As VP Marketing for VetSuccess, I seize the opportunity to spend time with our members whenever I can, as I learn so much from them. Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of attending a retreat for practice managers, along with our National Accounts Manager Extraordinaire, Sally Jackson.
I stand in complete awe of veterinary practice managers and everything they must juggle daily: HR, financials, management processes, client relationships, marketing, inventory, sourcing, purchasing, budgeting, business planning and oversight – the list goes on. And on top of all this, they’re tasked with being medical experts, too! Practice managers have many hats to wear, and I have tremendous respect for anyone in this challenging role.
What struck me the most during the retreat was how overwhelming the scope of responsibility must seem at times. It was great to see this awesome group of managers sharing ideas on so many topics, and being so willing to help one another become more successful.
Valuable tips from your industry peers
As part of a service mapping exercise, participants were asked to examine each step of the client experience and come up with ways to improve service. Here are a few of the great ideas and best practices they came up with.
- Know who your target demographic is and use the appropriate channels for your marketing efforts. For example, if your target audience is primarily seniors, Instagram likely won’t be an effective way to reach them!
- Take advantage of Google’s Street View so perspective clients can see what your practice looks like before visiting.
- Give clients the opportunity to set up appointments and fill out forms electronically.
- Set expectations for the appointment over the phone. Find out as much as you can about what the client expects from the appointment so the proper amount of time and resources can be allocated.
- Consider a referral program. Rewarding clients for referrals can be a great way to bring new patients to your practice. Keep the program simple. For example, offer a $50 gift card or discount for a future appointment in exchange for a referral who becomes a client.
Upon arrival at reception
The check-in experience sets the tone for the visit and needs to be as welcoming and stress-free as possible. With this in mind:
- Set up a Welcome whiteboard in your reception area. List the names of pets that will be visiting the practice that day. Clients love this!
- Walk through the hospital constantly and make sure it remains clean and tidy throughout, at all times.
- Take your time with clients so they feel calm, not rushed. And SMILE!
- Upload photos of pets into your practice management system so that your team can put names to faces.
- Check client contact information – especially email addresses – at each visit in order to keep your database up to date.
- Keep clients informed on the status of their appointments if there are delays, to avoid unnecessary aggravation on their part.
During the appointment
- When it comes to balancing tech time with doctor time, there are no hard and fast rules. Rather, base this balance on individual needs and preferences so that you can bring the greatest value to both your patients and clients. Clients who have a great relationship with an experienced technician may be quite happy to spend most of their visit with that tech. New clients may feel better served if they visit primarily with a doctor. Others, for example, those that appear rushed for time, may want to meet with both the tech and doctor simultaneously to avoid having to explain their concerns twice.
- Like the Welcome board in the lobby, consider placing a board in each exam room with the names of that day’s visitors.
- Whether you’re a doctor or technician, explain what you’re doing, and why, during each step of the appointment. Your clients will feel much more comfortable with the process and you’ll be adding great value to your service.
- Promote and explain the value and importance of bloodwork, nutrition and wellness exams. If your clients understand this, they’ll be more likely to comply with your recommendations.
- Offer a carry-out service to clients, including those who call in product orders and those who order through their Vet2Pet app. Clients are often struggling with kids, pets and more. Helping them get their purchases from your practice to their car is a small gesture but one that will help build loyalty to your practice.
- After appointments, walk your clients out to reception. This added personal touch is a great opportunity to point them towards any recommended products.
- Forward-book your patients’ next appointments. One VetSuccess member achieved a 65% forward booking rate by doing this , compared to the national average of 12%.
- Double-check invoices before handing them over to make absolutely sure they’re correct.
- Email clients an online survey, or hand them a printed one at check-out time, to get feedback on their experience with your practice. Use that feedback to make further tweaks and improvements!
Using veterinary practice data to improve the client experience
As you know, we’re in the business of helping practices be more successful by providing data-driven practice management solutions. You can use these solutions to help improve your customer service. Soon, we’ll be producing a series of webinars to assist you with this. To help us ensure these webinars provide as much value as possible, we’d appreciate it if you could take five minutes out of your busy day to complete a brief survey: How Much Do You Love Data?  Thanks in advance!