Any 10 patients will give you 10 different preferences for HME support. Multiply that by the thousands of patients an online DME company serves, and you see the challenge facing Moshe Blinder.
"Some feel comfortable via telephone, some are interested in only working via e-mail," said Blinder, owner and president of DiscountSurgical.com. "Some want chatting. Some only want the Internet."
That's why Blinder uses a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep track of patients' preferred contact methods and to buy history and demographic information.
"Brick-and-mortars have the ability to have a customer come into the shop," said Blinder. "Online, that relationship is removed. (CRM) isn't only about marketing, it's about relationship."
CRM isn't just designed for big online companies; it's also a valuable tool for the smallest of providers who still have patient information stored in paper files.
"When someone has all their information in paper files, it's hard to stay in touch," said Lisa Wells, director of marketing for UroMed and an avid CRM user. "Businesses who adopt CRM tend to be more efficient and responsive."
Whether you opt for CRM software installed at your office or a tool accessed through the Internet, Wells said implementation can be fairly simple. If you're starting with patient information in paper files, "you can hire a college kid to do the data entry," she said.
Wells said installed CRM software can be found for under $500 per year. The most significant challenge may be training your people to use it, Wells said, and making sure they do so properly.
"You have to get people excited about the solution," she said. "You have to help them understand that the more you know about your customer, the better you can serve them."