I take a deposit from patients to secure the booking.
I used to be against this because if felt a bit ‘hard sell’ but I actually think that patients feel reassured by it.
It is a big deal for patients to book surgery and they have to make a lot of arrangements in their life to plan for time off work and their recovery.
Taking a deposit can give patients the security that their booking slot is confirmed and believe it or not, once some patients have saved up the money for surgery, they are often keen to start paying for it as they fear they may spend it!
The hospitals do not tend to take a deposit and so we feel that it may seem a little forward to ask for one, but one thing that I have realised is that just because everyone else is not doing something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is not the right thing to do.
Warren Buffet is a big fan of doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing:
be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful
The main benefit of taking a deposit is the security and peace of mind that it offers but there are a couple of other benefits.
- On occasions there are patients who are unsure about surgery and may book a date and then cancel it at short notice. Taking a deposit adds a level of commitment that may make someone who is not sure if they are ready to commit to surgery to think twice about securing a date. This helps with your planning and scheduling.
- If patients go on to cancel or postpone their surgery, you can offer an immediate and no quibble return of their deposit (of course you can make your own terms and conditions and stipulate that they forfeit all or part of their deposit if you like, but it is probably not worth it). This can help to support your brand values as being an ethical and trustworthy surgeon because a lot of patients are worried that we are all charlatans who would have no hesitation in keeping their money once we have got our hands on it. By giving the money back immediately, with no questions, the patient will then feel a lot better about you and your practice and it will increase goodwill and make them more likely to re-book or recommend you to a friend.
- Taking a deposit also helps with cash flow. This may or may not be a concept that you are aware of or is important to you. It is certainly something that can make or break a business and something that I became very familiar with in the early years of opening my clinic!
Cash flow is the money coming in and the money going out of a business. When you run a business, you have set costs and bills to pay every month – payroll, rent, rates, etc.
If you cannot pay your bills, you go bankrupt.
The weird thing is that you can run a very profitable business and still go bankrupt.
If you have to pay for raw materials or services in advance but don’t get paid for what you do until later, you can find yourself in a position where you are unable to pay your bills and you go bankrupt – even if you would have made a good profit when you did get paid.
Cash flow is essential to running a business, but fortunately most doctors who have a regular NHS income do not have to worry about going bankrupt, so this may not be at the front of your mind.
Nevertheless, it can often take weeks to months to get paid for an operation if you are waiting for the hospital to pay you, so it might be nice to get some money in advance and you can just let the hospital know that your surgical fee will be less because you have already taken a deposit.
Why We Take A Deposit
The main reason that we take a deposit is because it is giving better customer service.
Our mission is to develop a world class service that stands for quality and service and I believe that taking a deposit is actually part of delivering a better service.
Taking a deposit will cost you money, because you will have to take the payment and will be charged a fee.
The process is not difficult, it is very easy to take payments these days, you can set up a PayPal account or use something like Square Up where you can take payments over the phone or in person, but these companies will take a percentage and so, while it does help with cash flow, there is a cost associated with doing it.
If you are not sure and you think that this might be a good idea, I would encourage you to try it out
What's The Worst That Can Happen?
If someone doesn’t pay the deposit for any reason, it is just the same as what you are doing now.
If you find it too hard to keep track of it or if you feel the costs outweigh the benefits, just stop.
Everyone’s practice ethos and design will be different, but you need to spend time thinking about what sort of practice you want to have and start doing things that are in alignment with your vision.
Otherwise, you will just keep doing what you have been doing and you will keep getting what you have been getting.
Let me know what you think.