Client service in tough times (Proceedings)
Whether the economy is good or bad, it seems we're always short staffed. So what do we do about it? First, you must develop a strategy. Remember, manpower is a resource just as money is. If you were short money, you'd probably decide exactly which essentials you needed to buy and forgo the nice to have items. You have to do the same thing with your manpower resources - decide what you can do and what you need to put on hold for later.
You can fill voids in the team structure with the existing staff for only short periods of time; the longer you expect the current staff to pick up the slack for missing employees, the greater the risk of losing them also! Here's some strategies for surviving the hard times:
• Streamline existing procedures and see which ones are essential for operations and which ones are done because we've always done it that way. Be critical of procedures that involve lots of staff time with little direct client or patient contact.Try to find a different employees to do non-technical jobs.
For instance, you could probably find a full or part time person to do housekeeping duties easier than you can find a technician or trained assistant. By hiring a dedicated housekeeper, the technical staff are now freed from at least an hours work a day AND the facility usually gets cleaned better!
Redesign the jobs
Say your practice normally requires three receptionists at busy times, but now you're down to only two. You just can't seem to find anyone willing to put up with all the hassles of the front desk for what you can afford to pay. In some ways, the veterinary receptionist job has grown too expansive for the single person to be able to do it all effectively and efficiently. In today's market, you are more likely to find people willing to be telephone operators OR client services representatives. The telephone operator will answer the incoming lines, make appointments and direct technical calls to the appropriate trained staff members. The client services representative deals exclusively with the client who is physically in the facility. If you think this is radical thinking- you're right! Ask your present receptionist if he/she could be twice as effective, efficient and accurate if they didn't have to stop to answer the phones every time they start to help someone. You'll be surprised at the things you can learn if you just ask.
Look at the services you offer
Prioritize the services so that you know where you want to expend your limited resources. Use whatever criterion you'd like, but it makes the most sense to find the most profitable income centers in the practice. Decide which of your current services fit into the nice to have category. Remember, you have a manpower budget and you have to live within that budget. In many practices, the least profitable services take the most labor to produce. In the business world, when the component of a particular product or service is in short supply, the cost to produce it goes up and therefore the cost to the consumer goes up as well. Make sure the things you're doing now are PROFITABLE or stop doing them. It's not against the law to limit your services to a niche. In fact, some niche practices are outperforming the traditional practice in growth, employee retention and client service!