Expense or Asset?
This week on our Inner Circle, we had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia Reddick, a 20 year veteran of the spa industry. The progression of the spa industry in the 90s very much mirrors the potential expansion of our industry currently, and Claudia was a wealth of knowledge for any entrepreneur in this field. And if you are reading this blog and you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, it’s probably time you did.
In the 90s Claudia and her team at Jurlique were probably the first people to introduce the spa industry to the concept of retail, and a retail ratio (i.e. the % of income driven from retail not services). This turned the spa industry from a tiny niche into a commodity that was needed in every 5* hotel across the country.
What is your practice retail ratio?
If you don’t know off the top of your head, some better tracking systems might be in order. If it is below 50%, you might need to be running your practice differently. By it’s very nature, most NDs do the majority of their healing through correct use of natural products and other therapeutic lifestyle changes, so as your practice grows, the % of income (mainly passive, repeat purchases) should increase your retail ratio. Most truly successful practices ND operate over 80% retail.
But this article is not about retail, it is about getting more from your front desk. Most practitioners see their front desk person as a cost to the business. You pay them every month to take calls, fill in your books, take payment and do admin tasks. If this is all they are doing, you are right, it is a cost, and you might be able to save thousands of dollars a month by automating these processes through genbook.com or fullslate.com.
However, most great practices, like all great 5* hotels are in the business of service. Having the right person on the front desk can make or break your practice; after all they are the first and last person that your patients interact with on every visit.
What feeling are they leaving your patients with?
According to Claudia, who has been training top notch front desk people in spas for over 20 years, the following characteristics are key for any potential receptionist.
1) Nice, Optimistic People – This should actually go for your whole organization. As the old adage goes, ‘you can train for skills, but you can’t train for character.’ You patients want a genuine, friendly greeting. This cannot be faked… for long.
2) Anticipating Needs – This is partly a training issue, but every time you go into a 5* hotel, the staff know your name before you come in. How do they know you are coming? You have a reservation. Best Practice: Go over all patients expected for the day in your ‘morning huddle’
3) Being Attentive – Anticipating needs is one thing, but being able to give each guest enough attention to be able to serve them elegantly is a special skill. Maybe it is something they mention is a throw away comment, maybe it is just their body language. People who are attentive and ask questions, and are willing to match it with their emotional labor, are linchpins and need to be treated, respected and compensated as such, or someone else will.
4) Outgoing Personality - If engaging patients is their primary role, don’t hire an introvert for the front desk! People can grow out of shyness, but not introversion.
So, now you have the right person up front, how do you turn them into an income-producing asset? One of the core skills is identifying needs and providing solutions, skills including engaging, asking the right questions and making it guiding patients towards optimal solutions. Here are some typical ways these skills are expressed.
- Rebooking– You should expect 100% rebooking. Always rebook before you talk money.
- Dr Smith would like to see you in 4 weeks, that takes us to the week of the 21st, would the same time in 4 weeks work, or would another day that week be better?
- Retail – An attentive front desk person who is alert to the needs of patients can be the engine that drives your retail presence. People hate to be sold, but they love to buy. What do you offer that might be useful to their family, friends or coworkers?
- How are your kids dealing with allergy season? Oh really? Have you heard about remedy X?
- Ancillaries – What other services in your practice could each patient benefit from? Have they heard about them?
- Have you heard about our new hyperbaric oxygen chamber / acupuncturist / detox sauna?
- Community Outreach – Are you the only one promoting your practice in your community? Could someone else represent you? In 2005, I went to all the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary meetings on behalf of my practice and developed significant local relationships that are still bearing financial fruit 7 years later.
We have seen it over and over again, when a practice finds and develops the right person on the front desk, everything changes. As an entrepreneur and business owner, your role is to develop people. Make sure you start with the right attributes and develop systems and training to make your practice the 5* experience that patients will talk about!
James Maskell is CEO of Revive NYC, a Brooklyn-based digital media, practice development, and branding company that helps holistic practitioners bring their message to life. To connect with Revive, please visit our website at www.revivenyc.com.