I’m hoping that by the time you read this you’ll be in the final stages of preparing to re-open your clinic. After the first lockdown we noticed within our own clinic a huge surge, not only in existing patients but also in new consultation enquiries. While this surge is very much welcomed, we do need to think about how we’re going to manageit. Firstly, from a diary and availability point of view, and also with staffing and other areas of the business. If the situation isn’t closely managed it can become either a missed opportunity or be taken as false optimism for the future.
If you choose to increase your opening hours to accommodate this influx, then I highly recommend you communicate this to your patients, so they appreciate your efforts to accommodate them, but are also aware that these new, extended opening hours won’t be the norm going forward. If this is not conveyed it can lead to upset client-patient relationships. There are also other difficulties that arise around any form of surge from increased demand, such as over-stocking of items and over-staffing. From this perspective, remember to not get too consumed working “in” your clinic as opposed to “on” the business – this balance is more important now than ever.
So, make sure you allow and schedule in time for this to capitalise on opportunities. Try to stay as flexible as you possibly can. This surge will be a real opportunity for smaller clinics to grow in the size, as they can be more flexible.
The future is still very uncertain, and we don’t know how the landscape will further change in the coming months. The simple fact is that the various government support schemes will come to an end and taxes will rise. This in turn will affect many of your patients and potential patients. To what degree is another uncertainty, so we need to be realistic and expect a drop off in appointments. Plan for this by either increasing your efforts to add value to existing patients and create brand loyalty, or increase marketing efforts and brand awareness for new potential patients.
Plan as best you can for the financial impacts and if you can, think about retaining more cash reserves in the business than you have in the past. Wherever possible, keep base costs lean. Hopefully the impact will be small and as time moves ahead, we can then increase spending and push ahead with growth. Most importantly, please keep in mind that an initial surge upon re-opening is not the new normal. Give it time to stabilise.
1. Staff communications – We covered this in depth last month but communicate with your staff – are they open to working extra or flexible hours initially? However, make sure you don’t overpromise or commit to extra regular hours until you have a better picture of patient demand.
2. Supply chain – Check that your suppliers are carrying decent levels of stock of your products and sundries and look for other suppliers to have ready as another option in case, wherever possible. They may be more expensive but the cost of losing patients because you can’t perform their treatment or sell them a product is far higher.
3. Marketing – Capitalise on the growth while you have the chance – collect any form of content for your channels including testimonials just in case we go into another lockdown or something else unforeseen happens; you then have content in the bag even for some other time for the future. In the event of the surge continuing then you likewise will be busy, and this content will come in handy to maintain presence on your various social media channels. This is also a huge opportunity to create strong, emotionally charged content as the mood will be high for people who are finally able to have the treatments they have been desiring for so long.
4. Patient loyalty – If you don’t have some form of loyalty or follow-up process with your existing patients then implement one. As we face uncertain financial times ahead, the need to retain your existing patients is paramount, so keep regular contact with them. Depending on your clinic model, offer referral rewards or loyalty bonuses. This is the perfect time to implement these if you have not already.
5. Complimentary business referrals – Look at your current list of patients, network of friends and other professionals. Do any opportunities exist to cross-refer services and help promote each other? See if you can leverage each other’s client bases and support one another.
KEEP YOUR HEAD
On a personal level, please remember to take care of yourselves. The sudden change from inactivity or at least reduced activity during lockdown to a high-intensity working environment in uncertain and fluctuating circumstances can cause high levels of stress. I really recommend that you carve out “you” time to allow yourself to relax and decompress; not only will this help your own mental health, but it will also provide you with a clearer mind to make better business decisions.
Many techniques exist to assist with this, but my personal favourites are “grounding” and “the butterfly technique” – look them up on Google. Both are immediate ways to deal with periods of intense stress. More long-term solutions such as practicing yoga or calming hobbies are also incredibly beneficial, but whatever you do, remember to schedule this time into your week, as what gets scheduled gets done. It is all too easy to just squeeze one more task or patient in. If you are not in the correct frame of mind, you can’t perform.
I am hosting monthly webinars with AM to expand upon the topics of my regular articles. Keep an eye out for the next one and I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the session.