Seventy-four-year-old Ron Bakley wasn’t expecting a delivery. To his surprise, he opened his door and found a package containing a bottle of wine on the front stoop. It was from Miracle-Ear, his hearing aid partner.
The delivery was part of a well-executed joke that injected a bit of fun into the frequently dreary days of living in the time of COVID-19. Miracle-Ear employee Sherry Amato had sent Bakley an email earlier to check in and see how he was doing and if he needed anything. Bakley responded in jest: “I need a couple bottles of Cabernet!!!”
“The next thing I know, I get this bottle of wine in the mail,” Bakley said. “She took a joke and turned it into reality, and I was very impressed. They’ve been so nice. I have nothing but the utmost praise for (Amato) and Miracle-Ear.”
The story is the perfect example of what Miracle-Ear views as a major strength and source of pride: its genuine camaraderie with patients.
During normal times, that means having the opportunity to develop long-term connections with customers who come in regularly to get their hearing aids cleaned and serviced for free. With just two to three employees in each store and customers coming in upward of four times a year, it isn’t unusual for employees to know and ask about how a customer’s family is doing or about major events in their lives, such as weddings and births.
“We’re seeing our patients on a regular basis, and we know them very personally,” said Michael Gatto, a vice president and co-owner of six Miracle-Ear locations in Ocean County and Monmouth County. “If somebody has a hardship, we try to send them something: flowers, a card, things like that, because we’re close to them, and they tell us all this stuff.”
As coronavirus-related concerns led to limits on in-store visits, Miracle-Ear employees naturally wanted to see how their customers — who are often older adults and at high risk of complications from the virus — were coping.
“We sent an email out to everybody and said we wanted to check in and see how they’re doing, saying, ‘If you need anything, please let us know. We’d be happy to do anything to make your life easier, such as picking up some groceries for you, filling prescriptions, delivering food,’” Gatto said.
The response was tremendous.
“Most of it was just, ‘Hey, everything’s OK, but I really appreciate it.’ But we did also have some people who were in a pinch,” Gatto said. “There was one woman who was in a car accident at the end of February. Her car was totaled, and because of (the coronavirus), she wasn’t able to go out and get a new car. She’s close with one of our reps in Toms River, and she went out and picked up some basic needs that she had at the store and brought them over to the house.”
He also shared a few other stories of employees who stepped in, either to help or simply to make customers’ days brighter. One employee, for example, prepared a hot breakfast for a customer who drives trucks and had lamented that the restaurants where he usually stops off on the road have been closed due to the coronavirus.
“(The situation) gives our employees an opportunity to do some thoughtful things, and I appreciate our people thinking of some of this,” Gatto said.
Of course, in addition to helping with miscellaneous needs, the company focused on its core purpose: helping customers correct their hearing loss with comfortable, high-performance hearing aids. In order to do so, it instituted curbside service so that customers could drop off their hearing aids for cleaning and servicing without having to physically go into the office.
As for customers who opted to stay at home entirely, Miracle-Ear specialists sent videos carefully demonstrating how patients could clean their hearing aids on their own. Specialists also gave out their direct contact information so patients could easily reach out with any questions or concerns.
Some states have started to lift restrictions; however, Gatto said that it’s too early to tell exactly how things will unfold but that the company will follow government guidelines and take customer comfort levels into consideration.
For now, as an essential business, Miracle-Ear is able to offer in-store appointments for patients who need to be seen in person, and stores can also accept new patients. Employees take extreme safety precautions, including wearing masks and gloves and frequently sanitizing the facilities.
Even as uncertainty remains about coronavirus precautions, one thing is sure at Miracle-Ear: Whether virtually or in person, employees will continue to care about and provide top-tier service to each and every one of their customers.
For more information on Miracle-Ear’s free hearing tests, free lifetime cleaning and maintenance services, and leading digital technology, visit miracle-ear.com or call 609-473-5131.