Turning the Front Desk Into a Revenue Stream
With the right plan in place, your veterinary practice customers can unlock the revenue potential of one of the most underutilized parts of their business, the front desk.
Recently, I walked into a local veterinary clinic and the receptionist was on the phone. She acknowledged my presence and indicated it would be a second with a raised index finger. I acknowledged her signal, moved away from the front desk, and waited off to the side.
While I was waiting, a customer came in, signed in, took a seat, and waited for their turn. While the newly arrived customer and I waited, another customer and their pet appeared from Exam Room 3 to check-out.
The receptionist was still on the phone.
Once the receptionist got off the phone, she moved customers through the check-in, check-out process as quickly as possible. Direction was given to the incoming customer to go to Exam Room 2, a credit card was taken from the out-going customer, and I was told to wait.
Does this sound like a typical front desk in your clinic or hospital?
As a representative, one of our roles is to assist our clients in generating more profit. Sure, selling products to our client is our primary focus, but offering value through business concepts and precepts, we become a trusted resource for our client. Veterinary offices usually generate revenue through activities such as wellness visits, dentals, grooming, and surgeries. But, did they ever think that the front desk could be a revenue stream?
The front desk area is one of the poorest performing expenditures in the veterinarian’s practice. Veterinarians provide significant resources toward supplies, equipment, and staff while the front desk gets minimal attention. While some veterinarians provide cosmetic upgrades to the front desk area, staff training goes underdeveloped and unmentioned.
What can we do to assist veterinary practices in improving their front desk performance?
Frequently, representatives discuss the employment of analytics in various areas of a veterinarian’s practice to quantify the net return on an activity or provide confidence in making a product purchase. Veterinarians utilize analytics to quantify the profitability of a decision when planning resource allocation of a purchase.
Let’s discuss how to employ a single specific technique that can be quantified and generate significant returns for your client’s practice. However, before we dive into this specific technique and demonstrate how analytics can support this technique, let’s consider the practice’s first impression to their clientele.
When you walk into a practice, what is your first impression? Is it the décor? The odor? The seating arrangements? The pictures on the wall? The fish tank? Is it the smiling face of the person behind the front desk?
If you thought of anything other than the smiling face of the person behind the front desk, you have an opportunity to help your clients. You have an opportunity to gain credibility, respect, and become a trusted resource for your client.
A client’s first impression of a veterinary’s practice is made at the front desk. J.K. Rowling noted, “a good first impression can work wonders.” Harvey MacKay really impresses the value of first impressions as, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and yours may be in the hands of the receptionist.”
These two powerful quotes emphasize the merit of presenting a good first impression. Additionally, the front desk provides customers with their last impression when they leave the practice. Phone calls and face-to-face interactions are the two primary ways the front desk provides a practice’s first and last impression. If their practice is not projecting the right first impression, you owe it to tell them. Your clients would rather hear from a friendly source instead of not hearing about it at all while customers leave and do not come back.
Scripting to success
This brings me to the single specific technique that will radically change your veterinary practices’ first and last impression. If they are not using scripted verbiage in all activities at the front desk their practice is missing out on a true revenue-generating stream. That’s right, scripting.
Scripting is a powerful tool to provide consistent positive replies for their clients, even when the staff is not in a good mood.
Think of the last time you went to a high-end hotel or upscale salon and were greeted at the front desk or by a concierge. Were they nice, polite, and positive? They were all using scripts so every customer has a fantastic first and last impression of that organization.
Encourage scripting to be used for face-to-face interactions, as well as phone calls. Scripting allows a practice to edit and control front desk interactions when the owner is not present. Scripting allows the practice to enhance their client’s interactions instead of the approach of allowing the receptionist to wing it with clients.
If you are passionate about your customer’s success, let them know that scripting can help generate revenue.
Editing scripts allows your veterinarian to adjust their presentations to mitigate customer’s concerns when issues arise. For example, during this COVID-19 crisis or a weather-related issue, the front desk can address practice changes upfront to elevate customer’s concerns in a manner that is consistent and positive. This type of response supports a customer-centric approach.
