How to Turn Your New Clients into Lifetime Clients

It doesn’t take much to give your clients excellent service that keeps them coming back again and again.

Monkey Business/ThinkStock

When new clients visit your veterinary hospital, what experience do you provide to ensure they’ll become lifetime clients? The average bonding rate of new clients is 60 percent. First impressions begin with phone calls and end at checkout.

Here are tips to create exceptional experiences.

Set up records during scheduling calls. Invest 2 minutes to enter the client record in your practice-management software. Gathering details over the phone lets you start the first visit on time rather than having 15 minutes of valuable exam time eaten up with paper work. Say, “Let’s schedule your new puppy’s exam. To speed your check-in process as a new client, we’ll get all of your information over the phone now.” Then get the client’s name, address, cell and home phone numbers and email. Request her pet’s name, birthdate, gender and breed. If phone lines are ringing and clients are lined up before you, offer to email the new client a link to your website where she can complete the form before the exam.

Say, “Let me get your email and within the next 30 minutes, I’ll send you a link to our website where you can complete the new client registration online and read about the doctor you’ll see. Completing your new client form before your appointment will help speed your check-in process on the day of your pet’s exam.”

If the new client doesn’t have Internet access, ask her to arrive 15 minutes early. Say, “We’ll have you arrive at 9:45 a.m. for your 10 a.m. exam so we can complete your new client registration and start your appointment on time. We’ll also give you a tour of the hospital before or after your exam so you can learn about the care we can provide for your pet.”

Schedule 30-minute exams. You’ll need ample time to establish a client relationship and review adoption paperwork or previous medical records. Confirm directions. Share major cross streets or landmark buildings. When possible, give the caller estimated driving time from her home to your hospital so she is more likely to arrive on time. Let the caller know if there is any road construction in the area so she can be aware of possible delays.

Contact previous veterinarians to request medical records before exams. If the client has recently moved, locating pets’ medical records among moving boxes may prove challenging. Say, “May I have the name of your previous veterinary clinic so we can contact them to request records before your pet’s exam?” When you call the previous hospital, let them know when the pet’s exam is scheduled so they can send records before that date. Greet clients and pets by name as they walk through the door. Stand as you greet clients, which communicates that you’re eager to help. Say, “Good morning, Mrs. Myers and Opus. Welcome to [your clinic]. Let’s get you ready to see Dr. [Name]. We’ve received your pet’s medical records from your previous veterinarian. I will let the technician know you’ve arrived. Can I answer any questions before your exam starts?”

Offer welcome gift bags. Have canvas bags imprinted with your logo, phone number and website. To find out how many bags you’ll need, run a report in your software to determine the number of new clients you saw last year. Ask pharmaceutical and pet food representatives about marketing dollars to sponsor your gift bags.

On the front of bags, print your clinic’s logo, website and phone number. On opposite sides, print vendors’ product logos. Also ask vendors to donate goodies. Create welcome bags for puppy, kitten, adult and senior pets.

Explain the retail value of new client gifts. Tell phone shoppers, “As our baby gift to your new puppy, you’ll also receive a free dose of flea/tick and heartworm prevention, a canvas tote, an educational book, a sample of premium puppy food, leash, pet food measuring cup, magnet, emergency clinic information, and training handouts. This gift is valued at $____.”

Most welcome bags will have a retail value of $60 to $100, which will entice pet owners to schedule exams.

For puppy and kitten baby gifts, add the first free dose of heartworm and flea/tick prevention, sample of puppy/kitten food or coupons, and training and socialization handouts. Welcome bags for senior pets would include information on dentistry, senior diets, arthritis and senior preventive screening.

Give tours before or after exams. As new clients walk through your hospital, they’ll see other services you offer such as dentistry, surgery, laser therapy, boarding and grooming. Offer a virtual tour on your website and digital photo frames in the lobby.

Share photos of new patients on Facebook. Create a wall album titled “Welcome our new patients.” Snap photos during exams and get written permission to post information. A simple statement will suffice: “I grant [Your Veterinary Hospital] permission to post my pet’s picture, story and medical information on social media.” Have the client sign and date the document.

Use the term “social media” rather than stating which sites so you have flexibility about where to post. Collect new clients’ email addresses so you can notify them when you post new patients’ photos. Many will like and share pets’ photos with Facebook friends.

Give new clients your business card. Every staff member needs a business card. For the price of shipping, you can get free business cards at www.vistaprint.com. Veterinarians should provide business cards to new clients and let them know when patients need to return.

Say, “We will see Max again in six months for his next preventive care exam, intestinal parasite screen and Bordetella vaccine. If you have questions before then, be sure to call. Here’s my business card. We’re always happy to help.”

When technicians or assistants educate puppy and kitten owners, they can say, “If you have questions about the information we’ve discussed today, please call and ask for me. Here’s my business card.” Watch my video on business cards at www.youtube.com/csvets.com.

Create email addresses for every employee and include them on business cards. Avoid Gmail, Yahoo and other free email accounts. Remember, you run a professional, often million-dollar business, so don’t look like a temporary player with a free email address. Ask your webhosting company to provide emails for staff.

Schedule first, pay last if follow-up care is needed. If a pediatric or medical progress exam is needed, schedule the next appointment before having the client pay for today’s services. Direct the client to a specific date and time, increasing the likelihood she’ll schedule. If the client is here at 10 a.m. on a Thursday, she can probably visit again at a similar time and day of the week. Book the appointment with the same doctor, ensuring continuity of care and efficient use of exam time.

When you print the client’s receipt for today’s care, an appointment reminder also will appear on the receipt. Say, “Dr. will need to see your kitten again in three weeks, which would be . Does this same time work for you?”

Present the invoice to show value. 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. Say, “Today had a preventive care exam, vaccines, a heartworm/tick test, an intestinal parasite screen and preventatives. Does 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.”

Describing products lets you confirm that medications are in clients’ hands—not still getting filled in your pharmacy. Stating payment methods professionally yet subtly communicates that payment is expected when services are rendered

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