Data Mining & Analytics: Putting Real Time Information to Work in Your Practice

Author: Geoff Troxel

Smart business owners know they need to measure everything – especially the customer experience. Without the necessary data, it can be incredibly difficult to make quick, informed decisions about the growth of your practice and the satisfaction of your patients. The primary focus of this article is to introduce audiologists to the use of third party firms that provide cloud-based data mining and analytics support for a practice. And, what to look for in a firm that provides data mining and analytic services. Let’s begin by examining the key touch points likely to lead to a more remarkable patient experience and how data mining tools can help practice owners make more precise decisions about how they manage their practices.

First Impression: Customer Acquisition
The first aspect of the customer experience is brand communication. This is your ability to make your community aware of your business and its values. A customer’s first impression of your business is critical, especially in the health care field. Data mining tools, which collect and analyze information about individuals that come into contact with your practice, not only identify which marketing and advertising efforts bring in the most patients, these cloud based tools can pinpoint which advertisements directly correlate to dispensing more hearing aids and services. Additionally, real time analytics can compare these efforts to the industry as a whole, against others in a practice’s specific region, and to the other hearing care clients across the country. This gives practice owners and managers a direct edge on the competition when it comes to finding new patients and dispensing more hearing aids.

More importantly, data mining and analytics also provide support when those patients first make contact with your practice. After seven to 10 years of living with hearing loss, when someone finally decides to pick up the phone and talk to your office, these cloud-based tools ensure that the phone call is handled exactly the way you want it to be handled.  Data mining and analytics help develop the phone skills of your front office staff and record 100% of all the phone calls – so that your employees are always held accountable for their performance. Further, these cloud-based tools then identify if each call was a real opportunity to set an appointment with a new hearing aid patient. If it was, did your staff set the appointment?  If they did set it, why did they set it?  If they did not set it, what happened? These critical metrics are automatically collected on an easy, streamlined online platform and displayed as conversion statistics. Data mining and analytics can help develop best practices to empower your front office to improve those conversion rates using data collected over time.

In order to track the success of your marketing campaigns, data mining and analytic tools should provide a local tracking number or a national toll-free telephone number to place in each individual advertising effort. By automatically tracking how many opportunities are generated by each campaign, these tools can provide a data-backed report card for your marketing, and eliminate the guesswork. These numbers – which might include vanity or repeater numbers - work across multiple formats, including direct mail, TV, radio, online, and more.

Once these branding and marketing initiatives start producing calls, an online report is automatically generated listing the number of calls coming from each advertising source and the peak times these calls are coming in, allowing managers to better manage these opportunities. If more customers are calling on a specific day or are responding more positively to a specific type of advertisement, you can reallocate resources and redistribute budgets accordingly. This type of data gives practice owners and managers direct insight into their patient’s experience with their brand. It allows them to build a brand personality using facts and live up to that image across all marketing avenues. When all of your marketing and customer communications are in sync, your practice will have a distinctive personality that makes your name and brand instantly recognizable and consistently identifiable over the years. This type of authentic and credible recognition is priceless to a practice.

For deeper insights, cloud-based data mining tools can analyze each of the incoming calls and determine which calls were truly qualified patients with a legitimate interest in hearing care, so that you can target the leads that matter. This additional data is quickly accessible via our simple online platform, allowing practice owners and managers to determine which marketing campaigns are producing true return-on-investment, stop wasteful spending on ineffective advertising and lower their cost per lead. By knowing the amount of total appointments generated by each marketing campaign, owners and managers can also position themselves more effectively when negotiating with certain advertising publishers.

Second Impression: Customer Satisfaction
Good brands offer great service. An effective data mining and analytics firm helps with patient satisfaction by giving offices a second chance to make a first impression. While analysts are assessing the quality of your leads, they are also hunting – in near-real time – for any calls representing a missed revenue opportunity or an unsatisfied customer. These missed opportunities are prospect calls that were lost due to employee error, an extended wait time or dropped due to poor connectivity. When analysts discover a prospect that can be saved, an alert is promptly triggered which includes the caller’s number, the reason the alert was sent, and the call recording – so management can quickly reach out and save the sale and the customer’s experience with your practice. It is surprising how many revenue opportunities are squandered, simply because a front office staff or clinician simply had a bad day over the phones. People are human and it is bound to happen, but a first-rate analytics firm works to ensure that it happens with much less frequency.

In order to help employees maintain a high level of performance, an effective data mining and analytics firm will grade the phone skills of your staff while reviewing a select number of incoming prospect calls. This objective scoring provides insights into which employees and which phone behaviors fall short of the brand experience that you’re looking to deliver in each call. If your staff members need the additional help, the data mining & analytics firm should help develop processes to empower your staff to succeed. Though call tracking is an establish standard in the audiology community, various firms have evolved their services to cater to the individual needs of the practice owner or manager to ensure that their needs are met.

If a practice is looking to establish a strong brand, they have to know what is going on in the heads of their patients. True patient insight helps a practice fulfill the needs of their patients without them even having to voice a concern. By combining real time customer data and industry insight, a practice can supercharge its marketing efforts and really make an impact on the patient experience. Data mining and analytic tools can give a practice insights that they would never get by simply asking their patients what they want.