Scripting walk-ins, departures, and answering phone calls should be implemented prior to any revenue generator analytics adopted. Initiating scripting prior to considering analytics will bolster confidence in the technique and provide for a smooth transition to other scripting opportunities.
Scripting also promotes transitioning techniques when considering revenue-generating activities. Transitioning could imply a single word or a phrase to move the customer from the current topic to where the front desk staff wants them to be. For example, a customer is leaving the practice and they are checking out, the receptionist might say, “We just love having (pet name) here, I see the doctor wants (pet name) back in three weeks, I have you booked at the same time as today on the 14th. Here is your appointment reminder.” Transitioning words or phrases needs to be scripted in to complete the transaction.
Applying analytics to activities is critical in understanding where a practice is and where it’s going. It is paramount
to help veterinarians establish a baseline to determine their growth expectations, which allows for appropriate goal setting.
Let’s consider rebooking as an area of potential revenue growth, understanding that their current percentage of customers leaving rebooked is important. These analytics are rarely quantified and compared among veterinary practices. Knowing their current percentage of rebooking is the starting point for developing revenue-generating analytics. Once a practice knows its current rebooking percentage and what their average cost per visit is, you can help set rebooking expectations for your customer’s practice. Your customer can set appropriate goals with bonuses for their staff to reach if they so choose.
Scripting will provide the necessary verbiage to consistently obtain practice expectations on rebooking customers. Show your customers how setting goals can be achieved with effort and reward staff with bonuses on a monthly or quarterly basis. It is important to help your veterinarians understand that an increase in rebooking percentages will drive incremental revenue for each rebooking that can be quantified with a dollar amount. Helping veterinarians generate revenue significantly changes their perception of your role.
Boosting retail sales
Now, consider retail sales as another business concept that generates revenue at the front desk. If you represent products being sold in the veterinarian’s retail space, you do not want to miss out on scripting at the front desk. Applying analytics to retail sales is another great area to drive revenue growth for your veterinarians.
In this scenario, the veterinary practice will need to quantify their average daily retail sales, inclusive of front lobby merchandise and prescriptions. They can utilize several months of data to quantify their average daily retail sales. Through this exercise, they will be able to quantify the profit margin made on daily retail sales. This will provide them with a tool to expand items that generate high-profit margins.
Since all items have different profit margins, using average daily profit margin is easiest to translate for staff goal setting. For example, if a practice’s average daily retail sales are $100 with an average 20% profit margin, then as they increase their average daily retail sales they also increase their daily profit.
Scripting will provide the necessary verbiage to consistently increase retail sales within the client’s practice. Additionally, as the average daily retail sales increase so will the revenue for the practice.
The final area to use scripting at the front desk is in follow-up calls. Yes, follow-up calls are very important in closing the loop with customers. Many clients do not think of follow-up calls in the activities of the front desk. Follow-up calls are a great way to remind the customer of their next appointment and discuss any challenges in dispensing their pet’s medicine. Receiving a phone call after receiving a service from any business is atypical, yet follow-up calls are a great opportunity to allow them to congratulate the veterinary practice for taking care of their pet, to share specifically how they could provide better service, or thanking them for visiting the practice.
In short, follow-up phone calls reignite and solidify a bond with the customer.
To have these calls be effective, they need to be scripted so the person making the call is not rushing through this activity but laying the groundwork for their next visit to the practice.
Scripting is a positive tool to generate revenue if used appropriately in the front desk area. The challenge in scripting is that in the beginning there is a significant acceptance of this tool; however, over time individuals slide into old bad habits. Utilization of scripting at the front desk is one tool rarely used; however, it can offer a great revenue stream for the client and provides you the opportunity to change their perception of your value to their practice. Remind them as they generate revenue they will be able to meet payroll, utilities, mortgage and so much more.
The key of any good script is applying what was learned from previous interactions to make the script realistic, sincere, and upbeat. Scripting introductions, rebooking conversations, retail sales, and follow-up calls will significantly impact the revenue stream for your client’s practice. Analytics can be utilized to quantify increased revenue and bonuses can be established to reward specific behavior.
Overlooking scripting at the front desk is akin to leaving the backdoor open with the AC on – a lot of energy is wasted compared to the benefit of doing it right.
Photos credits: istockphoto.com/andresr