Strategies for Best Serving Your Market
Practice pointers for building customer trust
by Bob Harry

With demand for health-related homecare services showing no signs of dropping off, home medical equipment providers have a variety of service lines to consider for business development in 2019. Opportunity may be particularly ripe in some markets, as providers say they see little, and sometimes no, competition in their markets—some say they even have to turn away business. With today’s managed care squeeze, providers can no longer count on Medicare’s fee-for-service revenue as a main line. In some ways, this is a good thing. Communities need retail-focused suppliers that specialize in the products and services that people need to live independently, to the best of their ability, for as long as possible. When developing your HME retail program, look for products that can generate cash and require limited training time. The best choices are those that a select group of cash-inclined consumers in your community need. Before choosing a retail product, check to see how well that product is currently supplied in your area. You can best help your clients when you keep in mind the cost of the product compared with the cost to the consumer. Take stairlifts, for example—your estimated cost is $1,350, with a sale price of $3,200 and installment time estimated at two hours. When considering vertical lifts, your cost is around $3,500, with a sale price of $6,000, paid with either cash or credit card. Expect your cost to be about $1,400, with a sale price of $2,000, for a vehicle lift for carrying a scooter or wheelchair on the back of a vehicle. As part of ongoing HME business development, be mindful of how you separate your company from competitors so that you provide a valued service while at the same time form a profitable business.

Develop Your Professional Style

Professionalism from your staff is a key consideration. This sends a message to your customer, who then may transmit their perception back to their doctor or case manager. Simple measures that help spread a positive business image don’t have to be expensive. Outfit your drivers in company shirts where your unique logo is clearly visible. This conveys a sense of confidence to someone who is allowing your team into their home. Second, a corporate dress code conveys a sense of competence. Both confidence and competence are critical for establishing trust in your company and brand. Individual business cards that feature your company’s information and the name of the driver will enhance the homecare experience—a professional business card also reinforces brand recognition. Ask your drivers to leave two business cards so that the client has a copy and an extra card that they can give to someone else who may need equipment or services. Did you know that when given a business card, 93 percent of people will look on the back? A friendly message from the driver adds a nice final touch. Examples: “It has been my pleasure to serve you” or “At your service for 28 years in the community.”
Practice Pointers
  • Underline trust-building with your drivers. A good opener from the driver starts this way: “Let me give you my business card. There are a couple of things I want you to know about this card—I don’t care what time it is or what day of the week it is. If you have a question or a problem, the company is on call 24/7 to answer your questions.”
  • Outfitting drivers with professional tools helps instill a sense of pride for them, which helps enhance the employee experience as well.

Address the Customer’s Needs

Plan for and implement a path to reward a driver for other equipment or service generated during a delivery. Oftentimes, customers who need one product will need other products, too. Examples include a bedside commode, an elevated toilet seat, grab bars or linens for a hospital bed. A good starting price point is $10. Expect to see your cash sales and insurance billing increase immediately.

Assess Products, Profit and Opportunities

Keep in mind that it is not what you sell something for—the insurance companies have already decided that—it is what you buy it for from your supplier that determines profit. Have your vendors compete against each other until you get the best deal for your company. Loyalty is great but how far can you carry it—does it put money in the bank? Scooter dealers: Do not accept insurance; accept only cash or credit cards. You will need different models to be tested. Every customer will have their own ideas about what they want or need. Seat lift chair dealers: Insurance pays, if the customer qualifies: $264 if the customer has one insurance and $329 if the customer has two insurances. Insurance pays only for the lift mechanism in the chair. For example, if the customer wants a $600 chair and they have two insurances, insurance will pay $329, and the customer will be responsible for the rest. If the customer wants a $2,000 chair, insurance pays $329, and the customer will have to cover the rest of the cost. Choosing floor models based on a good-better-best scenario is a good strategy for presenting options to choosy customers. Look around for other business opportunities. Consider the VA, TRICARE, Paralyzed Veterans of America, hospice providers, your local or regional Council on Aging, various support groups, churches, vocational rehabilitation services, insurance companies and workers’ compensation providers. Diversify your business streams. Offering used equipment presents an added opportunity. There is a constant need for secondhand items.

Spread the Message, Raise Awareness

A program that you can take on the road presents a special opportunity for raising awareness. Prepare a 20-to-30-minute educational program and provide it free to all your local senior centers and other community organizations, such as a retired government employees group or Lions Club. For example, explore the topic of the role of mobility in living independently. Demonstrate proper use of various items of equipment—canes, walkers, rollators—and what the insurance qualifications are. Each community has its own senior center. Expect to spend time fielding questions after your presentation. People want answers to questions about bedside commodes, hospital beds, wheelchairs, cushions and more—plan to have all the answers. Keep business cards in the back of the room so you can become that community’s go-to company.