What audiology can offer

OT  speaks to audiologist Geoffrey Cooling who will present at the annual Optix conference next month

Geoffrey Cooling

Audiologist Geoffrey Cooling (pictured) will provide a one-hour talk during the three-day Optix conference, which will be held at Celtic Manor in Newport next month (25–27 March). He speaks to OT about his Audiology: a natural market for opticians talk

Why should opticians consider offering audiology services? 

There are a lot of synergies between independent opticians and audiology as a service offering. There is a huge crossover in the demographics, for example.

I think audiology as a service within independent opticians makes a huge amount of sense in today’s environment if they are going to continue to be successful. We all know that if someone goes to a large High Street opticians for a hearing aid, they may not return to their independent opticians for their glasses. Therefore, for independent opticians to protect their own business moving forward, some sort of audiological involvement makes sense.

How should independent opticians introduce audiology to their business?

I think for larger independents that have five or six practices, for example, there is definitely the possibility for them to be able to offer audiological services themselves. While for smaller independents with just one branch, it probably wouldn’t be viable for them to start offering the service themselves. Therefore, they may want to explore finding a partner who it can offer the service through. 

In terms of deciding which approach is best for a business, I think it is a simple mathematical scale based on the demographic of a businesses database, the number of practices it has and the cost of staff required to deliver the service.

For the smaller practices looking to go down the partnership route, I would advise them to be very careful about who they partner with for two reasons. The first is because it is their own brand that will be damaged if they partner with the wrong person or organisation. Secondly, if they partner with someone and their patients also become their partner’s patients, if the partnership is terminated they could take those patients to another opticians.

I think audiology as a service within independent opticians makes a huge amount of sense in today’s environment if they are going to continue to be successful

 

Are there any pitfalls that independent opticians should be aware of when introducing audiology services in to practice?

One thing that I will be trying to get across during my talk is that providing audiology services are very different from providing optical services. You have to consistently put time and effort into the audiology offering and I have seen opticians previously not factor this in. Hearing aids are harder than they look.

What tips would you give an independent opticians thinking about introducing audiology services? 

  1. Be careful about your brand 
  2. Identify the demographic within your database that you want to reach
  3. Introduce people to the service as an add-on.

What is the key message that you want delegates to take away from your talk at the Optix conference? 

I want delegates to walk away knowing that the audiology model is already broken – consumers do not necessarily like the offering as it is – so they should try it their way. Plus, if they are going to partner with someone, they should make sure it’s the right partner for them.