Provider refocuses, reaps rewards

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ERIE, Pa. – A push to boost retail paid off for Great Lakes Home Healthcare Services in September when it doubled its cash sales.

“Reimbursement is declining so we are focusing on cash business,” said Laurie Schneider, senior vice president, marketing and business development.

Over the past year, the provider has remodeled its Erie facility, retrained employees and reconsidered its product offerings.

“The showroom is more user-friendly,” said Schneider. “We have a central customer service area for patients who have appointments and funnel everyone through the main showroom to (fitting rooms or educational sessions).”

Products are grouped by category and impulse items are stocked alongside prescribed products. For example, the provider caters to a bariatric population and in addition to carrying protein supplements, it offers special tumblers to mix the product in. The provider also developed take-away product cards for customers that serve a similar purpose.

“I think we’re getting better at trying to let patients know what products can go with other products,” said Schneider.

Another cash sales driver is monthly promotions. For National Diabetes Month in November, the provider offered a 10% discount on diabetes accessories.

The new emphasis on cash sales has meant a big change in philosophy, said Schneider. For too long, the industry has had an “insurance mentality,” she said. Employees attended a daylong program that involved role-playing exercises to learn “up-sell” techniques.

“People are not comfortable with that concept,” said Schneider. “They feel like they are being pushy, but what they don’t understand is that customers don’t know they might need this. You aren’t making them buy anything, you are just making them aware.”