However, in the true since, the term subprime can be applied to any market, or consumer that isn’t of the highest, or ‘Prime’ quality from the marketer's standpoint. In the case of this article, I’ll be referring to hearing aid candidates who fall in this less than prime category for any number of reasons, from low income, poor credit, no credit, or no confidence consumers.
With wholesale prices for new gear being greater than the entire budget for this segment of the consumer market many practices are unable, or unwilling to serve anyone not willing and able to pay a minimum of $2,500 to $3,500 for their new entry level equipment offerings.
If, unable to obtain credit, or unwilling to pay the asked for price for new gear, many practices simply turn these consumers away, leaving them unserved, and their losses unaddressed.
Most practices simply don’t have any other alternative resources, or equipment available with which to serve this market segment. As their costs and operational procedures simply won’t allow them to serve this segment of the market, every potential patient that they do attract that falls into this category, simply falls through their proverbial cracks, goes away unserved, and any potential profit to the practice remains unrealized.
When unprepared to serve this segment of the hearing impaired market, both consumer and practice lose, and we as professionals lose an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to solve a real world problem for someone who really needs our care, and expertise..
Those of us who’ve been practicing for a while have to deal with this situation regularly.
Given as how our manufacturing partners are only interested in selling their new gear to and through us, we get no help from them with this dilemma. Even our second, and third tier vendors charge as much for their new gear at wholesale, as our potential consumers have to spend, or more, at retail.
This is the situation that all of us face when trying to help the sub-prime consumer. Their budget is often below our wholesale cost of new goods, placing them totally outside of the normal practice operational procedures, and limits.
Not only do most practices fail to serve this segment of the population, by being unprepared to do so, they actually incur a cost for screening these individuals that is very real, and depending upon how many of this segment of the market their marketing draws, these costs can be significant.
Such loss need not be the case. By using resources already at hand, and available any practice can not only begin to serve the sub-prime consumer at a profit, but also drive their prime business to a higher level as well. This however requires a rethinking of the tools we have at hand, and how we use them.
The tools we use to serve the sub-prime hearing aid consumer are the ones we used to help our prime consumers three, or four years ago. We use the RICs and BTEs we take in on trade with our prime consumers to serve our sub-prime consumers. By offering generous trade allowances to our prime consumers we encourage them to upgrade their gear before they have wrung all the value from their current set.
Doing so allows our current patients to take advantage of the latest technological advances available in our industry, by using the residual value of their current gear to offset a portion of their upgrade costs. This, while also helping those less fortunate, who can’t afford new, and would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Offering to recondition your patients hearing aids prior to warranty expiration provides ample opportunity to accomplish a three way win for patient, manufacturer, and practice.
The current patient wins in three ways: First they get their current gear brought up to like new specifications without cost. Second they get to experience the very latest our industry has to offer, as you put a new set of hearing aids on them to use while theirs are being reconditioned. Third they get a firm trade in price that will allow them to reclaim the value of their investment and use it to significantly lower the cost of upgrading.
The manufacturer wins in that they get an opportunity for an extended demonstration of the benefits of their new offerings over the old gear being reconditioned. A significant number of these demonstrations result in immediate upgrades with the delivery of new equipment and accessories.
The practice wins by better serving their current patient base, providing them with a real value in the reconditioning of their patient’s hearing aids at no cost to them, building good will. Also, due to the significant number of patients who upgrade to new, the practice wins by serving their patients with the latest gear, and breakthroughs available to our industry, as well as obtaining good gear in trade. Many times this traded in gear has just been reconditioned and is operating like new, and may be refit by simply changing tips, and reprogramming.
The practice further wins by obtaining an inventory of good aftermarket hearing aids that can be put to good use serving those sub-prime patients that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks and been lost. Patients served at a profit who would have been otherwise nothing but a cost, and a loss to deal with.
It is simply demonstrating what we mean by being Patient Centered and Results Oriented.
Putting used hearing aids back to work serves everyone, The Mission; patients, manufacturers and practitioners. It requires no investment other than a different way of looking at things.
Serving the sub-prime market means being able to better serve your entire practice, and profession. Using the tools at hand simply requires a different way of looking at what we do, and how we do it. That new viewpoint, along with the will to make small changes, is the only investment needed..