Manufacturer representatives


#21

While I would LOVE to have manufacturers’ reps here, I just wonder if all would be equal in terms of knowledge, communication skills and even TIME to log in and post.

We are an ideal body of users, and I know that if I was an audi, or in marketing for a HA maker, I’d be HERE getting feedback on my company’s devices as well as monitoring the competition - but then, I’ve always been hungry for that kind of info.

I’ve had a few questions about new aids, but since I don’t use any phone apps, no “bugs” to speak of. I also agree with ConZ27’s comments about being respectful and not toxic when it comes to sharing some of the issues we may be grappling with.

It could be a wonderful POSITIVE if done right. But there is a possibility of over-representation by more aggressive reps vs under-representation by others, and that could skew people’s future buying decisions.


#22

I think that aggressive reps can be handled by the moderators on the forum. There needs to be a mechanism to distinguish official manufacturer/rep accounts from regular user accounts. If that exists, those accounts can be restricted to specific forums thereby putting in controls for over-representation and we can control how many of those accounts exist on the forum. For example, there can be 10 official accounts per manufacturer with a maximum of X posts per day on forums A, B, C, D.

OT: Just to point out, BugZilla and Redmine can be used to track New Feature requests as well. We can also use those tools to up-vote/down-vote new feature requests, add details on how we’d like user experience to work, attach screenshots, and etc … Each issue has its own dedicated comments section much like this forum where discussion can be held about that specific issue. You can literally see the history of the issue from conception to delivery. Software Development tools are very useful for this kind of thing!


#23

All great feedback! I am open to ideas on how to make this productive for both manufacturers and forum participants. I think both parties could benefit, but we’d need to set some ground rules so both sides feel safe coming to the table.


#24

One thing that would be good to clarify is what kind of questions manufacturers would be comfortable answering. I would think priority would be unresolved support issues. Would be nices, but I’m not sure if it would be feasible would be product release info and general technical info. Stuff like a little info on cpu. What parts are generic and what are specific to the product. I doubt they’d want to share that, but I don’t get why not.


#25

I see two trains of thought, and think this would be a great idea to spur customer loyalty and improved telecare.

1 One to ask technical questions, bug report and beta test, and
2 the other for general support questions and press releases.

Looking at online website comparables, Facebook and Twitter have great CRM interfaces to allow individual support, which isn’t really suited for this site but well suited for option 2. Looking at stackoverflow and GitHub, they are well suited for option 1 but not so much for option 2. This forum does a great job of sharing information among those who need support from peers, advice how to handle hearing aids, and for technical questions. The closest comparable I can think of in a forum environment facilitating business to consumer interaction is Reddit. Reddit has subforums managed by the company themselves and answers questions publicly, but quickly transfers to phone or private messages if additional support is needed. These subforums usually have a sticky outlining rules of conduct and general FAQs to encourage good questions while the bad ones are moderated out by the company or Reddit. I’ve linked to such one example run by Comcast Xfinity

Looking forward to hashing out a standard that works for businesses with minimal overhead. It may be wise to first engage one manufacturer and few key end users here that are forward thinking and collaborate together with both business and end user perspective to formulate this structure that works for all. Perhaps the audiologists here can use their connections to create a two way dialogue for this opportunity.


#26

One concern I have is the inevitable subjects of DIY programming and buying online. Although they’ve been turning a blind eye on these issues, with forum users forcing these issues on them for answers, I wonder if there may be negative repercussions on them clamping down on both of these areas that would be a lose-lose proposition to the end users.


#27

I think that would be a topic best avoided. They can’t possibly support it and we shouldn’t push the issue. These are medical devices after all.


#28

MDB: And yet really…they’re just an engineered audio processing computer. Sure…lots of smarts but that’s what computers do. And I’m willing to pay for those smarts. But are eye-glasses medical devices?
Isn’t the FDA up to some disrupting shenanigans these days too? How did they manage to get classed as “medical devices” in the first place?
I think the business is due a shake up. We all shake our heads in disgust at the obscene prices of these things.
I think it should be more a la carte. Pay a fee for an objective hearing test. Pay a consulting fee to a hopefully objective “expert” for their opinion on which product best fits your needs from the test. Buy the device that you like or choose to afford. Pay a fee for setting up. Pay a fee for adjustments. Buy insurance. Buy programming gear and DIY. Maybe have package deals for some or all of those things (basically what we have now) with itemized prices so that one could shop and compare.


#29

I think we’re preaching to the choir here because we all want lower prices and self programming if we wish to do so. What I want to avoid is having users bringing these issues up. Although we may know better not to, somebody else will inevitably do so. Then the mfg will start requiring validation before they let people download their programming softwares and firmware updates. And clamp down on warranty issues with online purchases, etc.


#30

Yes, having a good idea that DIY happens is not the same as being seen to openly support it on a forum. The first DIY question would result in just that sort of clamp down response.


