A Broken Business Model
This is the first in a series of explorations into changing our processes in order that we can deliver a more relevant service. Let’s explore how we can change the business model so that we can survive. In my last article, I said that I believe our business model is broken, that it is outdated, was designed around one product, and was designed for a market that barely exists anymore. I think that all of those statements are true and from the reactions to the article I believe that many of you do to. What are we as a profession and an industry to do about that? I invited people to an open forum to analyse and innovate around that idea last year, a few even did! That article can be found here. Unfortunately, we never got the momentum that we needed. Generally, I find apart from a few people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, the rest like to sit and whine. Yes, that is probably you I am talking about.
Get Off Your Ass
Get off your ass and start thinking about the wider implications that all of this has for our profession. I love Audiology, I believe that we as professionals offer a service that ultimately changes lives and delivers happiness. In order to continue to do so, we need to ensure that we are relevant to the people we are there to help. This isn’t about some philanthropic drive to help the people, I have empathy for people with hearing loss, but I also like to get paid. It keeps me in coffee and cigarettes. I am a strange mix of technical, clinical and commercial, that seems to exist in only a few, although I know some who would say I am a one of a kind. That may be based on other quirky parts of my personality.
In order for us as a profession to innovate around our business model, we need the involvement of all the different types of hearing healthcare professionals out there. Clinically minded, process minded, tech-minded and commercially minded. In this way, we can get a wider view of elements, tools and processes we can incorporate to change the model. Anyway, enough soapbox, let’s talk about pre-qualifying and cutting costs.
Pre-qualifying & Cutting Chair Time Costs
Our profitability is under consistent pressure, so we need to consider how we can cut our costs and make the use of our time more effective. I have watched with sneaking admiration the way one large international retailer has done just this over the last few years. They have a price led business model, so it is imperative for them to keep costs exceptionally tight and to maximise opportunities. A part of that is pre-qualifying every person that ends up sitting on the chair of one of their hearing professionals.
Have a Problem, Ready To Buy
In essence, every person who sits in the consultation room has a problem and is at least in the mindset to buy. In this way, they maximise sales and maximise the time of every hearing healthcare professional that works for them. They go further, they employ people who are qualified as Hear Care Assistants to deal with repair issues, take impressions and even do follow ups if needed. The involvement of a Hear Care Assistant in the business allows them to maximise the time of the hearing health professional.
Conveyor Belt Audiology I hear You Say
Yes, it sure is, however, we can learn from it. I don’t advocate that we follow this model slavishly, what I think we should do is take from it what will benefit us. It makes sense for us that everyone who reaches our chair should actually have a problem. That is the best use of our time, time is precious, I hear many professionals talking about the lack of time particularly Independent business owners. The question I always ask is “Are you using your time effectively?”.
Consider Medical Consultants
Do heart surgeons see people who think they have heart problems? Do brain surgeons see people who think they have brain problems? No, they don’t, so why do we need to see everyone who thinks they have a hearing problem? If we introduce technology or processes to screen people who come to see us, it can only be a good thing for us and for them. It is the best use of our time and theirs. There is technology out there that will allow us to do that easily, it can be based on PTA protocols, but to offer a really good service we should be looking at some sort of speech in noise based screening.
This will allow us to identify everyone who may need our help, everyone who actually has a problem that we may be able to assist with. It will also maximise the profitability of our chair time. That is not a bad thing, it is not an evil thing, yes it is a commercially minded strategy, but so what? I want to deliver the very best service and care to the people I look after, I also want to ensure I get paid for it and have a decent standard of living. These two goals are not averse.
There are many ways we can change our way of Practice to maximise our time and deliver a better service to the people who need us. I plan to look at them all building upon each idea as I go. I picked this particular topic first because I want to speak about some technology in the next article that will allow us to both pre-qualify and maybe increase leads as well. I shouldn’t be a lone voice, I know I am not, I ask all stakeholders to have their say. Hey even if it is only to say you are a gobshite! I am used to that, my skin is thick and my wife reminds me of it every day!