I’ve been a veterinarian now for 22 years and what I have learned is that not every client is equal. There are so many awesome clients — they are kind, empathetic, aware of medical limitations and the fact that veterinarians don’t possess a crystal ball. Other clients though are “awesome-challenged”—they may have unrealistic expectations for whatever reason. And the more time I spend spinning my wheels with “awesome-challenged” clients, the less rewarding my day is as a veterinarian committed to helping every patient in my path. At the beginning of my career I based the definition of a “good day” on how many animals I saved. While that is obviously important, I now realize that doesn’t contribute to a good day as much as working with awesome clients who “get it”.Veterinary practices typically focus on constantly recruiting new clients. We rarely spend any time analyzing how many existing clients are leaving. Click To Tweet
Have we as a profession contributed to this? Is it the philosophy that in order to maintain a healthy business, we need to be constantly recruiting new clients to offset those that are leaving? I’d like to suggest that an alternative approach is to stop the bleed of clients leaving. Or even better, just focus on the big bleeds and stop those. Veterinary practices who “get it” approach this in much the same way we master a splenectomy or major surgery—don’t worry about the little bleeders, ligate the big ones and you’ll be fine.
How to determine who your most awesome clients are
It’s time to think about a new approach aimed at identifying who your best clients really are and delivering an ultimate client experience, so they’ll never consider leaving your practice. In case you don’t know how to identify a VIP client, here are a few examples:
- A new client sends you an email from your website saying they would like to schedule an appointment to talk about their pet’s bad breath and wondering how to get you the records from their last vet, prior to the appointment.
- They bake cookies for you.
- They write a nice review about you after the first visit.
- They take 2 days off work to be with their pet after their surgery.
- They should have called you after hours, but they didn’t because they didn’t want to bother you during your family time.
- They send you a photo of their pet.
A new approach: 10 ways to retain your awesome clients
Here are 10 tips on how to make your best clients feel like VIPs, and bond them to your practice:
- Create a loyalty rewards program so clients can receive perks for being big spenders at your hospital.
- Take a photo of their pets and post it on your FB.
- Have a “surprise toy box” in your cupboard and let pets pick out their favorite surprises. (Tip: hide some CET chews amongst the stuffed animals and most pets will pick the food, keeping your costs down and generally resulting in a purchase of CET chews!)
- Send a bone or mouse toy in the mail after an illness or big procedure as a “get well soon” gift.
- Allow pet owners to be with their pet during blood draws, nail trims, and sedations.
- Invite pet owners into the “back” when they are dropping off or picking up a pet. Being invited behind closed doors really lets your client feel like a VIP! (Tip: Have a fluffy blanket and stuffed animal in each pet’s kennel so the parents will see this.)
- Give them your cell number.
- Text your client personally the next day to check on their pet after a big procedure.
- When a pet dies, have a tree planted in their name, or a garden rock made with their pet’s name engraved on it.
- Remember the little things by being a good notekeeper. For example, I know that Sheba (my 13-year-old diabetic cat patient) loves to be combed on the cheeks and eat Royal Canin treats during her exam so these things are waiting in the room for her prior to her arrival for an appointment.
Comments you won’t hear from a VIP client
Here are a few examples of things an “awesome-challenged” client might say. When you hear comments like these, you seriously need to consider limiting the amount of time you spend with them.
Is it really necessary for my pet to have an exam every single year?
I can’t believe it is going to cost so much to have my pet’s teeth cleaned. I think my sister got it done for half that price at her vet.
Can you repeat everything you just said to my husband?
My breeder told me that my dog can’t have Ace. Do you know that?
You haven’t heard of the Golden Spotted Blue Newfoundland from the village of Happy Valley Goose Bay?
What are your thoughts? In my experience, rewarding loyal clients and treating them as VIPs has a direct positive impact on revenue. And really helps make each and every day a “good day”!
Stacee Santi, DVM is the CEO/Founder of Vet2Pet, which provides veterinary practices with customizable apps that make it easy for them to connect with their clients. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.