#31

I by no means claim to be an expert on this. Both eyeglasses and hearing aids are regulated by the FDA, but my take is that hearing aids have a higher level of regulation. I don’t know the history, but I’m guessing like a lot of regulations that impact certain professions that professional groups had a lot to do with it. I think there are upsides. I don’t think anybody without any kind of medical eval should be able to buy hearing aids.

I think when you look at this from a medical device perspective, it blows people away that somebody would do this on a DIY basis. The medical model has the professional pick the device for you. I don’t think many people have much say in which pacemaker or joint implant they get.

Anyway, I think the public stance the manufacturers have to take is that they don’t support this. At the same time, they appreciate any extra business so are not eager to restrict things. I can think of several ways to handle this. If somebody asks a DIY related question, the manufacturer could just flag it and admin could remove the question. The forum could also have some question screening group that reviews questions before they are submitted.


#32

╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
┻━┻ ︵ ヽ(°□°ヽ)
┻━┻ ︵ \( °□° )/ ︵ ┻━┻
ಠ_ಠ DIY-ers.
ಠ__ಠ Put.
ಠ___ಠ The tables.
ಠ____ಠ Back!
ಠ_____ಠ NOW! (╮°-°)╮┳━┳ ┳━┳ ┳━┳ ┳━┳

Big corporations don’t work like this. Their senior techs are burning the candle at both ends. They don’t have the time, or the inclination to talk to the peanut gallery. We might get to talk to a junior tech but they will be restricted as to what they can talk about. More likely we will be talking to public relations and they will say things like this or that device will be available in mid November. I believe those of you with sugar plums dancing in your heads about a new relationship with the manufacturers will be disappointed.


#33

Be careful what you ask for. If glasses and HAs were not considered medical devices they would not have a Zero rating on HST. Imagine paying the HST on those.

I would say that the medical device designation follows the controlled acts. This is how it is spelled out in Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/91r18#BK24
And scroll down a little to section 31 in the link.


#34

I would agree that there is no real incentive to answer geeky technical questions. I do think there is motivation to resolve customer service issues on a public forum. I’ve certainly had that experience with other companies where I hit a brick wall when talking to customer service. Post it on social media and all of a sudden they’re ready to make it right. I think that’s a reasonable expectation.


#35

I’m in favor of inviting them manufacturers, but I’m not in favor inviting them with the expectation that this site is going to be a vehicle for customer support as a parallel to the phone numbers, email addresses, or other means they already provide.

I’ve been in forums where manufacturers are present in the forum. It usually has been extremely useful. In my experience, it worked best when the manufacturers were given the choice of how they’d participate. Concretely, this meant that representatives were contributing to threads as they saw fit, rather than them being expected to participate on the site as if they were answering the emails or the phone calls made to customer support.

There’s been discussion of having a highly formal Q&A or ticket system be added to the site. I don’t think it has much chance of being a great boon:

  • Manufacturers that are really on top of things service-wise most certainly already have a system that they use to track tickets. Why on earth should they use some outside system that will most likely not be trivial to integrate to what they already use?

  • The more potential there is for users helping other users directly, the more potential for manufacturers who don’t care that much about customer service to direct people to this site and away from their own in-house resources in order to reduce their own support costs. As stupid as this strategy is, some tech companies play this game from time to time on Stack Overflow. It never ends well: the site regulars are unhappy, the users who were seeking help are unhappy, and the company looks bad, but that does not stop them.

  • Add HIPAA rules into the mix, and what can and cannot be handled in public becomes problematic.


#36

Volusiano: But they’ve made their money…the device is sold. Sure the fitter may lose a small niche of the market but a great many people wouldn’t want to bother with diy.
MDB: Ah but the hearing aid, like glasses, is rather easier to remove and replace yourself. :slight_smile:
pvc: Ever the realist. :slight_smile: I guess that’s why you voted against the idea. I think you’ve nailed it.
HalfEar: I wasn’t saying I wish they were NOT regulated. Just wondering why. Sure in this case there’s a benefit to them being regulated.
MDB again: That is something that has always really bugged me. Why must the customer take it all public just to get satisfaction of what the company really should have done as a decency to begin with. Oh right…profit and optics.


#37

To gain more information and feedback? If you think about it, they are usually dealing with the provider, not the end user. The provider is a filter for information in both directions.

Think about who decides if someone could be better treated with a cochlear implant or surgery?


#38

HalfEar: Oh my. I’m in complete agreement to get some professional medical attention to find options to deal with hearing issues. Of course.
I wonder if the process of hearing aids is a lot like glasses though. I see a lot of parallels.
I wrote a whole long thing but then thought maybe I’m wandering off topic…again :slight_smile:


#39

The big difference is that with glasses the patient knows if what they are seeing is blurry and if they have a really good outcome. With hearing aids the end result is not as easy to determine - do you hear speech well, is music ok, can you hear in noise and even if it is better than before could it be better still? It will never be “normal” again.


#40

The manufactures would just muddy the waters