No matter what current Medicare policy says, wheelchair and scooter users cannot be truly mobile and independent unless they can easily and safely venture beyond their homes and into their communities. Doing that often requires adaptive automotive equipment ranging from wheelchair and scooter ramps and lifts all the way to driving controls for adapted vehicles.
Today’s funding and policy challenges may cause mobility dealers and rehab suppliers to look for expansion opportunities — and automotive access could be a natural extension. Or is it? We asked a sampling of manufacturers for their opinions on how a supplier can determine whether the automotive accessibility road is a good one to try.
Q: What factors should a supplier consider when considering an expansion into automotive access?
A: Greg Moll, Roll-A-Ramp — There are a few critical issues to think about when looking into diversification into auto access. One: To what extent do I want to get into that niche? Are they wanting to get involved to the point of actually doing vehicle modification, or to a lesser extent with a product not requiring modifications? Two: Capability of doing adequate evaluations. The single most important thing is a properly done evaluation of the situation. Three: Start on a lesser complex level. There are products out there that require no modification or alteration of the vehicle. Some require no special or costly certifications to get into (to) start selling and installing the product.
A: Peter Hillcoff, Automobility — HME suppliers have to diversify to succeed. They have to look after all of their customers’ needs.
A: Cy Corgan, Silver Star Mobility/Pride Mobility Products — Expanding business to include more diverse product lines should be viewed as a natural extension of the provider’s core goal of providing the complete mobility solution. Despite changes in the industry, providers that will continue to have the most success will be those that offer more options to their clients.
Q: Think about your most successful automotive access dealers. Do they have any traits in common? What are they doing right regarding selling, marketing, education/training, etc.? Are certain dealers “pre-disposed” to success in this niche?
A: Peter Hillcoff, Automobility — Successful dealers are always looking for new opportunities… If a dealer is considering expanding into automotive access, (they need to) do their homework, look at the products they can get into, the training required to be successful at it, the market and the competition.
A: Cy Corgan, Silver Star Mobility/Pride Mobility Products — Merchandising matters. It is very important for the provider to have a lift on display to demonstrate to the customer how easy it is to use the lift… Exhibiting competence and confidence is crucial. Successful providers document their installations and collect customer testimonials to share with potential customers.
A: Greg Moll, Roll-A-Ramp — The common trait among our successful dealers is the commitment to sell the right product for the situation. Selling a product is easy; selling the product that suits the customer’s situation is tougher and takes more time. The result? A satisfied customer who is a valuable referral source. The opposite can be an improperly sold product you may have to de-install and return — and possibly a bad referral source. There is no dealer who likes that option. The dealers who properly complete the process have a return ratio of almost zero.