The Lasting Impression: Customer Loyalty
Finally, once a data mining and analytics firm helps draw the patient to the location, helps with brand communication and lead conversion, and helps ensure the patient has a great experience, it should have a platform that enables staff – all the way down to a specific audiologist or front office team member - to receive online reviews.  Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of advertising, thus effective data mining and analytics firms give the patient a public forum to share their experience.  A data mining and analytics firm should make it easy for the patient to write a review and provide the “word of mouth” advertising that today’s practice really needs. 

As smartphone growth continues to grow, your online presence will play an even greater role in determining your company’s future bottom line. A cutting-edge review platform goes beyond simple online reputation management. A review platform also protects the profitability of your company by improving both the customer experience and your company culture by motivating your employees to outperform on every call and during every appointment. This directly leads to higher patient retention, greater exposure, and more sales.

With an effective review platform, your team is incentivized to do an amazing job with every patient in order to earn more positive online reviews. A review platform has the potential to promote healthy competition among your employees and directly leads to an increase in the quality of your service and the retention of your patients. The data mining and analytics firm should have a team that coaches your staff on the best techniques to get those great reviews. For a small business, this type of credible and authentic online promotion is critical to surviving and growing in a competitive marketplace.

A Brief Case Study
There are several firms that provide data mining and analytics to the hearing care industry. Let’s examine the proof of concept with a case study from one practice who is using one such firm.

When the phone rings, it’s music to a business owner’s ears. When it doesn’t, there’s stress and the very real possibility of failure. Dr. John Malan recounted this fundamental truth during a recent visit to the CallSource corporate office in Westlake, CA, this December. Dr. Malan maintains that data mining and analytics is one of the contributing factors to the continued success of his audiology franchise in California – the largest and most competitive hearing aid state in the country.

But Dr. Malan wasn’t always so sure about working with the firm.  When he first entered the audiology industry to help manage a collection of corporate offices, the sales performance of the company he worked for suffered dramatically.  There were at least five other audiology practices providing solid competition in the state and the options for growth were limited.  Dr. Malan knew he needed to make a change.  In his words, he needed to get “disruptive.” His idea was an unconventional one: offer free co-op marketing to a selection of his highest-performing offices statewide. Though the entire program could crash and burn at his feet, Dr. Malan knew that if it worked, he’d be able to discover the competitive advantage his business needed to thrive. He knew that it wasn’t just the amount of marketing a business engaged in, it was the quality of the marketing and the leads it produced that really mattered.

One of his representatives, Marianne, was unusually passionate about her customers’ success and offered her clients a variety of marketing solutions to test their impact on sales.  The problem, though, was that once these campaigns were set up, the only thing the office managers would say was, “We only got a handful of calls – your marketing didn’t work.”  There was no way to measure the ROI of any of their marketing campaigns or isolate why these campaigns were ineffective. Were the ads themselves ineffective? Were they attracting the wrong type of customer? Which of these marketing campaigns were actually producing the calls they did receive? That’s when CallSource entered the picture. 

As anyone in the industry can tell you, numbers are everything to a sales manager. If numbers are up, that’s good. If they’re down, you need to update your resume.  By using data mining and analytics, Marianne could monitor the true effectiveness of each office’s marketing campaigns – and she could present real numbers and statistics to each office to help them focus on the marketing bringing in the most leads. She could attribute actual value to each advertising effort and could track each incoming caller.

Through data mining and analytics, she saw that the hearing office actually got 50 calls and with the recordings, she discovered why the phone operator wasn’t converting them into sales.  Were they misdials?  Were they already customers?  Marianne and the practice dug into the data and listened to the calls and realized immediately that the true reason those 50 calls did not convert was due to human error.  These 50 opportunities had been squandered by an ineffective staff.

After listening to a few calls, the owner told Marianne, “I’m sick to my stomach.” They came to the conclusion that the receptionist was in dire need of additional training and had been the cause of a majority of the office’s missed opportunities. Despite all the hard work of running the business, this practice lost tens of thousands of dollars every month due to poor call handling.  Thanks to Marianne, this customer found sales where there had once been only losses – and Dr. Malan found the competitive edge he was looking for.  In his words, “My non-negotiable position now is that every marketing effort has to have data mining and analytics – no exceptions.” That information allowed Dr. Malan to restructure his marketing initiatives and better manage his staff to really produce results.

In 2012, Dr. Malan got the chance to go into business for himself.  In 2014, as a business owner with a thriving practice, Dr. Malan still reviews the data and analytics reports and listens to the calls that didn’t end in sales, with his staff for training.  Though uncomfortable at times, the results speak for themselves.  He has a stronger team and higher sales because of it and expects to continue that trend for many years.

The cost of acquisition for a new customer can be shocking to a lot of clinics.  Many offices either do not know their cost of acquisition, or they think it is much lower than it actually is. According to research, the average cost of acquiring a new customer is $880.  A dashboard that collects data from your practice will enable you to look at your advertising and know that with certain campaigns your cost may be as low as $400 or $500, and with others as high as $1,000 or more.  Armed with this real time data from your practice, you know where to spend advertising dollars in the future and you can lower your overall costs of customer acquisition.  You will start spending money in the right places more often and get a much higher return on money invested on marketing in your practice.  A dashboard will provide data in context, so that a manager or owner can make quicker, better, and more informed decisions in real time.  Now is the time for audiologists to embrace the use of data mining and analytics to make informed decisions about their practice.    
Geoff Troxel is the National Account Manager for Call Source. He can be contacted at