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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor March 8, 2006 - Tip #216 
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Saturday Hours


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Additional Information

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 - including our two evenings per week. That should tell us something about the wants and needs of the public. Identifying and satisfying the customer's wants and needs is the basic definition of marketing. Yet, many eye care practices are closed on Saturdays.

Let's be honest

I've 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 doesn't want to work on Saturday I can certainly understand that, but I can't 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 I've 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 it's 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 don't 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 occurring.
  • 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 - but so what? Let's not shut down the whole day! Let's get the office to run more efficiently so we can handle it! Delegate more and stay flexible with your exam routine.
  • Weekday evening hours are good enough. How do we know what is "good enough"? 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 don't 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 - there can be plenty of eye exams and optical sales on Saturdays if you schedule them. There may be lots of adjustments as well - 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 wouldn't you want your practice to do lots of optical work? If you don't offer great optical service you will be doomed to a medical-only practice.
  • Staff members don't want to work Saturdays. True - 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 don't really care about Saturdays or that Saturdays are too much trouble have achieved their personal goal.
  • Doctors don't want to work Saturdays. Finally - 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.
Staff issues

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 - 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

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. Don't blow it off as not important.


Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week


A Proud Supporter of

Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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