Originally published in the October 2015 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Enjoyed this article? Then subscribe today!
Because pet owners choose where to seek veterinary care, your clinic operates in both health care and service industries. Pay attention to details the next time you go shopping and see which experiences you could copy in your veterinary hospital.
Here are easy-to-implement ideas from the service industry.
1) Step Out From Behind the Counter
When I bought mascara at Nordstrom department store, the associate walked around the counter and delivered my shopping bag with a smile that communicated, “We appreciate your business.”
At most veterinary hospitals, receptionists sit behind tall counters and computers block eye contact with clients. For a service-centered approach, the receptionist should stand to greet clients when they approach the desk.
Body language communicates that you’re eager to help. When clients pay for prescriptions or other items, walk around the counter to deliver the medication and receipt. Close with an appreciation statement: “Thanks for visiting us today, Mrs. Myers. Here is Caymus’ refill on his heart medication. We’ll see both of you in two months for his next progress exam, but be sure to call us if you have questions before then. We’re happy to help.”
2) Take a “Let me Help You” Approach
While I was boarding a United Airlines flight to Chicago in a dress and heels, the flight attendant said, “Let me help you stow your carry-on bag.” Because my suitcase contained 75 seminar workbooks weighing 40 pounds, I immediately accepted and expressed my gratitude.
Don’t ask whether clients need help — just do it! When a pet owner visits with her toddler in a stroller, a tugging Jack Russell terrorist and buys a 20-pound bag of food, she needs assistance. After completing the transaction, pick up the bag of food and receipt, walk around the counter and extend your hand toward the dog’s leash.
Say, “Mrs. Thompson, let me help you and Marley out to the car.” If you can’t leave the front desk, say, “Let me get someone to help you.” Then page a teammate who can escort the client to her car. A task that takes less than two minutes will leave a lasting impression.
3) Provide Exam Door to Car Door Service
After my 20-year-old root canal failed, my dentist referred me to Dr. Jared E. Rasmussen of Colorado Surgical Arts in Englewood, Colo. For my dental implant procedure, I chose conscious sedation to reduce anxiety and increase comfort.
Once I recovered from the outpatient procedure, I rode in a wheelchair to the car, where a surgeon’s assistant buckled my passenger seat belt and confirmed that my husband had my home-care instructions. She provided a business card with an emergency contact phone number should I have any concerns overnight.
At your veterinary hospital, whoever discharges a hospitalized, surgical or dental patient should escort the client to the car and get the pet safely inside.
Let’s say a dog had orthopedic surgery at your hospital and is going home today. When the client unlocks the minivan’s rear gate, the dog may try to jump inside. Because your discharge instructions specified no jumping, the technician should double-leash the dog with two slip leashes to prevent escape, walk the patient to the car and show the client how to properly lift the dog.
Once the patient is safely in the car, the technician removes both leashes and tells the client, “I seem to have an extra leash. Put this leash in your glove box and use it in case of an emergency. If you have a medical emergency with your pet or need to rescue a stray animal, you can quickly get in the car and have a leash ready.
“The leash also has our phone number on it, so you can call to tell us you’re on the way. Thanks for letting us care for Max today!”
Order personalized slip leashes with your hospital name and phone number through Henry Schein Animal Health here.
4) Keep Golf Umbrellas Near the Front Door
While I was leaving the Hilton in Lafayette, La., rain pelted the pavement. The bellhop took a golf umbrella from the stand near the entry door and asked if I was headed to dinner. He said, “Let me walk you to the car so you stay dry. You can borrow our umbrella and return it later this evening. Enjoy your dinner!”
When it’s raining, escort clients to their cars. Pet owners will appreciate staying dry and their cars won’t smell like wet dogs. Choose umbrellas with animal designs from the San Francisco Umbrella Company here.
5) Send Birthday Emails
When I celebrated my birthday September 1, I received an email from my dentist. His message said, “Happy birthday, Wendy! We hope you have many reasons to smile today!” The gesture was thoughtful and easy to accomplish through his practice-management software.
Likewise, your clinic could send pet birthday emails. Ask your software or reminder service provider about e-cards and emails. Celebrations also could prompt veterinary visits. When a pet has its seventh birthday, include links to senior care tips on your website.
6) Send Post-Visit Surveys
After I called Intuit for technical support converting my business from desktop to online QuickBooks, I received this email: “Your feedback helps us recognize great employees and offer coaching and training to employees who need help. Please take a few minutes to complete a four-question survey.”
After each transaction, your hospital can send a survey. VSmart, Vetstreet and Idexx Pet Health Network Pro can send email surveys and provide reports. Alerts will help you promptly respond to negative feedback and resolve concerns while maintaining an excellent online reputation. Share survey results on employee bulletin boards and during staff meetings and performance reviews.
7) Have Managers Provide Personal Greetings
While I dined at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Englewood, operating partner Jennifer Black stopped by our table, greeted my husband and me by name and asked about our experience. Simply checking the reservation list let her know our names.
Have your practice manager personally welcome new clients. Each morning the manager should check the schedule for new client exams. At the beginning or end of each exam, the manager should step into the exam room, introduce herself and provide a business card. Say, “I want to welcome you to our veterinary hospital. My name is <your name>, and I’m the practice manager. We strive to provide exceptional patient care and client service, so please contact me if you have any questions. Here’s my business card.”
Your veterinary hospital’s service must match your medicine. Otherwise, pet owners will choose another provider.
While veterinarians get regular continuing education to improve medical skills, what ongoing training is your team receiving to grow client-service skills?
Consider seminars, webinars and veterinary journals. Look for service-enhancing ideas from your favorite restaurants, dry cleaners, bookstore, coffee shop and vacation experiences. Your clients will thank you.