When you look at your clinic, what do you see? Is it organized, clean, free of loud noises, or horrible smells? Face it, there are a lot of practices that could use improvement in those aspects. When considering your image, there are four main areas to consider, including auditory, sensory, visual, and cleanliness. Each one plays an important role in your practice and should be considered when trying to improve your image. Afterall, the image you display is an extension of your brand.
This can be anything from the client service representatives’ tone when greeting a client, to loud noises coming from the back of the hospital.
When trying to maintain a good image, it is extremely important to consider the sounds coming from your hospital. For example, suppose you walked into your favorite animal clinic to check in and a team member had a rude tone greeting you. What if you were shuffled into the exam room after 15 minutes with zero interaction?
Perhaps the only thing you hear are employees cracking jokes and talking inappropriately about other clients the whole time. Say your cat is extremely scared, and the technician is dropping the carrier or banging things around by accident. Such instances can send a bad message to the client. Anything from your staff’s behaviors to loud noises, raised voices, or other distasteful disturbances from the back room can all be impactful to client and patient experiences. An improper auditory environment can also alarm animals. If your clinic allows, have two separate entrances, one for canines and one for felines, to help lower the anxiety levels of pets.
Having a good auditory environment within your practice can help soothe anxiety in owners, staff, and patients. It is one of the make-or-break experiences when it comes to an improved client experience, and possibly, ensuring retention.
This pertains to smells or temperatures within your hospital. The main issue most hospitals/boarding facilities struggle with is odor.
I have personally walked into another clinic and have had to cover my nose upon walking in. Working in the veterinary field for seven years now, I know exactly what that smell was and what was causing it. However, imagine the impression such an incident can leave your clients with. I have had clients refuse to board at other facilities solely due to the smell as soon as they walked in. If you picked up your pet from a hospital or boarding facility, and they wreaked of urine, how would you feel? The image that is being portrayed to the client is the kennel staff is not cleaning properly, which can be telling of how the animals are taken care of. That is not a good message to send to your clients.
The temperature can also be an issue. Depending on where you are located, some areas can be up to 110 F outside, so I recommend adjusting your air conditioner depending on the time of the year to make the pets within your hospital more comfortable. Last thing you want is a bunch of pets overheated or freezing.
Hospital cleanliness is another important topic because it is one of the top reasons a client will choose one clinic over another. It is a vital standard that represents the quality of care within your hospital, so you always want to make sure your hospital is clean and organized.
Imagine being a client bringing your pet to drop off for surgery first thing in the morning. When you arrive, you notice it looks like the lobby is dirty, the exam room looks like it has not been cleaned in weeks, your technician reeks of cigarettes, there is dried up blood on the floor, and animal hair is everywhere. Would you still leave your pet for surgery? I would not because who knows how sanitary the surgery area will be if the rest of the hospital is dirty?
A few ways you can protect that image is to enforce a no smoking policy, make sure your hospital staff is cleaning and disinfecting regularly, as well as to put procedures in place for each zone within the hospital. The practice manager then should follow up and hold the staff accountable if the cleaning is not done every day. If your hospital is not presenting a clean image, your clients will be less likely to return.
The visual image includes everything from the exterior to the interior of your hospital. A good one helps define the quality of care you provide and gives clients a sense of confidence or security they chose the right hospital for their pets. Something as simple as providing your team with branded uniforms, providing great customer service, or clutter-free waiting areas/exam rooms can help improve your visual image.
The lobby or waiting area should be the top spot to monitor to ensure your hospital is being portrayed correctly. If your lobby is not orderly, you might give your clients the impression the rest of the hospital is unorganized, including your quality of care.
It can be helpful to walk around your clinic regularly and photograph each area or room, and take note of staff interactions. Sit back and view all of this from the client’s perspective. Then, review each photo and note what can be improved, and create protocols or checklists based on what you found. Once the improvements have been completed, go back and photograph those areas again and implement those protocols/checklists you created. These photos can serve as a reminder of what the hospital used to look like and act as a guideline for future standards. Every time a client visits your clinic, they are taking mental snapshots and with those snapshots their opinions are formed.
Ultimately, clients do not make their decision to come to your clinic solely on patient care; they are also looking for a good overall experience. In the end, maintaining a good practice image takes a lot of time, effort, and consideration. One thing you must remember is improvements may not happen overnight, but if you start focusing on your auditory, sensory, cleanliness, and visual areas, you are off to a good start.
Rachel Singletary is a practice manager in Lakeland, Fla., working with Family Vet Group, who has started from the bottom and moved her way up. She has managed many different areas of animal hospitals and her top passion is inventory, staff development, and budgeting. Client satisfaction, growth, and inventory are major factors in her daily life, as she strives to provide a positive experience for both her clients and staff.