Competition in the hearing care market is becoming fierce and the smell of desperation is in the air. Don’t get me wrong, healthy competition in the marketplace is fantastic for you, the consumer and drives innovation between competitors.
My concern is that some of the competition are using unfair tactics, that not only affects other competitors, but may be misleading to you as you are not getting what you think you are paying for. Later on I’ll give you a few tips on how to identify these marketers and how to avoid being misled but first…
How am I potentially being Misled?
There are a few common tactics used by this new breed of hearing aid retailer:
The want you to believe they are bigger and more stable than they actually are
Many of these companies have barely been in existence for a year, sometime less. Some of them however report having served thousands of satisfied clients, yet have very few testimonials to show for it. Many of them show national presence, yet they have a couple of their own clinics at most, if any at all.
They seem to want to make you believe they have discounted their pricing
Most of these providers appear to use what is called “Strike through pricing” on their websites when showing hearing aid prices. Strike through pricing is where a higher price has a line drawn through it and a lower price is shown. This may make you believe that they are selling the hearing aids cheaper than they used to and according to the ACCC: “Misleading prices may include: a ‘before’, ‘was’ or ‘strike through’ price that is not the price those items were sold for in a reasonable period immediately before the sale period started”. You may read the ACCC’s policies on this practice here.
In most cases, these providers have never sold their hearing aids at the strike through prices.
They often are not the company you are going to be dealing with once you purchase hearing aids from them!
Most of these clinics make use of affiliates or partners in their “networks” and they are often no more than lead generation services for these “networks”. They use various terms to describe their clinics such as “our clinics”, “our network” or “Our Practitioners”. We are aware of one such retailer, who is completely honest about the fact that they make use of clinics, not owned by them, which is commendable. Others seem to actively try and hide the fact, which makes you wonder why. I’ll show you later in this article how to easily identify when they are using clinics that aren’t their own.
They want you to believe that you will receive the same outcome as at other “real” independent clinics
A hearing aid retailer or any service professional can only control and guarantee the level of expertise and care for services delivered by their own staff. Many of these new online hearing aid advertisers claim many satisfied clients, yet have very little to show in terms of reviews or testimonials.
The fact is that, apart from a handful of their own clinics, local to their head offices (if any at all), the rest of their “network” is made up of several different hearing aid clinics, going by names that are not the same as the online service. These providers weren’t picked due to the quality of service they provide or for their expertise, despite claims that they were. In fact, many of these online companies appear to have difficulty getting clinics to join their networks. So they tend to use clinics that have just started and need a source of new clients or older clinics that are desperate for clients. So despite their claims of x years of service and accreditation there is no way that you can know what level of outcome you will get if you respond to one clinic’s marketing, but end up going to another clinic.
To make matters worse, these “network” clinics, don’t receive the whole amount you were quoted by these online providers. They often have to pay substantial referral fees to these online providers. This means that they make less from people referred via these sites that from their own clients, as the profit is shared. So one has to wonder if the level of service provided to a less profitable client will be as good as it can be….
Other issues that may result in less than optimal outcome for you
- Even though they might appear to have a national network, these locations are often not linked. So you can’t just assume that you can go from one clinic in their network to another and get the same services covered. This is because they are often different clinics with different owners and only one was paid by you or the referring site. There is at least one of these providers that have signed up a large retail hearing aid chain, where the services will be honoured.
- If you do purchase hearing aids from them online instead of purchasing at the partner clinic, then who takes responsibility for the hearing aids if something goes wrong? The online site or the clinic that was simply paid to fit the hearing aid to you?
How to easily spot these online providers?
- They all seem to use Strike through prices on their hearing aids prices, which are freely visible on their websites
- They all advertise multiple locations (between 12 and 100+ in some cases)
- When you look closer at the location details, not all locations have addresses connected to them. This is a dead giveaway that that particular clinic is not owned by them. They do this so you can’t bypass them and go straight to the clinic, otherwise they lose their referral fee.
While this type of business model might be appealing to some, you need to ask yourself, are the potential savings worth the risk of a less than optimal outcome?
Your alternative is staying with independent clinics that have full control over the quality of their services and have plenty of proof of exceptional client outcomes, while still paying much less than at the larger hearing aid retailers.