Millennial client confession: 6 things I wish my veterinary practice knew

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Millennials, aka those born between 1981 and 1996, are currently the largest generation in America. When it comes to attracting and retaining millennial clients, this often misunderstood cohort presents unique challenges and opportunities for veterinary practices. Business as usual no longer flies when it comes to millennials. 

But fear not, I’m one of them *gasp* and I’m here to spill my guts on how I really feel about my veterinary practice in the hopes that a little understanding can go a long way. That’s right, I was born in 1984, technology is second nature to me, and don’t even get me started on my student loan debt. I am a millennial and this is my story. DUN DUN

 

Disclaimer:

No veterinary practices were harmed in the making of this article.

Seriously though, I think it’s important to begin by saying that I love the veterinary industry, I love my veterinarian, and I have the utmost respect for those who work in veterinary medicine. You’re real life heroes who are overworked, underpaid, and not celebrated nearly enough. Thank you for all that you do! 

Alright, now that we’ve started off on the right foot, let’s get to the tough love part.

6 things I wish my veterinary practice knew

1. Know me and my pets

Like many millennials, I opted to have pets instead of children, so these furry little creatures are my world. While it may seem like basic customer service 101, it’s important that you know and use my pet’s name during our visit. I understand that you are exceptionally busy, but calling my dog Molly Freckles (yes, her full name) and correctly gendering her is critical.

Also, if you want to establish trust and build a relationship, reference her past medical history during the appointment. Ask me how her hips are doing because you know that she has hip dysplasia. Just like my massage place knows which massage therapist I like, use the details of my last appointment when booking future appointments.

Bonus tip: If you really want a client for life, flatter my pet. I’m serious. I don’t care if you say it to every dog in the building, tell me my dog has the best spots you’ve ever seen. This happened once and that veterinarian easily became my preferred doctor at a large practice.

 

2. Yes, I’m listening; educate me

Since my pets are my world, I want to be the best pet owner I can be. I’m a sponge when you explain things to me and I count on you to provide relevant, age-appropriate information throughout my pet’s life.

One of the best things you can do is explain out loud what you’re doing and why. Help me understand why dental health is so important and why year round heartworm protection is a must. Tell me about new products and encourage me to ask questions. Let your practice app fill in the gaps and educate me when I’m not physically in the practice.

More on technology later…

 

3. Make it easy for me

Home delivery, home delivery, home delivery. I cannot stress enough how important home delivery is to me. I once asked my vet if they could ship me my dog’s Rx diet food and they recommended Chewy! *collective gasp*

Since I had heard of Vetsource Home Delivery, I knew it was possible and I wanted to keep my dollars with my vet, especially because the food was earning me loyalty points monthly.

More on loyalty programs later…

There’s ample data coming out supporting the fact that clients would shop via their vet’s online store if they had one and advertised it. Home delivery is quickly approaching the non-negotiable status in terms of practice management and client retention, about as critical as having a practice website or phone system.

 

4. Don’t underestimate me

Don’t assume I can’t or won’t pay for medical care just because I’m younger. I’m actually more likely to follow treatment recommendations because, again, my pets are my kids.

At the risk of sounding like Tony Robbins, if you want more VIP pet owners, then talk to millennials as if you know they’re going to accept your recommendations. Click To Tweet 

Also, don’t assume I won’t agree to parasiticides for my cats. I’ve seen VetSuccess compliance data, I know cat owners are lacking when it comes to parasiticide compliance but trust me, I foster cats and I’ve learned the hard way about fleas. Educate other millennials about the importance of proper cat care and help shift the tide for felines.

 

5. I expect the tech; technology that is

Millennials are known as digital natives, so it should come as no surprise that I expect my veterinary practice to have an app. My generation is really into gaming and the concept of gamification personally works really well on me. I love crossing things off my list and accumulating points. Take advantage of that with a custom application that has a built in loyalty program feature, such as Vet2Pet.

Bonus tip: Don’t abruptly change your reward system when your millennial client is 1 point away from a free exam. This was the single thread keeping my Rx diet food purchases at my vet. With a suddenly lousy loyalty program and no home delivery, I had little incentive to keep purchasing the food there.

Also consider enabling appointment scheduling on your website and via your app. My vet’s phone lines are often busy, making it difficult to simply book or request an appointment. Every point of friction in the client journey risks losing clients and patients.

 

6. I am a visual creature

I’m mildly embarrassed to admit that I do judge a veterinary practice by the way it looks. You can probably thank Instagram for that. To me, an outdated facade translates to outdated medicine, whereas an updated facade translates to modern and sophisticated medicine, regardless of what actually is the case. Unlike my parents, I don’t just go to the closest vet, I do my research beforehand and try to pick a veterinary practice that matches my expectations.

In short, update the look of your practice. If you have wood paneling* anywhere in your practice, I’m talking to you. Joanna Gaines your practice and if you don’t know what that means, then start by researching that.

 

How do you serve your millennial clients?

So, how does your practice stack up against this rant list? 

If you’d like to discover what your actual millennial clients think of your practice, be sure to survey them and set up a system for collecting client feedback. Improving the client experience, especially for millennials, is certainly one way to differentiate yourself from competitors. 

 

*Shiplap is ok.

 


 

Kate Zirkle, the author

 

Kate Zirkle is a Marketing Manager for VetSuccess. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip. You can reach her at kate@vetsuccess.com.