3. Extended hours
What you want: To relax on evenings and weekends.
What clients want: To bring their pet in to your clinic when it works with their schedule.
What happens to the cases you miss out on after your doors are closed for the night? Those clients go to a local emergency
service—or to a colleague who offers hours later than you do. Why not capture some of that business by keeping your practice
doors open a couple of hours later, at least a few nights a week?
Leesburg Veterinary Hospital in Leesburg, Va., stays open till 8 p.m. during the week, which alleviates the hospital's busy
Saturday schedule and captures clients who need appointments after they get off work in the evenings. "The demand is there,
and it has worked really well for us for years," says practice manager Allison Tegler. "We are always booked up in the evenings,
which brings in extra income for our practice."
Leesburg Veterinary Hospital also uses these later hours to alleviate the surgery pickup rush that's typical near closing
time. They schedule clients to pick up patients a bit later in the evening, giving the practice more time to care for the
pets and preventing a backlog during rush hour.
"It's important for practices to continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves, and extending business hours can be
one of those ways," says Denise Tumblin, CPA, president and co-owner of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates.
Denise Tumblin, CPA, a VE Editorial Advisory Board member, is president and owner of Wutch-iett Tumblin and Associates.
However, it's important not to add hours arbitrarily. First, talk to your reception staff and get a handle on what clients
are asking for, Tumblin says. "But don't rely just on your reception staff, because they might not give you the whole story
if they don't want to start working later," she says. "Also survey your clients, and ask them whether later hours would benefit
Checking out what hours other businesses in your community keep could also be a clue as to the hours you should offer. If
most service businesses stay open till 7 p.m. and you close at 5 p.m., you're probably missing out on a lot of business. If
you live in a community where most clients commute to work, evening hours are a must, Tumblin says.
"I work with a veterinary practice in Delaware that's had evening hours for years," she says. "The owner initially stayed
open until 7 p.m., then went to 9, and now is open until 11 p.m. He was trying to capture some of the cases that were going
to the emergency hospital and found that late hours are really popular with clients in his area."
Another bonus? You'll maximize your facility usage. "You're already paying for your facility, so the additional revenue will
provide added coverage for your overhead costs," Tumblin says. "Greater revenue with the same (or similar) facility expenses
means your building costs now represent a lower percentage of overall revenue." Your patients and clients will benefit from
extended availability, and your practice benefits from stronger relationships and improved profitability.
To make extended hours work for you, Tumblin encourages you to market this change as much as possible. Post it on your marquee
sign, have receptionists tell every client who calls, post it on a sign in your reception area, and print it on your receipts.
Then, give the change at least six months, if not a year, to take hold before evaluating its success. "Whatever you do, commit
to it fully," she says. "Don't tell staff members you'll give it a try and if it doesn't work, you'll switch back, because
then they may not work hard to make it a success."
Now that you know what pet owners really want, find a compromise to make your veterinary clients—and yourself—happy.
Sarah Moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kan. Please send questions or comments to email@example.com
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