Now, soon, later – it’s all about data

Welcome to Onswitch’s latest blog, this time looking at prioritising actions and decisions based on sound data, with a view to optimising the return to something more normal (when it inevitably happens).

During this lockdown period, we’ll be sharing regular updates that we hope will help your business stay on track during these difficult times. You can also get video updates on our Facebook page, where the team are posting short clips of practical tips, useful information and community welfare advice as and when we think of anything that might help.

Please do let us know if there are subjects you’d like to know more about, and we’ll do our best to oblige – we’re all in this together!


When we find ourselves in new and scary situations, it’s easy for our reactions and behaviours to be led by gut feel and emotions. Right now, a few weeks in, it feels like we’re settling into a kind of routine for the days and weeks, and many practices we speak to are starting to wrangle a coping strategy out of these uncertain times. One of the best ways to formulate an effective plan is to use the ‘now, soon, later’ model we advocate for consult communications:

  • Now it’s all about looking after our people, both those we pay (our teams) and those who pay us (our clients). As well as ensuring our families and friends stay safe, of course.
  • Soon our focus will have to turn to the stark business realities as we seek to protect cash reserves and revenue streams. Make sure you research exactly what help your business is entitled to and apply for it all. As of Monday 20th April, the government furlough scheme is now open, so act quickly if you want to get payments into your business account before the payroll runs at the end of the month.
  • Later we’ll need to plan how we’re going to return to business. How do we prioritise the backlog of caseload? What staffing and rota arrangements will be needed to clear the decks quickly?

It’s all about data

At the heart of any good decision is sound data. Gut feel and experience are all very well, but none of us have been in this situation before and nobody knows the best way out. Evidence-based decisions are always best when it comes to practice management, just as they are in the consult room. Hopefully your practice management system and telephony service can give you a quick, detailed and accurate picture of the numbers shaping this unique period. It probably feels like there are far more calls than usual coming in, but practices we work with who are able to pull their call data have found that actually it’s pretty much normalised now (after an initial spike in enquiries after lockdown began). It feels worse because your clinicians are answering and handling calls, rather than a dedicated customer care team. But the data shows it’s not.

(As an aside, if you haven’t got access to call data then please make a mental note to switch your telephone service to one that provides call volume data when this is all over – it’s invaluable when it comes to manning the front desk at busy times and ensuring you don’t miss potential income from engaged and lost calls).

As pretty much the only people in, vets and nurses at your practice are probably handling all the inbound emails and social media messages alongside the calls that would usually be cleared quickly by the customer care team who have now been furloughed. Whereas real-time calls and webchats (synchronous communications) must be dealt with by clinicians as they come in, asynchronous data such as emails and messages can be handled remotely and with a short time delay. Paying your clinicians’ hourly rate to manage these communications will not make financial sense if volumes are high – data will tell you how big the job is and thus highlight if the time has perhaps come to bring back one or two members of the admin and customer care teams.

Accurate data may also help reassure you that the business finances are not as bad as it seems. Revenue is inevitably down, but the picture could be more manageable than you think. Emergency things are still happening and the procedures that are being postponed are not lost, simply delayed. The dentals, neuters and lump removals that you’d normally be doing each week will still need doing when this is all over. It’s a good idea to start thinking now about how you’re going to resource the practice to manage these later – rotas and shift patterns may well need to change for a while, evening and weekend operating lists may be required and you’ll need to fill your clinicians’ time with skills-appropriate tasks, delegating wherever possible to others in the team.

When we’re stuck in the now and soon, planning for later can feel like a low priority. But when later comes around you’ll need to be prepared. And data will be essential in ensuring that you are.



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