, and effort getting that customer in your door. And you’ve done this despite the youth-obsessed advertising industry and the consumer mindsets that keep many who need your help away.2

Hearing Health News Network (HHN) is a constantly changing video stream that lends a new degree of professionalism to a practice. Customers can view the short videos and factoids, learning more about hearing care and your practice as they wait.

But beyond its function, HHN empowers you with the tools to reprogram the mindset of the customer. When your customers walk through your door and are greeted with professionally developed, engaging content that makes a personal connection, you are demonstrating your respect for them and building the foundation for delighted customers.

Create an Emotional Connection

HHN screens show health-related info

HHN is delivered via wired or wireless Internet to your waiting room and features a playlist of hearing-related items that you select for the benefit of your patients and prospective patients.

Emotional anchors are triggers—sounds, images, smells—that take us back to a place in our head; you can think of them as mental sticky notes. Triggers can take us back to wonderful places, or not-so-good places.

Emotional anchors are powerful. Your waiting room is one big emotional trigger for your patients and their family. How it feels, how much light comes in, how the furniture is laid out, the attitude of the front office staff, and the visuals all create emotional triggers.

Engaging your customers in that space can be the beginning of a lasting relationship or it can result in an expensive lead leaving after that first appointment, with no intent to return. Patients and their families in waiting rooms can be anxious, concerned, skeptical, and even contentious. The environment where they wait either adds to their stress, or helps relieve it. The feelings created or fostered in the waiting room follow patients into their appointments and, either positively or negatively, affect their interactions with you and your staff.

HHN has created a customized playlist designed to suit the specific demographics of your patients, making an emotional connection and preconditioning them for their appointment. This preconditioning can improve closure rates by 5% to 7%.3 The content not only engages your customer, it influences the influencer—the family. This is where you have an unfettered opportunity to deliver your message at a near decision- making point. This is where you can overcome skepticism and concern about the potential cost by identifying the distinct and proven benefits of amplification.

Deliver Dynamic Content

HHN’s Patient Engagement program is designed to captivate patients with fresh, rich, constantly updated, point-of-care content. Working with our Patient Engagement Expert provides insight and guidance in the development of your custom content. The content library is updated weekly and includes custom seasonal segments, hearing health education, facts on issues like co-morbidities, and customer loyalty pieces.

HNN delivers content as an objective third party, a powerful factor in building credibility and increasing your close rate. Because the content is all designed by HHN’s professional graphics team and is formatted to view as a network program, it serves as an inferred endorsement that deepens the engagement.

In a recent survey taken of patients in an HNN-equipped waiting room, we asked what their overall impression was of the information ???provided on the screen. The overwhelming response was, “I learned a lot about the impact of hearing loss,” followed by “Had I known this before, I wouldn’t have waited so long.”

This is exactly the mindset you want patients to have: that they made the correct decision and your solutions matter.

Engage the Brain

Get your patient thinking positively about the outcome of their appointment before they step foot in your evaluation room. With approximately 70% of patients accompanied by family members to their appointments, HNN provides an opportunity to speak to family as well, engaging them to think about their own hearing health.

Customers come into your office to solve a problem. Keeping their mindset on the positive outcome of the solution is critical to closure rates. Additionally, reaching returning patients with content that continues to inform and educate them on the process of adapting to their hearing device is key to reducing return rates. Kochkin et al4 showed that indifferent or unhappy customers usually switch providers, and that even satisfied customers frequently choose a different provider (68.5% loyalty rating).

This is often based in misaligned expectations. How do you ensure a patient who seems satisfied does not abandon you as a provider of hearing care? HHN works with you to create custom pieces that communicate steps you specifically want patients to take following a fitting or insights for family on how to help the patient adapt to the new hearing device at home. This is a differentiator that develops what Kochkin et al4 called “apostles,” and keeps satisfied customers out of the zone of indifference.

