Simple Service Ideas can Enrich Vet Clients’ Experiences
By Wendy S. Myers
Posted: December 3, 2013, 1:30 p.m. EDT
When clients visit your veterinary hospital, are you just another errand in their busy days, or do you create memorable moments?
Here are simple service ideas that will strengthen client relationships and generate referrals.
Set up new client records during scheduling calls. Imagine a new client visiting with her fussy toddler and Jack Russell tugging at the leash. You hand her a clipboard with a new client registration form.
You’ll likely get incomplete and illegible information.
Instead, enter her contact information in your practice-management software during the scheduling call.
Provide driving directions and offer to contact her previous veterinarian to get medical records before her pet’s visit. If phone lines are ringing and clients are lined up, offer to email her a link to your website where she can complete your new client registration form online.
Give welcome bags filled with goodies to new clients. Get canvas bags imprinted with your clinic logo, phone number and website (courtesy The Cat Specialist, Castle Rock, Colo.). Stuff bags with slip leashes, pet food measuring cups, magnets, emergency clinic info, and other giveaways. Wendy S. Meyers
Completing paperwork in advance will let you start the first visit on time rather than having 15 minutes of valuable exam time eaten up with paperwork.
Confirm appointments. Remind clients two days before exams with phone calls and/or emails. Tell dog owners: "This is <your name> calling from Your Veterinary Hospital to confirm your dog’s appointment with Dr. <her name> tomorrow at 10 a.m. Please remember to bring a teaspoon-sized stool sample that’s fresh within four hours, as well as any medications and supplements you’re currently giving your dog. If you have questions or need to reschedule, please call us at 555-555-5555.”
Tell cat owners: "This is <your name> calling from Your Veterinary Hospital to confirm your cat’s appointment with Dr. <his name> tomorrow at 10 a.m. Please bring a teaspoon-sized stool sample from the litter box that’s fresh within four hours. It’s OK if litter is on the stool sample. A helpful tip is to scoop your litter boxes tonight, and then it will be easy to spot a fresh stool sample in the morning to bring with you. We will screen your cat for multiple intestinal parasites, including those that can be passed from pets to people. Also bring any medications and supplements that you’re currently giving your cat. If you have questions or need to reschedule, please call us at 555-555-5555.”
These scripts significantly increase compliance for intestinal parasite screening, prevent no-shows and encourage clients to arrive on time. Asking clients to bring medications and supplements identifies "extra” doses of preventives that were never given, as well as self-prescribed drugs for self-diagnosed ailments.
For example, a client has a 12-pack of preventives with three remaining doses and a bottle of aspirin she occasionally gives her 10-year-old golden retriever when he feels painful. This lets you revisit the importance of monthly preventive dosing, diagnostic testing and veterinary drugs for arthritis.
Give new clients a welcome gift bag. Have canvas bags imprinted with your logo, phone number and website.
Stuff bags with a slip leash with your clinic name and phone number, hospital magnet, pet food measuring cup, hospital brochure, emergency clinic info, vaccine record, pen with your logo, and toy or treats. Add literature based on the pet’s life stage.
For example, new clients with senior pets would receive brochures on senior preventive screening, arthritis and senior diets.
In the Lobby
Offer beverages in your lobby. So you don’t risk a broken glass coffee pot or children touching a hot container, have a coffee carafe, stainless insulated pot or Keurig single-serve brewing system, which allows clients to choose coffee, tea or cocoa.
Also, have a water dispenser with paper cups for people and paper bowls for dogs.
Avoid plastic bowls, which could cause injury if dogs chew them. Toss used paper cups and bowls into your recycling.
Have an umbrella stand at the front door. Fill it with golf umbrellas. When it’s raining, escort clients to their cars. Clients will appreciate staying dry and their cars won’t smell like wet dogs.
Stand to greet clients. This communicates that you’re eager to help and gets you on the same eye level.
Leaning towards the client indicates you’re interested in her and her pet.
Shake clients’ hands. The physical touch of a handshake is a welcoming gesture and communicates your professionalism. Have a confident handshake, not a wimpy one. If you’re afraid of germs, keep hand sanitizer in exam rooms and on reception counters.
Give clients your business card. In addition to veterinarians, every staff member needs a business card.
Get free cards at www.vistaprint.com. Veterinary assistants could give business cards to puppy and kitten owners for when they have questions at home about topics covered during exams.
When technicians discharge surgical and dental patients, they should provide business cards in case clients have questions about home-care instructions. While checking in pets, boarding staff can say, "My name is <your name>. I will be caring for Duke while he stays at our hospital. If you have any questions during his stay, please call and ask for me, or any boarding team member. We’ll take great care of Duke and email you updates and photos.”
Client service representatives can provide business cards after a hospital tour or if the client needs to make a follow-up appointment later. Watch my video on using business cards at www.YouTube.com/csvets.
Communication is Key
Provide an exam report card. Report cards summarize the doctor’s findings, note when the next visit is due, and help family members who were not present understand instructions.
Present service first, price last. As a client nears the checkout counter, stand to greet her, smile and make eye contact. Read the list of services and products off the computer screen, and then state the total. Don’t say prices for each item, just the sum.
Besides showing value, this allows the client to add items such as preventives, medication for other pets and food. Say, "Today Charlie had a preventive care exam, heartworm/tick and intestinal parasite screens, and vaccines to protect him from canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, parvovirus, rabies, and respiratory disease. You have Charlie’s parasite preventives and therapeutic diet. Does Charlie or your other pets need any additional refills today?”
After the client responds, say, "Your total is $____. Which payment method are you using today? For your convenience, we accept cash, checks, all major credit cards and CareCredit.”
Provide exam door to car door service. Whoever discharges a hospitalized, surgical or dental patient should escort the client to the car and get the pet safely inside. Too often, a cat owner places the carrier in a front seat where a sudden stop could send the carrier flying or cause an airbag to inflate.
A feline friend also could distract the driver.
Place the carrier in the back seat and thread the seat belt through the carrier handle for security.
Share the Catalyst Council’s video "Cats and Carriers: Friends Not Foes” on your clinic Facebook page (www.catalystcouncil.org/resources/health_welfare/cat_carrier_video/index.aspx). Show a wclient how to properly lift his dog into the car following orthopedic surgery so as not to risk injuries from jumping.
When you enhance the client experience from check-in to checkout, you’ll have happier clients who return for future visits and tell their friends about your practice. Word-of-mouth referrals have long been the No. 1 source of new clients for veterinary hospitals, so deliver exceptional service that has clients bragging about your patient care and customer service.
Next issue: Creating the client experience for dentistry.
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