Multiple clinic owner Lucy Xu shares her key considerations for opening additional practices
When the time is right, you may consider expanding your aesthetic business and opening multiple clinics. Like opening your first clinic, expanding requires a great deal of thought and strategic planning, as well as many other aspects of expansion, which may not have been considered the first-time round. Expansion may be an option because you have patients in different locations and want to provide them with your services, or maybe the demand is so high at your current clinic that you can’t keep up and need another site. One challenge that many business owners face when embarking on this venture, including myself, is maintaining the same high quality services of care and overall consistency between the clinics.
In my opinion, the key areas for success are quality of service, customer satisfaction, reputation, image and ethics. Keeping these factors in mind is vital because your customers will recommend your business to their families and friends; staying loyal to you after you made them feel special and after they have seen good treatment results. The following points need to be considered when you are opening multiple sites to ensure you maintain and retain happy patients.
Your new premises should carry the same branding as your first, including its image, colour scheme, interior design, furniture, signage, marketing material and brochures. In my experience, brand consistency demonstrates the professionalism of the company and gains the trust of patients, as well as allowing them to identify your clinic brand easily.
If you have inconsistent branding, it can make it difficult for your patients to recognise your unique products and services. Maintaining brand recognition is something you can manage yourself, but the more clinics you have, the more time this takes, so to save you time and
to ensure that it is done correctly, you can choose to appoint an experienced branding consultant to help achieve consistency. They can analyse all areas from online and offline marketing, content writing, promotion, logos, clinic interiors and PR aspects to achieve consistency and continuity.
If your first site is not compatible with the image of a multiple-site chain, for example, if your brand is specific to one location and you have positioned yourself as a local service, this may make it difficult to expand, so it may be worth completely rebranding your business to cater for your current sites and future growth.
As you expand, your management structure should expand and evolve too.
For multi-clinic operations, you should make sure each site has an individual clinic manager who will oversee the operations of that particular site. Prior to opening a new site, you can appoint your clinic manager for the new forthcoming site and train them to become familiar with your original clinic’s operation, standards and overall company culture. They can work and train in your existing or primary site to ensure they are familiar with the clinic’s day-to-day running process and priorities that need to be focused on before your new clinic opens.
You should next consider appointing an operations manager, who has a different role from an individual clinic manager in that their responsibility is to monitor the overall business, ensuring smooth running of the sites; overseeing each clinic’s productivity and line managing the clinic managers. They will also ensure all sites are running under the same treatment, health and safety, and training protocols and are achieving targets to maximise profits.
Sales and marketing manager
It is also a good idea to employ a sales and marketing manager who will work on marketing campaigns, increase new revenue, generate new leads, report on performance results through various marketing channels, organise company’s promotional events and undertake PR activities.
All managers and their departments should cooperate and communicate well to ensure the smooth running of the operations with improved results within each clinic and across the business. Arranging a weekly meeting is very important. The clinic managers should be providing feedback from each site, which helps the operations manager to identify gaps and improve the success of the business, and will allow the marketing manager to modify the marketing efforts to maximise sales. If you don’t have one already, you should look to develop your own company operations manual, setting out your company’s culture, customer care, goals, standards and ethics, so all your staff understand what is expected of them and maintain a high standard of consistency throughout all sites.
The new clinic staff you employ should have the qualities that replicate those who are working in your original business. Your new recruits should be trained to the same standard as your existing staff. Training by the equipment manufacturers, product suppliers, as well as general in-house training is a good idea to ensure they know how to offer good quality treatments and have excellent product knowledge.
Training is a long-term commitment; your staff must continuously receive updated protocol training on existing treatments, as well as for new technology and devices you add. It is during the training process that the recruit should learn your company culture, targets, and how to cooperate with other team members. Prior to treating patients, it is essential for newcomers to shadow their colleagues or senior practitioners who have been performing treatments in the clinic for a while, so they can become familiar with your treatment processes to maintain a consistent customer journey. It is also helpful to make sure that your staff are all trained in the same way so that they can work in different clinics sites if necessary.
When you have multiple sites, it is good practice to create healthy competition between the clinics. You can do this by setting monthly revenue targets, such as retail and service targets, and rewarding those who reach the target. A well-thought- out and varied incentive programme can optimise your staff and performance. Ensure you have clear, transparent salary tiers and goals for your staffs to work towards. Targets should be allocated fairly, taking several things into account; for example, size and location of premises, and the number of employees.
In the aesthetics specialty, new technology emerges very fast. Where possible, make sure all your clinics are equipped with the latest technology and related training to offer the best service to your patients. A good management software and IT system is essential for good internal communication, information flow, and a more effective operation with better efficiency. Management software also gives accurate reports, allowing you to clearly see new business leads, revenue driven by marketing activities and expenditure. You should aim to keep your technology the same between clinics if possible, so that all patients know what to expect at each clinic.
It is important to replicate the processes that you know work well in your first clinic to your others. It doesn’t matter which site a patient goes to, they should receive the same welcome, and same level of service and experience, just like we would expect the same standard of coffee from every coffee shop in a chain. For example, all practitioners in your clinic should follow the same consultation process. It is very useful to have a consultation guide printed as a small, concise booklet so that everyone can use it for each new patient’s consultation. Of course, this may vary because every patient is different and each practitioner may have their own style of consulting, however basic principles, such as exploring various treatment options and taking a thorough patient history, should be a standard part of every consultation.
One of our most valuable clinic processes is taking before and after treatment photographs of every patient. As we know, this is very important in aesthetics because they provide evidence of your treatment success and document any side effects/complications that may occur. To the best of your abilities, you should use the same photography equipment in your clinics, as well as the same type of lighting, backdrops, angles and the same consent procedures for marketing. Ensure your staff are not skipping this vital step as it is a very convincing and powerful tool to increase consultation conversion and to monitor a patient’s results.
Patients should also expect the same process for booking appointments for each clinic. When you have several clinics, consistency of high customer service from clinic to clinic can be a challenge. If one clinic is busy and the call is transferred or directed to another clinic, the service on the phone must be to that same high standard, otherwise new enquiries may not be dealt with in the most appropriate way.
For a successful and smooth customer experience over the phone, a central call centre, manned by professionally trained staff (with in-depth knowledge of treatments as well as telephone sales skills), can be extremely effective to increase conversion. You can choose to employ a company to do this, or you can do this in-house. If you do this in- house, your call centre could benefit from a booking and management software system, so all new enquires can be effectively booked into each clinic’s daily systems according to the location of patients.
I have found that the above seven considerations have been extremely important in my journey as a multiple-clinic owner. The core of running an aesthetic business is to deliver exceptional customer service and treatment results; laying a solid foundation to work from before you consider expansion. When opening additional sites, ensure you really consider the above points to maintain a consistent customer journey. All the best to my industry colleagues who wish to expand their business in the near future!
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