By Diana Canto-Sims, OD
Sept. 22, 2021
Your practice requires great patient care and profitability for success. That profitability can be made more attainable when you keep your expenses in check.
Covid-19 brought a silver lining to our practice in forcing us to more closely examine our expenses. Like most practices, we were closed for almost two months, no income was coming into the practice, and once we reopened, a big chunk of our budget went toward personal protective equipment and other safety measures like putting up acrylic barriers in the reception area, check-out desk and on the dispensing tables.
Here are the cost cuts that made a huge difference in offsetting the impact of those added expenses, enabling us to maintain, and grow, our profitability.
No More Snail Mail Recall Postcards & Different Recall Technology
We used to send out 400-800 snail mail postcards every month.
The cost of the postcards and postage (not including the time required to prepare the postcards) was $300-$600 a month. To comply with social distancing requirements after reopening, we couldn’t schedule the same number of patients we had in the past, which meant less chance to make up for that cost.
We now spend $0 on mailing printed materials.
We stopped snail mail recall postcards and changed our sales strategy and marketing to attract more luxury clients. This change in sales and marketing strategy helped us reach a 20 percent revenue growth in 2020, seeing fewer patients and cutting costs on physical recall cards.
We also started using a different recall technology solution. We used to pay for a separate service in addition to our practice management system that would e-mail, text or call our patients as a reminder of their appointment or recall. We were having bugs with the system because it was a system that had to integrate our practice management data with its platform.
In frustration, we called our practice management company to ask them if they had a similar product. Coincidentally they said they were in the works of creating a system integrated within the practice management system. They offered for us to be in their beta program.
We accepted and it went so well we have stuck with this technology, which is part of our practice management system.
We were paying $400 a month for the platform that was based outside of our practice management system. With the new, integrated approach, we only spend an additional $200 a month, and it works much better because it integrates fully with the data in our practice management system. We are saving $200 a month, the system works more efficiently and patients are delighted.
Staff no longer has to print address labels, adhere postage stamps and mail out recall cards. This allows our employees more time to serve patients and capture more sales of multiple pairs and prescription sunglasses.
As of today, no patient has called us to complain about not receiving their physical recall reminder. They call and schedule saying, “It feels like I have not had an eye exam forever, I want to make an appointment.”
We also feel like we are saving the planet by not using paper and fuel to deliver the physical postcards, a win-win.
Vendor-Sponsored Staff Birthday Celebrations
We used to buy lunch for our staff once a month to celebrate all those with birthdays that month. Breakfast or lunch would be provided the day of our staff meeting when all staff members were present to celebrate and sing “happy birthday.” We had a budget for this expense of $150 per month.
Today, when a frame representative comes to our practice to show us their collection, we asked them if they would like to sponsor a birthday month for the staff. We ask the frame rep which month they would like to sponsor lunch for.
Sometimes the rep gives a gift to the birthday staff in addition to sponsoring lunch.
This is one of the perks we receive for allowing them to have their frame collection displayed in our office. Retail space in our office is “real estate.” Reps can’t sell frames that are not displayed. This gives them an added incentive to generate goodwill among our staff by sponsoring lunch.
The staff is happy they are fed, and they love the fact that we advocate a free lunch or breakfast for them once a month.
Negotiating a Discount from Our Payroll Vendor
A few years back, we noticed our payroll company ADP had raised its fees. We loved working with this company because we never had any issues, and its customer service was stellar.
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We called and told them we were a small business on a tight budget and asked if they could give us a discount. Otherwise, we explained, we would have to change to a different company so we could stay within our budget.
ADP told us we qualified to be on a “Tier 3 Pricing” plan. To our surprise, this meant we would be saving 40 percent off payroll fees. We felt like we won the lottery.
Lesson learned: When you think you’re paying too much, ask (nicely) for a discount. You may save 40 percent.