For many parts of the country, winter is the time that causes chaos in chiropractic practices due to weather-related office shut-downs, holiday closings and a general spirit of playfulness that somehow pops your production bubble.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With a combination of some technology and strategic planning, you can not only prevent end-of-the-year losses, but turn November and December into your best revenue producing months.  Here are a dozen simple tips for doing just that:

1.   Cloud Technology – Can’t make it to the office? With cloud technology, many HER systems (as well as freestanding online schedule programs) allow access your scheduler from home!  Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the sooner you contact missed appointments, the more likely they will be rescheduled.  So choose a team member for each week of the winter months who will be “on call” while at home and have them responsible for rescheduling patients who miss due to weather-related office closures.

2.   Phone Lines Forwarded – Even if you’re not using cloud technology, you can still avoid office closure production slowdowns by having your office lines forwarded to a cell phone. A live person answering the phone will outdo voice mail in the number of people you are able to reschedule.

3.   Website updates – We often forget that by shutting down the office, we not only affect our existing patients, but we also lose potential New Patients.  So, in addition to having a way to schedule when you are closed, don’t forget to announce if you are OPEN if there is a winter storm in your area.  Often, the distribution of snow may be bad in one section of town forcing offices to close there and, yet, the other side of your city is clean and cleared.  By having a quick update posted to your website that you are OPEN, you can capture new business (and ensure that existing patients don’t assume that you are closed).

4.   Use It or Lose It – Each year in mid-November, we send letters/emails to remind patients that their insurance benefits are about to “expire.” With the majority of plans being on calendar years and deductibles already met, the simple reminder that it is to their advantage for patients to get in now, instead of next year. (For those of you who would like an example to avoid re-inventing the wheel, see our Unclaimed Chiropractic Benefit Letter.)

5.    Gift Cards – If you offer massage services, gifts cards are one of the simplest production boosters you can do before and during the holiday season.  Often, it takes no more than a simple question to sell a gift card:  “So…what are you getting your {spouse, parent, friend} for the holidays?”  When the unprepared shopper stares blankly back at you, simply offer “I’d bet they would love a massage gift certificate.”  For many, that’s all it takes.

6.   Additional Holiday Shopping Hints – Create a list of a handful of “suggested gifts” and stocking stuffers to give for the holidays that you sell in your office – pillows, topical pain relieving gels and creams, aromatherapy, vitamins, hot packs, etc.  Post the list prominently around your office and in your adjustment rooms and allow it to help your holiday shoppers who are looking for a creative and helpful gift idea for their loved ones.

7.    Holiday Promotions – it pays to promote during the holidays as some folks are eager to start their New Years resolutions early while others are looking for ways to avoid the health hazards of holidays.  For new patient promotions, a “Toys for Tots” or Canned Food Drive promotions work well to stimulate new patients and help your community.  Additionally, work with the well-known fact that the holidays typically add to the battle of the bulge by marketing your weight loss program with a “Lose the Holiday Weight Before It Starts” or similar styled promotion for those who don’t want the extra pounds to be a part of this year’s festivities.

8.   The Giving Spirit – Tap into the spirit of holiday giving and send a notice to patients with extremely past due balances. In cases where you are considering sending the patient to collections, why not send a “Forgiveness Letter” instead?  Let them know that you appreciate them and that you are going to “forgive” their overdue balance.  The type of letter provides closure, promotes good will and, amazingly, in some cases, has the ability to cause the patient to pay up. When confronted with the idea of you forgiving their balance and “Cancelling Their Debt” (which is what we call the letter), their sense of pride kicks and an they pay anyway – even after months of ignoring your payment requests. Similarly, another variation on the theme is the “My Holiday Gift to You” letter. This letter offers a discount for a patient brining their account current. Sure, the discount means that you are not going to collect their full balance; but in many cases, these overdue accounts are never going to be paid in full anyway – especially if you consider the hefty fee that a collection agency would charge. (If you don’t want to write your own, get samples of our  Forgiveness Letters – We’ve Cancelled Your Debt!  And “My Holiday Gift to You”)

9.  Student Week Promotion – Rather than have your office sit silently during the holiday breaks while everyone is busy partying and playing, get a little proactive and run a promotion to get all the college kids and students in for a checkup.  My dentist friend confided in me that he starts promoting his winter break schedule at the end of the summer when the students all head back to school.  As a result, his holidays are the busiest time of the year. You can do the same. Have staff start contacting the parents of students away at college (or even in school) to get them in for a tune-up.  You can even have a little fun with this.  One year, we called parents and told them that Dr. Tom wanted to check the students to see if they were studying enough and taking good care of themselves while at school.  Parents laughed at the notion – and scheduled.  When the students came in, the fun continued.  If they were in good shape, I joked with the students that they might not have been studying hard enough because those that do, typically come in with tight neck and shoulders from hitting the books 😉  If the student defended their studies, then I congratulated them for getting checked and encouraged them to keep up the good work – and schedule now for the next break.

10.  Snowbird Scheduling – don’t limit your proactive scheduling just to students.  Snowbirds need your help too!  If you’re in a part of the country where snowbirds come to get warm, have staff start contacting your snowbirds before they arrive and offer to check them and welcome them back.  If you’re up north where the Snowbirds flee, offer to check them before they head out.  Because snowbirds are typically in your area for only part of the year, they often get neglected when they disappear. A little extra planning and effort goes a long way and makes them appreciate you and keeps your snowbirds coming back year after year.

11.  Auto Accident Awareness Guide – Face it, winter weather doesn’t exactly help safe driving.  And while we don’t want to wish our patients into weather-related accidents, we can help guide them through the stressful reality if they do.  Have a creative person design a simple “Auto Accident Guide” designed to keep in their car’s glove box with some basic first aid tips, a set of instructions of what to do in case of an accident and, of course, your contact info.

12.  Have Some Fun and Profit – Many DC’s also choose the holidays as a time to take a vacation and enjoy some time off.  But most pay dearly for this fun in terms of income loss.  While I certainly don’t want to rob you of the holiday spirit, consider that you don’t have to close the entire office down during the holidays.  Often a very limited schedule offers you the opportunity to take some time off, gives patients a chance to keep their schedule and helps you keep profits flowing. Similarly, if you have other providers who work for you (ex: massage), it’s a great time to boost their schedule and cash business while you stay home.   Although, if you put many of the above steps into motion, you may earn your vacation in advance – so enjoy!