How to Create a Top-Performing Compression Services Team

Patient compliance and satisfaction hinges on understanding their frustrations and gaining their trust through a mix of thorough product knowledge and attentive customer service. How can your team implement that?

It’s no secret that compression is a growing market with the potential to help any HME provider build a clientele dedicated to reordering product, particularly if they are well-educated about the benefits that compression therapy can bring to their lives. But the road to creating an expert team of fitters is not always clear, especially as providers must compete with online sellers and Amazon for clients’ attention.

While it’s crucial for fitters to learn as much as possible about garments and measuring, that’s not all that goes into building a top-shelf compression services team. Patients also appreciate if the provider has some understanding of their underlying conditions and gives them personalized attention during their consultation.

Providers have reported that patients often come in with negative views of compression therapy, either because they had purchased products that did not fit properly or because they were not fully educated on how to wear their socks or sleeves. Therefore, it is imperative to hear out the patient’s frustrations and gain their trust through a mix of thorough product knowledge and attentive customer service.

Consistently earning the trust and compliance of compression clients makes providers attractive to referral partners, ensuring a steady stream of customers heading to the provider. But as many providers were forced to close in-person visits due to COVID-19, their loyal customer bases were critical in maintaining margins through reorders. For this reason, HMEs must shore up these relationships.

BUILDING PATIENT TRUST

Relationship-building between providers and patients is crucial to every provider business, but particularly in the compression services sector. While customers could find instructions to measure their own legs online or buy cheaper products online, they would lack the type of education and assurance that a professional fitter can provide in-store.

In turn, it’s the provider’s job to demonstrate the value of ordering from their business rather than another provider or online seller. The main difference is the provider’s level of expertise and willingness to educate, said Sydel Howell, who found her passion for compression in 2011 as the chief operating officer of San Diego Homecare Supplies.

“You cannot expect to grow a compression business by having thousands of dollars of compression on the wall and handing a person a box. It’s never going to take off – never, never, never,” Howell said. “You have to lay hands and put it on their body, and not be afraid to show the patient how to use all the accessories.”

Howell has learned how to be compassionate but honest with her customers. She is not willing to sell people with lymphedema a sheer garment just because they want it and technically fit into the stocking because these patients need “tough love” to follow their therapy regimen, Howell said.

“A lot of times, people don’t want to tell the patients something they don’t want to hear,” Howell said. “But when you can be honest with them and they trust that you know what the hell you’re doing, they’ll believe you and say, ‘OK,’ especially after they get the right garment.”

Howell’s hands-on approach has been difficult to recreate through virtual calls during the COVID-19 era, but her customer base has been responsive to her team’s reorder calls because they want to support the business, she said.

EDUCATION AND EXPERTISE

Once providers have shown the ability to build relationships with clients, therapists and surgeons are next up on the list. Many doctors do not have time to explain the ins and outs of compression with their patients, entrusting providers with the duty to educate their customers on how to wear their garments and why their therapy is beneficial in the long and short term.

At San Diego Homecare Supplies, Howell’s team of fitters spend a lot of time with patients in the fitting room talking about their condition, their past experiences with compression and success stories of clients who have experience immediate improvement in their every day lives. Each fitter comes equipped with a similar speech to ensure that every patient receives similar education about the lymphatic system, among other topics.

“The number one reason why people wear compression is education,” Howell said. “It’s not how good it looks; it’s not how it fits. They have to understand why they are wearing it, what they can expect from it and the results they’re going to get from it.”

When one of her newer fitters reports that they are having an issue with a client, such as not wanting to try on a sock in store, Howell responds by listening to the patient and allowing them to relax. By regaining the patient’s trust in the moment, Howell is also able to show her employee that they will be able to do the same as they gain more experience in the position.

“What we’re selling is not a commodity, even though the internet tries to treat it as such,” Howell said. “What we’re selling is our expertise in our service and experience. You can’t learn that in a class. You just have to do it and be able to learn.”

CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS: PASSION

It remains important for providers to attend compression fitter classes, seek new product knowledge through training sessions with manufacturers and learn more about the common conditions experienced by patients. But Howell cites a common characteristic among successful compression provider businesses: passion.

The business is not easy by any means, she said, and providers often deal with very difficult situations, including very sick patients and clients who don’t want to listen to advice on therapy compliance. But it’s all worth it when fitters can see positive results in real-time due to their intervention.

“I think the passion comes from knowing the amount of difference that the right sock and the right arm sleeve can make,” Howell said. “And when you have that passion, you want to know how you can help people even more.”

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Compression services providers have an opportunity to build a loyal customer base if patients are properly educated about how to wear their garments and can see the positive results of compliance.
  • Fitters must develop a wide range of skills in order to connect with patients and improve therapy compliance rates, including the development of product expertise and knowledge of patients’ underlying conditions.
  • To stand apart from online sellers, providers with in-person locations must show a commitment to spending time with patients and working through previous frustrations with compression.
  • Relationship-building is key to ensuring that customers reorder, even during times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

LEARN MORE

For newer teams, SIGVARIS (sigvaris.com) offers basic fitter courses in addition to a specialist training course. Juzo Academy (juzoacademy.com) also provides web tutorials and in-person courses on everything from measuring to compression for lymphedema and lipedema.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Haley Samsel is the Associate Content Editor of HME Business and Mobility Management.

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