Join Key Opinion Leading Dermatologist Dr Firas Al-Niaimi (UK) as he discusses his clinical experience in treating pigmentation and scars with picosecond technology.
How to successfully keep a general clinic running when business is slow
COVID-19 has many people concerned about going out, and for good reason—worldwide, there are over 2 million confirmed cases of the disease. Medical quarantines, complete or partial lockdowns have many companies wondering how they can continue doing business, and aesthetic clinics haven’t been spared.
As a medical professional, you might be volunteering your services to help curb the spread of the virus. But as a business owner, you also need to ensure that your clinic can survive during these difficult months.
If your aesthetic practice is among the companies impacted by quarantines, reduced clients, and geographic lockdowns, you will need to take a look at your current status and be creative with your business model and service offerings to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Position yourself as a source of information and support to both employees and clients. At the same time, you can support workers who rely on their jobs to provide, and perhaps even win over some new patrons. These strategies will help you keep your business running during slow periods—not just COVID-19.
Pay attention to how and when temporary measures change
Each area within a country—whether it’s a province, state, or city—has its own quarantine and lockdown rules. For example, in Australia, non-essential businesses have been ordered to stop all company activities until further notice. And businesses throughout the country who do not strictly adhere to quarantine and social distancing measures risk fines of up to A$100,000. And in Singapore, only businesses such as clinics, hospitals, F&B, and utilities are allowed to continue operating.
Certain lockdown rules may go into effect on certain days, and be lifted at specific times. Staying up to date with the news can help you know when it is possible to resume business and how to operate safely while the quarantine is still underway.
If you are not sure whether your clinic is allowed to continue business activities, contact your local government.
Keep an eye on finances
The quarantine will affect everything—travel restrictions and bans may reduce your clientele, and limited finances may make it difficult to pay outstanding debts or employee wages.
A careful review of your current finances is in order. Where do you stand? What can you afford? Can you afford to keep the clinic open even with very few customers, or should you close the business in the meantime?
After you have a good idea of your financial position, the next step is to identify specific ways of cutting costs. For instance, you could:
- negotiate payment terms with suppliers
- identify business processes that could be made more cost-efficient
- negotiate with service providers and property owners/managers to let you defer payments on bills and rentals
- shorten operating hours or open on fewer days of the week.
Consider new sources of revenue
If your clinic can’t accept patients during COVID-19’s spread, then consider other ways of connecting with customers and providing support.
For example, you could branch out into new offerings. You could offer prepaid services at a discount, sell redeemable gift cards, or allow customers to book and pay online several months in advance with a down payment.
If your website is e-commerce enabled, you could allow patrons to purchase aesthetic products directly from you. Take attractive photos and let your clients know they can purchase the supplies they need—you can ship the items to their homes after they’ve made their payment.
In some countries, where the barrier to selling is lower, you can even accept orders through messaging platforms like LINE, Kakao, WeChat, or Whatsapp, as well as via direct messages on social media.
Practice empathy with employees
Keeping a clinic running requires that you care for your patients and your employees. Some experts are expecting COVID-19 to cause the loss of over 25 million jobs worldwide—so job security is a major concern for many people.
As an employer, you have the choice to be a source of hope for your employees. Rather than laying off team members completely, you could cut down on shifts instead. This would allow you to reduce operational costs while still accommodating the people who make your clinic shine.
Another way of practicing empathy with employees is to ask questions about their well-being during meetings and 1:1 chats. Here are some questions you could ask:
- How are you feeling and coping?
- What's distracting you?
- How can I (we) support you so you can continue to do your best work?
COVID-19 is a time of major fear and instability. Actively listen to workers and offer your kindness and understanding, rather than pointing fingers or blaming those who aren’t always at their best. It may not always be easy, but making your employees feel valued is a good business sense—it improves loyalty and productivity.
Keeping your medical devices sanitized
Your medical aesthetic devices are key to keeping your business running, and keeping them clean is SOP. But during a health pandemic, it becomes especially important to sanitize as frequently as possible.
COVID-19 has been detected on plastic and steel surfaces for over 72 hours. One of the best steps you can take to minimize the possibility of transmission is to be diligent about sanitation—there is no such thing as being “too” clean.
Develop a more stringent cleaning schedule for your medical aesthetic devices. For example, wipe all tools with cleaning alcohol after every appointment, and clean all high-touch surfaces (from desks to tools to toilets to doorknobs) every three hours. It’s important to protect your tools as they’ll come into most contact with patients.
