Lapsing Clients Mystery: Can You Figure Out Why This South Carolina Practice Was Losing Hundreds of Clients?

by Kevin Keystone / May 23, 2019


Detective Keystone reporting for duty on the case of the lapsing clients.

Let’s start at the beginning of this lapsing client mystery

I have to say: working in the veterinary industry has been one of the most unusual and unexpected career paths for me. I’m sure if you spent most of your life thinking and talking about how much you love animals, the veterinary industry would be a very natural fit.

Me? I grew up with a dog that I liked very much, but our main relationship was me putting dog food in his bowl when I got home from school (and filling it with some water from the tap, just the way he liked it), and picking up after him in our backyard. Which is to say: we liked each other a lot, but we didn’t have much in common.

So it came as a surprise to me when I woke up one morning and discovered I was working for a veterinary company.

Yes, VetSuccess is about data analysis, reporting, insights, and solutions. But let’s face it: our specialty and secret sauce is that we are one with the veterinary industry. We don’t do work in dentistry, we don’t trade playing cards with our friends in engineering, construction, or astrophysics. No: we’re a veterinary data company and proudly so.

But that left me feeling a bit out of my depth. So, I went on the hunt for more information. I grabbed my notepad and pen, and I snuck up on Karyn Ekola, a Practice Success Coach for VetSuccess, as she reviewed our suite of reports with an unsuspecting veterinary practice owner and manager in South Carolina.

And let me tell you what I discovered…

The plot thickens on the lapsing client mystery

A chart showing active vs. lapsing clients, and how many months since their last visit

You see, this particular veterinary practice had a problem. They were losing clients by the boatload, which is an especially apt metaphor considering there’s a naval base in town.

But it wasn’t the Navy’s fault, shipping out their clients and patients on submarines and destroyers. No, this practice had no ready explanation. No navy to blame it on, no solution to the hole that had mysteriously appeared in their bucket. They were bleeding patients and didn’t know why.

Karyn could see the problem, too. Chart after chart of declining patients, clients, and revenue. The practice owner wondered openly if it might have been a switch from one practice management software to another, a technical glitch in the database. But the next chart revealed that the data went all the way back to well before the switch, ruling out the database as a possible source of error.

Emotions began to rise on the case of the lapsing clients

The practice owner grew increasingly quiet.

Karyn worked to allay her fears, but everyone knew that if the trend kept up and patients went down, it would mean serious consequences for the practice’s bottom line and for the future prospects of the whole operation.

It wasn’t until we got to the Lapsing Patients Chart, the very last chart on the Practice Overview Report, that we noticed something very strange indeed…

An example of a Lapsing Patients chart from the Practice Overview Report

The Lapsing Patients Chart shows you how many patients you haven’t seen for a given number of months. For example, if you haven’t seen 12 patients in 15 months and 10 patients in 16 months, you’ll see 12 under “15 months” and 10 under “16 months.”

For this particular practice, the report showed an average of 60-odd patients lapsing at 29 months and above. Not too terribly uncommon to see those numbers for a practice this size, and it was very consistent. Roughly 60 at 29 months, 60 at 30 months, etcetera.

But then, at the 28th-month mark, the number doubled. Yes, it doubled. 120 patients lapsing at the 28-month mark. It went on like that—27, 26, 25 months—and eventually, it tripled. The change was so shocking, the disparity so clear.

There was only one question to ask…

What happened 28 months ago???

It took the DVM owner about ten seconds to put it together: that was when they switched their reminder protocols from email-and-print combo to email-only. That month, after that switch, they started losing twice as many clients as the previous month, and eventually three times as many.

Needless to say, they’re going back to email-and-print combo.

The punch line, though, isn’t a pitch for email-and-print combo versus email-only reminders, because who knows what the individual circumstances are for a particular practice.

The story is really about how VetSuccess reports and insights can help save practices. Click To Tweet

It was so shocking, it was such a lightbulb moment, and you could hear the palpable relief on the part of the DVM and practice manager in the room.

After all, we had helped them find the hole in their bucket, which meant they could find a solution to fix it. That’s the power of data-driven insights.

VetSuccess Reports: Saving lapsing clients, one trend line at a time.

A huge congratulations to Karyn and our friends at our member practice in South Carolina. They knew they had a problem at their veterinary practice, and instead of running to duck and cover, they stepped up, opened their books, and asked for help. From the laughter and cheers on the other end of the line, I feel pretty confident in saying that they were happy with the help they received.

Case closed. Now to dig into my Lapsing Clients Toolkit. This is your favorite detective and product tech nerd, over and out.


Kevin Keystone is the former Head of Product for VetSuccess.

This blog has been updated and was originally published on September 1, 2016.

Share This: