As an independent practice owner with four practices based across Coventry, Suresh Munyal (pictured) first introduced audiology services to his business more than two decades ago.
However, partnerships with two providers subsequently failed and for a number of years the optometrist shied away from providing audiology services. “It was definitely a case of once bitten twice shy,” Mr Munyal told OT.
Earlier this year, Mr Munyal entered into an agreement with The Hearing Care Partnership and today offers hearing care in all four of his Eyesite Eyecare Centres.
When did you first introduce audiology services and why?In the past we have tried offering hearing care through different companies on two occasions. The first company came to us completely green and had very little client base – it was a company that was not affiliated with many opticians – but we decided to try it. However, what we found was that they didn’t really understand how we worked and we felt that they were a little too heavy on the sale.
As an NHS provider ourselves, we feel duty bound to inform a patient of their options so they can make a choice. We didn’t feel that was happening with the first company, so we parted ways after a relatively short period of time.
A number of years later a company that is part-optical, part-hearing approached us and we agreed to try it again. However, once again, it didn’t feel completely comfortable so we parted ways.
You introduced audiology through The Hearing Care Partnership earlier this year. Why did you decide to try offering audiology once more?CEO of The Hearing Care Partnership, Ryan Leighton, approached me directly and said that he felt we could work well together. I shared my previous experiences and he proposed a three-month trial, after which if we were not happy with the result, we could part ways. I liked the idea of having a relationship that had an end date and a relationship that if it was not going well, there was a protocol in place to say thank you but no thank you.
We began offering free hearing tests to our patients and, while they were enthusiastic and positive about the service, no sales were made. When we realised that we may not earn from the service we decided to look at it from a different angle.
How did patients respond to the new service?
As an independent business, we want hugs and kisses from our customers. What I mean by this is that we want our customers to say thank you for recommending that, we really liked it. And that is what they did.
However, a month or so into offering the service, I learnt that there had actually been a lot of activity happening in the background. Patients were purchasing their hearing care through the service and we had done particularly well.
What makes The Hearing Care Partnership the right fit for Eyesite Eyecare Centres?It’s very easy with this company because the range of products it offers is large, the quality of the service is high, ongoing care and consideration for the patient is offered, and the patient has the opportunity to return the product if they don’t like it.
We have four practices and we have an audiologist who spends one day a week in each. This means that if there is a query, she is available. We also have a domiciliary eye care service, and we can offer domiciliary hearing care through this model too.
What would you say to those considering introducing hearing care?It’s really simple: make sure that the whole team – you, the optometrist, the dispensing optician and the optical assistant – is a good fit for the hearing care company coming in to be your partner. If you are partnering with someone who has a different style to you, you won’t be happy and it won’t work.
And remember, it’s not just about which company, it’s about which audiologist as well.