Make the uncomfortable call comfortable

By: Deanna Serrano, Senior Practices Services Manager, Phonak

What do you say when you are calling back a patient who did not commit to purchasing a hearing aid during their hearing aid evaluation? This is a question many providers struggle with, because they want to feel confident and supportive when they call a patient back and not like a salesperson.

Even though it may be uncomfortable to call patients back; practices that have a protocol in place, routinely find, these calls can bring up to 50% of tested-not-treated (TNT) patients back to their office to purchase aids.

Patients who are tested-not-treated have genuine concerns about their hearing. They have angst about how their ability to hear is impacting their relationships and other aspects of their daily life. Providers who were unsuccessful on the day of the visit have a tremendous opportunity to reach back out to TNT patients and give additional support. Stand out from your competitors and make an impression on patients, even if they chose not to return to your office.

TNT call-backs allow providers to:

  • Show their value and service
  • Answer additional questions
  • Offer a demo of technology
  • Invite a friend or family member back to another visit
  • Tackle price concerns and discuss payment options
  • Give an individualized touch and build rapport
  • Provide you important feedback about the experience they had during their visit

Quick tips:

  • The person who saw the patient should be the one making the follow-up call. It means more to the patient; you took the time to follow-up.
  • Keep a list of people you want to follow-up with again. People who seemed motivated to try, but wanted to take a quote home to consider or talk it over with family.
  • Do not wait too long to call. If you are going to have a call-back program, it should be within one week of the appointment, while it is still top-of-mind.
  • Call-backs provide an informal patient survey. They are an effective way to find out if something did not go well in your practice that you should be made aware of.

What do you say when you call these patients?

Bring a friend or family member or review the conversation approach:

“Mrs. Smith, I am calling you back to see how you are doing since our visit.”

“Are there any further questions I can answer about your hearing results or technology we discussed?”

“You indicated you needed to speak to your family.” “Are there any questions I can answer for your family?” “I know you wanted to hear your grandchildren and when you go to a restaurant. You indicated you felt embarrassed in those situations, because you have to ask people to repeat themselves.” “I would recommend scheduling another appointment with your daughter and we can review the information with her.” “We can also try a demo set of aids for you to try and you can wear them for a few days and hear the difference for yourself.”

If the patient says, “Yes!” then reschedule at the first available appointment time with the family member.

If the patient says, “No thanks!” Make sure you thank them for their time, and you appreciated them coming to you!

Quick tips:

  • Practices who make call-backs have been known to send a thank-you letter for the opportunity and referral card for friends and family.
  • Ask on the phone if it is ok to send correspondence and add them to your mailing list or invite them to join your Facebook page.
  • Try to schedule patients with friends or family members whenever possible, having another set of ears and someone who supports them taking care of their hearing.
  • Research has shown, when a significant other is included in the evaluation process, hearing aid adoption increases by 15%. (Singh, G. & Launer, S. (2016) Social context and hearing aid adoption)

It is Time for a Check-up

Here is another example of what you can say: “Mrs. Smith, it’s time for your check-up!”

Patients like the word “check-up.” If you get a sense that the evaluation is going to be a no-purchase type of situation, end the appointment on a high note like, “let’s revisit this in one year’s time. I will give you a call and we will monitor this accordingly.” “Do you mind if we add you to our mailing list or invite you to like our Facebook page?”

Quick tips:

  • Let patients know you will add them to your call-back list, for a checkup in one year.
  • Send tested-not-treated patient correspondence from your practice quarterly.

Solutions tailored to your patients hearing needs

If it has been about a week since the test, reference back to the reason they said they wanted to wait, such as “talk to wife,” “check insurance,” etc. If they still want to wait, don’t push it, but call them again in a couple of months for a retest. You can say “I have something I would really like for you to try. It’s specially designed for your hearing loss and you can take it home and try it for a week before you make any decisions.”

It is important to sound excited about the innovative technology when you call. If you do not seem excited to try it, they won’t be excited to try it either.

Each person is different and although we cannot say it has a 100% success rate, it does seem to be effective.

Quick tip:

  • Perform demos during appointments or have a way to offer demos to patients who may be reluctant for a certain amount of time.

Patients may not seek your services at the time; however, providing another level of service and a follow-up phone call to show you care will resonate and make a lasting impression. Patients will tell their friends and family how well they were treated. It is all about the experience!

We hope these call-back tips help with getting patients back in your doors. If you have any questions or need more information, contact your Phonak representative.