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It's a Wonderful Life: Celebrate it in Your Practice

By Mary Anne C. Murphy, OD December 24, 2016

With only a few days left before the end of the year, the practice is buzzing with activity. While I never want to complain that we are busy with patients taking advantage of their benefits before the end of the calendar year, I have mixed feelings about all the commotion right now. As the busiest season, there is limited time off for doctors and staff during a time of year when family time is cherished. We take steps to remind ourselves of this throughout the year—encouraging employees to take time off during ANY of the other 11 months, for example—because December requires all hands on deck. Still, it can be challenging to find ways to make this busy time beneficial to both our patients and our practice.

During the holiday season, we work more hours each day than usual, and are open more days a week, too. This allows us to accommodate the most number of patients. We take steps throughout the year to alter recall dates from those who came in last December, such as reminding them in October that the benefit year is approaching its end or encouraging them to take advantage of Flexible Spending Account dollars in November. Still, the end-of-year rush never ceases to amaze me.

Additionally, we see an increased demand overall—from kids home from college needing eye care to patients taking advantage of time off during the holidays and cranking out all their health care visits to those getting a jump on their New Year’s resolutions to reinvigorate their health care. Of course, we do our best to accommodate all who desire care. One benefit of doing so is that we see a dramatic increase in eyewear sales as well as contact lens supply sales. We also work hard to use the increased patient flow to drive sales toward ancillary products. Here are some ideas we’ve had success with that you may find helpful as well.

Stock for stuffers.
We stock an abundance of fun and festive eyewear cases, large cleaning cloths, seasonal eyeglass cleaner bottles and contact lens cases and put up signage indicating we can help with “stocking stuffers.” We stock up on heated eye masks and make-up remover for the same reason. We prominently display samples of our gift certificates (for services, eyelash extensions, eyewear, etc.) and we display sunglasses in gift boxes rather than on the standard frame board.

Provide spiffs to your staff.
Throughout the year, many optometrists view the optical retail component of our practices as burdensome. While I agree the cost and task of maintaining inventory can be a chore, we are one of the few health care providers that can leverage this component of our practice during the holiday season. We provide spiffs—incentive bonuses—to our staff to encourage them to discuss these additional products and also provider spiffs around average dollar sale increases. In this light, the staff working extra hours are able to see the financial benefit of their labors.

Celebrate the season.
We also take this time to bask in the wonder of the season. My staff enjoys decorating the office and hiding “Buddy the Elf” in a new place every day. We provide special treats for the kids who find him—and special treats to those who don’t J. We have a staff and vendor potluck, a Secret Santa gift exchange and an ugly sweater contest.

As we close out this fiscal year, I am grateful for all the accomplishments our team has made, and I want to be sure to share the success and my gratitude with them. Toward the end of the month, we take time to celebrate each other. We host a holiday party for the staff and their families, and we also provide bonuses to staff to thank them for the year’s hard work. The holiday part also allows us to share some quality time together with our employees and their extended family.

As I close out this year’s blog entries, I wish to pass on to you, my colleagues in this industry, my heartfelt thanks for your contribution in making private optometric practice a thriving profession. It’s a profession that allows me to do what I love while providing a healthy lifestyle for my children and me. As I see it, continuing to grow and protect this profession to provide the best platform for eye care will be at the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions.

How do you prepare for the end-of-year rush?

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