Optometric Management Tip # 216 - Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Saturday appointments have the highest demand of any hours offered in my practice. Those dates are
booked farther ahead than any other time we offer Ė including our two evenings per week. That should
tell us something about the wants and needs of the public. Identifying and satisfying the customerís
wants and needs is the basic definition of marketing. Yet, many eye care practices are closed on
Letís be honest
Iíve heard all the reasons presented by doctors for why it is best to be closed on Saturdays, but they
all sound like rationalization. If a doctor doesnít want to work on Saturday I can certainly
understand that, but I canít go along with the conclusions that seem to dismiss Saturdays as not
being good for business. Not one of the problems encountered comes close to overpowering the
patient demand Iíve seen or the amount of revenue my practice generates on Saturdays.
Here are a few common misconceptions about Saturday office hours, along with my comments on each.
- No-shows are a huge problem. This is the biggest excuse going for taking Saturdays off, but
itís really not that bad. It can certainly be managed. Saturday appointments are in such big
demand that you simply have to book them heavy enough so the no-shows donít create a lull. Of
course all appointments should be confirmed by phone the day before. Since staff members often
dislike working Saturdays, the owners should make certain that those confirmation calls are really
- Patients arrive late and throw off the schedule. Sure, I admit that Saturdays can run a little
erratic sometimes. The early appointments may run late, the late appointments may show up early and
there are more walk-ins in optical Ė but so what? Letís not shut down the whole day! Letís get the
office to run more efficiently so we can handle it! Delegate more and stay flexible with your exam
- Weekday evening hours are good enough. How do we know what is ďgood enoughĒ? The more convenience
you offer the better. There are plenty of people who find Saturdays vastly preferable to evenings;
the proof is in my appointment book.
- The phone never rings. I donít really care if Saturday is more of an action day and not so much
of an appointment scheduling day, as long as the money comes in.
- All we do are frame adjustments. Trust me Ė there can be plenty of eye exams and optical sales
on Saturdays if you schedule them. There may be lots of adjustments as well Ė but that is part of
good service and they have to happen sometime.
- It really only pays if you do a lot of optical work. And why wouldnít you want your practice to
do lots of optical work? If you donít offer great optical service you will be doomed to a medical-only
- Staff members donít want to work Saturdays. True Ė no one does. But the business needs of the
practice come first. There are plenty of excellent employees who are willing to work Saturdays.
See the section below for more on this. And staff members who convince doctors that patients donít
really care about Saturdays or that Saturdays are too much trouble have achieved their personal goal.
- Doctors donít want to work Saturdays. Finally Ė a statement that rings true. But if you really
want a successful practice, I would work them for awhile anyway and then I would hire an associate
doctor to work them. It is too valuable of a day. A second best approach would be to have the office
open every Saturday, but have a doctor present every other one. The non-doctor Saturdays would allow
the optical to function, but the staff could be reduced.
I realize that staffing is more difficult with Saturday hours, but if you offer enough employment
benefits you can attract good people and the increased profit makes it worth it. My office is open
from 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturdays. We have all employees work Saturdays, but we use a sliding schedule
where the employee works two and then is off one, and the cycle repeats. This free Saturday allows all
staffers to trade one Saturday for another in case a specific one is needed for a special event.
The other good thing about working Saturdays is that it affords a day off during the week Ė which is
also a very nice perk. A weekday off (or even half a weekday off) breaks up the work week and is a
great day to do personal errands.
Marketing is what brings patients in the door, but many of us think of marketing as advertising or
promotional efforts. It is much more than that. Office hours are a huge part of marketing; one that
is often undervalued by the practice owner.
Patients who visit commercial eye care practices, such as small chain retail stores, large national
chains, or big-box mega-marts, cite convenience as one of the main benefits they perceive. Private
practitioners who want to compete with this market segment should examine those perceptions objectively,
and meet the ones they can head-on. Donít blow it off as not important.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management