Motivate

The success of your practice depends on a number of equally important factors:

“Butts in the booth.” Every hearing care office needs a steady stream of prospective customers to test. We all know this is easier said than done. You may spend $150 to $500 per lead just to get people through your door. Start the consultative selling process the minute the customer walks through your door.

Patient referrals. As Kochkin et al4 amply demonstrate, your cur- rent customers are precious and key drivers of growth and profitability. HNN provides the platform to interact with your patients while they wait, as if they had a concierge sitting there, filling them in on the latest information. This guarantees an improvement in patient satisfaction, which results in patient referrals.

Inspire patients; empower front-office staff. Digital content in the waiting room provides the platform to inspire and empower your customers. Testimonials and, better yet, videos of satisfied patients telling their stories of triumph, success, and excitement are remarkable tools to inspire new patients. We work with each clinic to craft custom content pieces that showcase your apostles, leveraging their passion for your products and service, in effect making them ambassadors to your business.

Psychology teaches us that we, as consumers, want to be right; we want to believe we made a good purchase decision and will talk ourselves into this belief if buyer’s remorse starts to creep in. HNN delivers supportive insights that help your customer navigate the new world of better hearing, while setting appropriate expectations and improving retention.

One of the challenges many hearing care businesses face is the retention of professional, long-term front office staff. HNN can inspire and empower your front office staff by exposing them to even deeper insights on hearing loss, as well as providing exposure to new technologies you offer. Your customers are more likely to engage and ask questions, empowering your front office staff to respond with professionalism and knowledge.

Educate and Prepare

Can you imagine having every patient mentally prepared, motivated, informed and inspired to take action as they begin their appointment? Before even one minute of consultation with your professional staff, patients can be educated by the content on your waiting room screen about what to expect in their appointment, how our brains adapt to new hearing aids, why binaural fittings have positive impact on hearing, how technology has improved, or what financing options are available. The content educates the patient about the audiogram and what commonly used audiological terms mean. It has been designed to eliminate fear and reduce the intimidation some patients feel when introduced to new terminology. The educational content also serves to reduce some of the burden on the professional staff, as they navigate the often-diverse capacities customers have in understanding concepts surrounding amplification and hearing loss. Additionally, HNN offers relevant, happy news and entertainment content that puts patients and their families at ease.

Results = Lifetime Value

Studies have shown that point-of-care marketing can make a positive impact on customer lifetime value. Failure to implement point-of-care marketing, waiting room engagement, and retention marketing programs in your practice is like training for months to run a marathon, then stopping short of the finish line on race day.

Implementing point-of-care marketing such as the HHN results in:

  • Increased lifetime value of each and every patient;
  • The development of raving fans (aka, apostles);
  • Increased patient referrals;
  • ?????Reduced return rates, and
  • Increased closure rates.

References

  1. Wallis D. Selling older consumers short. AARP Bulletin. 2014; October. Available at: http://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2014/advertising-to-baby-boomers.html

  2. Beck DL, Alcock CJ. Right product; Wrong message. Hearing Review. 2014;21(4): 16-21. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2014/04/right-product-wrong-message

  3. Expert Insight: Give patients a memorable and useful waiting room experience. Hearing Review Products. 2013;Fall. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2013/12/expert-insight-give-patients-a-memorable-and-useful-waiting-room-experience

  4. Kochkin S, Dennison L, Jackson L. What is your customer loyalty quotient (CLQ)? Hearing Review. 2014;21(9):16-21. Available at: http://www.hearingreview.com/2014/08/customer-loyalty-quotient-clq

Michele Ahlman is the CEO of ClearDigital Media, Burr Ridge, Ill, which has created the Hearing Health News Network (HHN). HHN is delivered via wired or wireless Internet to your waiting room and features a playlist of hearing-related items that you select for the benefit of your patients and prospective patients.

Correspondence can be addressed to michele ahlman at: [email protected]

Original citation for this article: ???Ahlman, M. An Incubator of Passion: Engagement in the Waiting Room. Hearing Review. 2015;22(7):20.?