How Receptionists Can Market a Vet Practice and Improve Patient Care

All it takes is a few changes.

You want clients to experience five-star service so your veterinary hospital stands out from the ho-hum help they get elsewhere. Because receptionists start and finish every client interaction, they can significantly influence compliance and buying decisions.

Receptionists should constantly reinforce your standards of care—they are not upselling pet owners on services or products they don’t need. Here are everyday tasks that can enhance patient care and get the cash register ringing.

Improve Phone Greetings 

Your phone rings hundreds of times a day. Have the receptionist introduce a new service or promotion. For example, to encourage feline visits, your hospital earned certification from the American Association of Feline Practitioners as a Cat-Friendly Practice. Let every caller know about your initiative. Say, “Thank you for calling <your veterinary hospital>, where we are a certified Cat-Friendly Practice. This is <your name>. How may I help you?” The greeting created awareness for a client who called to schedule her dog’s checkup but then decided to also bring in a cat that hasn’t seen a veterinarian in two years. 

An adult cat owner spends $140 for an exam, three-year rabies vaccine, FVRCP vaccine, FeLV vaccine, intestinal parasite screen and heartworm test, according to the AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 9th edition.1 The client refills six months of preventives, adding $90.

Register ring: $230 

A client calls about her dog’s recommended dental treatment. When the receptionist answers the phone, she says, “Thank you for calling <your veterinary hospital>, where we’re offering a $30 savings on dental procedures this month. This is <your name>. How may I help you?” 

The average dental case totals $511, according to the AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference.

Register ring: $481 after promotion 

Check All Pets 

After receiving a reminder postcard, a client calls to schedule her dog’s checkup. Your receptionist checks the practice-management software and sees that a second dog in the family is overdue.

She says, “We’d love to see Marley for her checkup. Did you know that Bella is overdue? She needs a preventive care exam, vaccines, a heartworm/tick screen, an intestinal parasite screen and preventives. You can bring Marley and Bella to the same appointment. When would you like to schedule their exams? We have appointments available on Tuesday at 9 a.m. or Thursday at 5 p.m. Which fits your schedule?”

Known as the two-yes-options technique, guide the caller to book appointments for both pets. A pet owner with an adult dog spends $107 for an exam, DA2PP vaccine, three-year rabies vaccine, intestinal parasite screen and heartworm test, according to the AAHA reference. Add 12 months of flea, tick and heartworm prevention for an additional $300, or average cost per dose of $25. Each dog would receive $407 in professional services and products.

Register ring: $814 

Suggest Refills at Check-In 

A client arrives for her dog’s preventive care exam. The receptionist checks the preventives purchase history on the computer. She tells the client, “Good morning, <client name> and <pet name>. I will let the doctor and technician know that you’ve arrived for <pet name’s> checkup. I see that <pet name> needs refills on his heartworm prevention today. When you buy 12 months of <brand name>, you’ll get a $<amount> rebate. Does <pet name> or any of your other pets at home need any medication or food refills while you’re here today?” 

In addition to professional services, the client refills 12 months of heartworm prevention for her 50-pound dog for $80 and buys an 18-pound bag of joint maintenance diet for $60.

Register ring: $140 

Provide Brochures 

A client and her 10-year-old golden retriever arrive for a senior preventive checkup. Clients need repetition of the message to be guided to “yes” for diagnostic testing. At check-in, the receptionist would say, “Good afternoon, <client name> and <pet name>. I will let the doctor and technician know that you’ve arrived for <pet name’s> checkup. Because <pet name> is a senior, the technician and doctor will talk with you about our preventive blood work. Think of preventive screening as the internal physical exam that lets us check the health of organs. Here is a brochure to read. The technician and doctor will discuss testing and answer questions during your pet’s exam.” 

A complete blood count with 16 to 24 chemistries and a T4 averages $135, according to the AAHA reference. In addition to preventive care services, the client adds the senior blood work.

Register ring: $135 

Bulletin Board

Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Use your bulletin board to educate consumers about pet health awareness events, such as April being National Heartworm Awareness Month.

Update Bulletin Board 

Clients may spend 10 minutes or more waiting to go into exam rooms. Waiting time is learning time. Have a crafty receptionist create an educational bulletin board each month. For a list of pet health awareness events from the American Veterinary Medical Association, visit the website here. April is National Heartworm Awareness  Month, so post prevalence maps from the Companion Animal Parasite Council and heart-worm information from the American Heartworm Society. Highlight preventives that you recommend. May is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, so feature microchips. While waiting, a client decides to get a microchip for her cat.

Register ring: $50 

Schedule the Next Exam 

Dentists are experts at forward-booking patients’ next appointments. The 2015 AAHA State of the Industry Report found that 6-in-10 pet owners would schedule their pets’ next exams before leaving the veterinary hospital.2 

Tell clients at checkout, “Just as your dentist has you schedule your next appointment at checkout, we do the same so we can proactively manage your pet’s health. Dr. <Name> can see you on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. or Friday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. for your pet’s next checkup. Which choice fits your schedule? We will remind you two weeks in advance in case you need to make changes.” 

If a procrastinator doesn’t want to book, be persistent and use benefit statements. Say, “I understand you don’t know your schedule 12 months from today. Let’s schedule your pet’s next preventive care exam for this same day and time next year. We will contact you two weeks before the appointment to confirm, so if you need to change the exam it will be easy. By scheduling today, you’ll get your first choice of doctor, day and time. Your appointment reminder for Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. will print on today’s receipt.”

For tips on forward-booking, watch my YouTube video below. The 2013 AAHA State of the Industry report estimated that moving the percent of forward-booked appointments from 5 percent to 10 percent could generate $40,000 in additional revenue for a typical veterinary clinic and $350 million in additional preventive-care revenue for the entire profession as a whole.3 

Register ring: $40,000 


  1. AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 9th edition, AAHA Press 2015; pp. 62, 116, 61 and 127.
  2. 2015 AAHA State of the Industry Fact Sheet. Accessed at  on Feb. 9, 2016. 
  3. 2013 AAHA State of the Industry Report. Accessed at  on Feb. 9, 2016. 

Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. Her new “Callers Into New Clients Course” teaches receptionists how to turn more price shoppers into lifetime clients. You may reach her at or

Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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