Do You Offer Alternative Office Hours?
This article is one that I thought I would never write. Historically, in my 30+ years of dental experience, working evenings and weekends was never as profitable as “normal” office hours because it sometimes required overtime for the employees and the rate of appointment changes and no-shows was always higher than the normal hours. In the “good old days” patients had family commitments and interruptions in the evenings that prevented them from keeping their appointments. If the sun was shining on Saturday morning instead of raining, patients were outside working in their yards, on the golf courses or at the beaches.
In these times, however, I am finding that patients and their families are always looking for ways to save their hard-earned dollars. They are eating at home more, driving instead of flying to vacation spots - if they are lucky enough to take vacations. Employers are cutting back on employee benefits such as medical time off, dental benefits and sick leave for doctor appointments. Many households only have one employed family member now instead of two and are always looking for ways to avoid having to miss time from work.
As I fly around the country and chat with my seatmates on planes, we discuss our respective careers. Out of curiosity, I ask these “dental patients” how they would feel if their dentists had evening or Saturday hours. The response is always, “I only wish he/she would. My spouse and I both work and it is so difficult to leave. We are working with a skeleton crew at work to keep costs down so when someone is gone, it really places a burden on the remaining employees.”
I started thinking about this and it is so true. I have written several articles about working “leaner and meaner” and trimming the fat of excessive employees. Instead, pay the employees that remain and work harder more money. It is a win-win for everyone. You may know from your own experiences in your office that when a key employee is out of the office due to illness, a doctor’s appointment or their child’s doctor’s appointment, it puts a damper in your daily routine and you are not as productive.
Does This Apply To You?
If you can answer “yes” to the above statements, you don’t need to read any more of this article because it doesn’t apply to you. Congratulations for surviving these economic times and keep up the good work. However, if you are answering “no” or “are you kidding?” to the above questions AND have already implemented all the McKenzie Management Systems that we write about every week, then you need a new strategy. If you want a different result – you need to do something different!
More Convenient Office Hours
When your Hygiene Coordinator is calling the 56 patients that are 30-days past due for their professional cleaning and exam appointments and the patient returns the call and leaves a message on the answer machine in your office stating that they can’t get off work right now for their appointment, this is a prime opportunity to contact the patient and ask, “Mrs. Jones, we are concerned that due to our current office hours, you are limited to the time you have for your doctor and dental appointments. If we considered offering alternative hours, what would work best for you?”
Think Outside the Box
Would I recommend that you work these hours every day? No. I would suggest that you try one day a week and see what happens after you have surveyed many of your patients. Is this going to be a hardship on you as the dentist or your team? Possibly - but look at all the options when it comes to available employees in the work force right now. How bad would it be to have 5 hours off during the middle of the day to run errands, play golf, go fishing, etc?
Saturday hours: 8:00am-1:00pm for large cases and hygiene. If you are going to be there, make it worth your while. Some states don’t require that the dentist be on-site for hygiene visits as long as the patient is seen by the dentist once in a 12-month time period. Open your office with two hygienists and one front desk coordinator.
Before you start whining about how poorly your practice is performing right now, try something different. McKenzie Management clients that are working “alternative” hours are finding that they have a high demand for their evening and Saturday hours and very few unscheduled time units compared to their “normal” work day. Tell your team that you want to try this and see what the results are. You might like it! I always say to market your practice by setting yourself apart from the other dental offices in town. This may be a great marketing tool if you market it correctly.
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