Moving the HME Industry Forward

Legislative/Advocacy

Get Out of the Bubble

December 23, 2013

SUNRISE, FL – The past several months have generated some interesting calls to my office from home care providers.  While the devastation we are experiencing from competitive bidding reaches its way throughout the industry, many companies have shown a sense of creativity that I see has been missing for so long.

Several company owners I have spoken with have never taken Medicare and have read very little about competitive bidding. And apparently from my conversations with them, they are not terribly interested. They are dedicated to meeting customer needs and improving their operations and their service and that’s about it.  

I kept thinking, what if no medical equipment provider ever took Medicare? Would people find a way to pay for our products and services?  I have noticed that the store where I buy my food does not take Medicare and they have found ways to increase their customer sales. The Walmart near my office does not take Medicare and I find it difficult to see an empty parking place near their store.

I saw a man in Best Buy a few weeks ago who was probably in his early 80s buying a 55-inch inch flat screen television and wanting to know if he could use his wifi with it. When I went to the Apple store in the mall not far from my home, I saw two elderly women in a class learning how to use their $499 Ipads!

OK, I know this is not about life saving products but every product we sell is not about saving a life. Have we had tunnel vision all these years?  I still believe we have products that make life easier, are full of exciting customer benefits and would be worthy of putting on your credit card! I think we may be working in a bubble and one in which we cannot seem to find our way out.

The Rooms to Go furniture retailer gives away a 32″ television with a certain bedroom set purchase. Maybe we need to give away a $25 Target gift card with the purchase of a seat lift chair.

I think we are missing something.  We are continually encouraged by our industry leaders to gather customer complaints and my small voice is here to encourage you to gather customers. Gathering complaints is the easy task. Working on developing a business environment that enhances customer sales is the hard part.  My long tenure in the industry, tells me history of government regulations has never been good to us.

We are fortunate to have dedicated resourceful business owners, but I am afraid I am not seeing enough of them. Those that are just continue to impress me. They are adding new product-lines, locating new products and changing their business model.

Remember, the customer has not been left the scene. They are still out there walking amongst us. They even have some money for new Ipads or the latest cell phone. How about enticing them to share some of that money for a new lift chair, bath safety product or an electric bed! Buy a bed, get a spread! Pick up your local newspaper. Go shopping in the mall and let your retail colleagues be your next great consultant.  

Whatever these large retailers have taught me they can teach you as well. But are you listening? Are you relating any of their retail business strategies to the operation of your own business. I am afraid that’s not what is happening from what I’ve seen.

If we continue to believe we are totally different from every other retail store, our neighbors will be buying wheelchairs at Home Depot where everyone will  a free $25 coupon to use on your next purchase of light bulbs or a Starbucks gift care.  Time to take off the blinders and get that thinking cap on! You may be running out of time.

Louis Feuer, MA, MSW, is president of Dynamic Seminars and the MEDCOMMENT CENTER, Sunrise, Fla.