Take extra measures to protect patients, too
You should always hold staff to a stringent standard of cleanliness, as befitting of a medical business—but extra care is needed during this pandemic. Check with your local health authorities for any specific information relevant to your area.
Patients who come to your clinic are taking a risk by leaving their home, and it’s important that they feel safe and well-taken care of throughout their visit.
Develop a set of rules and best practices for provider-patient interactions through a team discussion. What is the best, safest way to interact with patients before, during, and after each appointment? Consider offering online pre-consultations and post-treatment consultation to minimize physical contact, and encourage personal accountability and proactivity from your employees to your patients.
Lastly, ensure that you have plenty of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—such as eyewear, face shields or masks, and other hygienic supplies—for staff who are coming in. You can offer some supplies to your clients, too, or print out leaflets about hygiene practices that they can take home as an additional form of support.
Adopt online channels and processes where possible
Many medical providers are turning to online methods of liaising with customers. You can increase the amount of online support for your patients by updating your website and installing a chatbox, for example.
If you prefer a more lightweight solution, a business account on a messaging platform—such as Whatsapp Business—would also suffice.
Free online consultations can be a great way of endearing your clinic to customers. Additionally, you can update your clients through social media, such as Instagram Stories, and remind them that you are available to support them. Some small businesses have taken to sharing tips and hacks on Instagram; others have opened Q&A sessions with the Questions and Polls feature.
By consistently conveying transparency and openly communicating with your clientele, you’ll be sure to make a lasting positive impression. This is a great chance to educate clients about hygiene, general health, and aesthetic beauty and position yourself as a reliable expert on the topics they care about.
The crisis is an opportunity to improve your business
Dealing with a crisis—especially one of such massive scale—is certainly not easy. But by staying calm and focusing on the humans you are serving, you can keep your business safe, and even grow in the process.
In the meantime, there are a few other steps you can take.
Prepare for uptime
This downtime is the perfect opportunity to step back and decide the next steps for your business. Review your treatments and service offerings—is it time for a revamp? Or are their certain processes that you could streamline? For instance, this downtime could be a chance to build a digital customer database for better patient management and more efficient marketing in the future.
Look for new treatment options, prepare new services, and invest in the right equipment to boost demand for your clinic. Additionally, take time to develop a marketing plan for when your business becomes fully operational.
You can also try business continuity planning. Though no one hopes to face another crisis so soon, dealing with difficult, unexpected situations is part and parcel of running a business. Now that you have already experienced one pandemic, what are steps you can take for the next one?
Stay connected with customers
During all the turmoil, patients want to hear verified information from trustworthy sources. Stay connected by offering frequent updates and reminding patients about ways to stay safe during the pandemic.
Another idea: send customers a supportive, conversational e-mail. During a time when many businesses are upping their marketing strategies and selling harder to stay afloat, genuine kindness and care will help you stand out.
This slow period is temporary, and it’s important to continue looking forward. Keep your focus on the long term and remind patients that they are safe in your care.
Worldwide Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/world/coronavirus-cases-world.html
Covid19 -COVID-19 Aesthetic Doctors Are Volunteering Their Time To Support The Overwhelmed NHS - Cosmetic surgeons are lending their expert hands to the NHS. https://www.elle.com/uk/beauty/skin/a31891619/covid19-aesthetic-doctors-volunteeringnhs/
COVID-19 “Minimum Environmental Cleaning Standards” for Business, Schools, and SRO Settings
Restrictions on non-essential services - https://www.business.gov.au/Riskmanagement/Emergency-management/Coronavirus-information-and-support-forbusiness/Restrictions-on-non-essential-services
How Australia will enforce coronavirus self-isolation rules for overseas arrivals - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/17/how-australia-will-enforce-coronavirusself-isolation-rules-for-overseas-arrivals
COVID-19: Protecting workers in the workplace - Almost 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of COVID-19, says ILO : https://www.ilo.org/global/about-theilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang--en/index.htm
You're Not Losing Employees Because They're Disloyal, But Because You Are - https://www.inc.com/heather-r-huhman/youre-not-losing-employees-because-theyredisloyal-but-because-you-are.html
How long does coronavirus live on different surfaces? https://www.theguardian.com/usnews/2020/apr/04/how-long-does-coronavirus-live-on-different-surfaces
Instant Messaging for Business: Your 10 Best Options : -https://rocketbots.io/blog/top10-instant-messengers-for-business/
Social Media & Covid-19: How to Communicate During a Crisis - https://later.com/blog/social-media-covid-19/