4.30.10 Issue #425 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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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?

  • You are seeing just as many new patients now as you were a year ago.
  • Your production and collections are still strong or at least equal to last year.
  • Your hygienists are staying just as profitable as they were a year ago and the rate of unscheduled time units has not increased.

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
I see marketing pieces in the mail from local dentists touting their “convenient hours” from 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Please tell me what is so convenient about these hours when 80% of your patients work during these hours. I don’t get it! The real question is: what are convenient office hours for YOUR patients? The best way to find out is to ask. With all the electronic ways of reaching your patients in this technological world, it is very easy to send surveys, newsletters, text messages and emails to your active patients to ask them what works best for them.

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
My seatmate this week was a “marketing guru” for large Fortune 500 companies.  He said to me, “I don’t see why dentists don’t work during the prime times of the day and close during the non-prime times.” I asked him to clarify his statement.  This was his concept of prime time: 7:00am-11:00am, and 4:00pm-8:00pm. Ask your Hygiene and Schedule Coordinators what times are the hardest to fill. We teach to fill the mid-day appointments with the patients that are retired, as they are much more flexible and usually don’t like to get up early anyway. The difficulty is that the majority of our dental patients are not retired.

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.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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