Jordan Leopold was with Costco Wholesale for over 24 years first on the West Coast and then the East Coast where he first was introduced to the Hearing Aid industry over 8 years ago. He spent over 6 years as a Regional Manager overseeing the day to operations of the Hearing Aid Centers in the SE region of the United States. Thank you to Jordan for offering a unique perspective on Big Box competition….
Greetings Hearing Health Care Professionals! I reached out to Dr. Gyl recently and thought I could help shed some thoughts on what can be done to continue to grabbing your piece of the very large pie of people who need your help! This is more of a “footnote” to Dr. Gyl’s blog about keeping up with Costco.
I spent many years at Costco managing many Hearing Aid Centers and with the folks inside of Sam’s. Obviously these 2 Big Box providers are not going anywhere. Typically, they do a very good job of offering a great value. Costco certainly has the lowest prices of the best quality hearing aids. They carry most of the big name manufacturers much like you sell. Your price is obviously higher as no one buys as many hearing aids as Costco.
Let me move on to where I hope some of my points can help you.
- I would first have to say, never bad mouth the competition. Your patients are not naive. They know they have choices and they might have already been to Costco, or probably know someone that bought at Costco, you can never win by negative comments about any competitor. Costco trains all their folks very well and they all get licensed.
- “The Experience” is going to be very important. You need to provide your patient with the best care and Experience you can! You already know that, never let your guard down there. Gyl mentioned the environment at Costco, she is right! It’s usually a VERY busy place, very noisy. Most of the folks that do need hearing aids don’t even want to really go there just to try and find a parking spot and fight the crowds. You automatically beat Costco there, if not, something is definitely wrong.
- When someone is talking about going to Costco, what is the next thing in your arsenal? Appointments! Costco’s ARE very busy, no doubt about it, but how many folks can walk right up with no Appointment and: A) Get a test, B) Get fitted or C) Get their aids serviced? In 90% of their locations, that just simply won’t happen. During snowbird seasons, waits can be 4 weeks! You have to sell your practice here! YOU will be there for your patients; YOU can fit them in when needed. THEY will not see someone different every time they come in (typically I imagine that is the case). Let your patient know THEY are making this lifelong commitment with YOU! The Costco folks move around a bit, if there are new opportunities, they will transfer somewhere else. Ask them if that is worth the price difference? A lifelong commitment which is going to change their lives needs a Partner with their new investment!
- Most of you may not know that Costco does not stock all their hearing aids onsite. This means, if you are buying a hearing aid other than the Kirkland model, (i.e. Phonak or Resound- that they do sell quite a bit) you now have to Schedule another appointment just for the fitting! This is another wait that may not have been planned on for this Experience. This might be another 2-3 weeks for the delivery appointment of their hearing aids. Once again, this is not the case everywhere, so it could be a good idea to do your homework for your area so you do know what you can tell your patient.
I hope some of these points and conversation pieces give you something to think about and help you with patients that are using Costco prices as a reason to purchase there. It really boils down to what I call the 2 “R’s”. As you are either building your business, or have been in the business a while like Dr. Gyl, one of the most important things you will ever have is your Reputation! The Patient Experience is and will always be crucial. From when they walk in, until you have gone over their results, perhaps done the on-ear demo or they are happily walking out with a much improved life! This Reputation will stay with you and your patient’s Experience forever which is crucial to your business! The next “R” is very important! Referrals will come if you have made a positive lasting impression on your patient! They will tell someone else to either go to you, or why they should pick you over Costco. You can never beat Free advertising! That will be your well deserved reward! The competitor will always be out there, the piece of the pie of folks that need your help is VERY large! Do the right things and you will share it with the competition!