'An Explosion Of Customers': Appointment-Based Services See Re-Opening Boom
With the end of pandemic restrictions, places like doctor’s offices, salons and dental practices say they are seeing a surge in demand – both from residents who delayed appointments during the pandemic, and from people who recently moved to the state.
The surge comes as many businesses are dealing with staffing shortages.
With the end of Vermont’s COVID-19 restrictions, many appointment based services are seeing a spike in scheduling requests. A lot of these businesses are already understaffed and now overwhelmed with their workload.
Ellie Trono is the owner of Di Moda Salon in downtown Burlington. The high-end hair salon near the waterfront remained open throughout much of the pandemic.
“We were open in June of last year, and we stayed open the whole time, and I always felt – we – always felt safe; everything felt great. We definitely stayed steady, but now there is just an explosion of customers,” Trono said. “And I'm not sure if they're new and moving to the state. Some of it seems like that. So we're trying to figure out where this is all coming from.”
"We were open in June of last year, and we stayed open the whole time, and I always felt -- we -- always felt safe; everything felt great. We definitely stayed steady, but now there is just an explosion of customers..."
Trono said online bookings are stacking up, creating a digital queue of eager customers: “We do online booking and we actually had to pause it for about a week or so, just because people were hopping on and booking appointments.”
As a result, regular customers who have been waiting to schedule appointments might have to wait a bit longer.
“We've seen an increase in people requesting that aren't just our regular clients. So there's a flow of people out there that are looking for services. And we're just having a little bit more of a challenge to accommodate … so people are waiting a little bit longer. And … we're doing as best as we can to keep up with it,” said Trono.
Michael Morris is a dentist at Chittenden Dental, near downtown Burlington. Like Trono, he said he has been busy, not just with patients who delayed treatment during the pandemic, but with some new faces filling his seats.
“It’s my understanding that there still is a continuous influx of people from out-of-state. And that really, I can say in our collective of new patients, is the demographic that I'm seeing,” Morris said. “A lot of our new people are people coming in from out of the area, whereas previously, if we were seeing new patients, a lot of them were just patients who were in the area. They're locals, maybe switching offices. [But now there’s] really not a lot of that; mostly new people to the area [is what] we're seeing now … which is great.”
"A lot of our new people are people coming in from out of the area, whereas previously, if we were seeing new patients, a lot of them were just patients who were in the area."
Across services, staff are struggling to handle the increase in appointments being made by new and returning patrons.
Many places say they are under-staffed, leaving the workers to carry a bigger load than usual.
Ken Palm is a dentist at Colchester Dental Group and Aesthetic Center. He is seeing a pent-up demand from existing patients while receiving over 30 new patients a month.
“It has put a lot of pressure on the office,” Palm said. “Because, you know, just melting that and integrating them into the system with the existing spaces that we have and faces, those existing patients who had delayed or postponed treatment … you know, it just created a greater backlog.”
“It has put a lot of pressure on the office ... integrating them into the system with the existing spaces that we have and ... those existing patients who had delayed or postponed treatment … you know, it just created a greater backlog.”
While the penalty for not having seen your hairdresser in months is a couple bad hair days, the potential penalties for not doing regular check-ins for your health can be more severe.
Health providers are seeing the consequences of a year of pandemic-delayed preventive and emergency care.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington is seeing a slight increase in routine visits and screenings, according to Ashley Jowett. She said the increase has been fueled in part by people who delayed appointments during the pandemic.
And those delays could have severe long term consequences. Dr. Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, says he fears medical providers will see an increase in finding more advanced cancers, as well as rotting and damaged teeth, among other chronic ailments.
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