“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
A pet owner stays with a veterinary hospital for an average of five years. Wendy S. Myers, president of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo., and columnist for Veterinary Practice News, says that this is based on research assembled by Wutchiett Tumblin Associates and published in Veterinary Economics.
Are you staying up with the competition? Can you retain your clients for longer than the average?
The medical service you provide will certainly be an important factor in the return of your clients, but so will how your clients feel about being at your practice. The name of the game is “customer service,” and I’d like to frame it as “showing respect for your client.”
1. Respect Your Clients’ During that First Call
In many cases, the first call you receive from a prospective client is, “What is the cost of xxxx?” It is tempting in the name of efficiency to respond only to the client’s question. It’s respectful, however, to assume that the person can use more information but doesn’t know what to ask. So, for example, when responding with the price, explain what is included. In addition to recommending a procedure, take time to explain how this will help their pet.
2. Respect Clients’ Time When Booking an Appointment
Especially if you a dealing with millennials who want things done quickly and easily, usually online, you can show respect for their time by saving them time when making an appointment. James Connally, practice manager, and Chris Callahan, customer service representative at Stonebrook Veterinary Practice in Frisco, TX report how they are doing this:
“We’ve incorporated online scheduling from the Rapport suite of client communications tools, and our clients really love it. Clients can go on to our website, view dates and times of open appointments, select their appointment of choice and they are done. They don’t have to do anything further. Since Rapport syncs with our practice management software, we don’t have to do anything further, either. It’s much more convenient for clients than just submitting a request for an appointment from the website. It’s efficient, it’s quick and it saves steps in the whole communication process.”
Rapport is a client communications service from Henry Schein that offers online scheduling, automated email, text, voice, and postcard reminders, practice websites and client surveys and reviews. The system can be seen on video at their website. Scroll down to view the online scheduling video.
3. Show Respect For Clients’ Time When They Arrive
Whether your client is squeezing an appointment in during lunchtime or on the way to work, or having to fit in an unexpected visit during an already busy day, time is of the essence. Waiting time is one of the top frustrations for clients, whether it’s in the reception area, in the exam room or at the front desk waiting to check out.
If you are behind schedule, consider calling before the client has left home. If, on the other hand, the client is in the waiting area, give your client the choice of how they want to handle an extended wait. One option, of course, is to stay and continue to wait. Offer useful opportunities to pass the time: materials to read, educational videos to watch. If you are in a shopping area, your client might even like to leave and shop. You could offer to store food in the clinic cooler if grocery shopping is the best option. Another option you can offer is to leave the pet to be picked up later, or reschedule to another day. Knowing that you respect their time and having a choice about the wait doesn’t change the waiting time, but it can change their attitude about it.
4. Respect Your Clients’ Time Once At Your Vet Practice
Take a look at your management system and see if you are moving clients through the process efficiently. Angel Venegoni, practice manager, at the Webster Groves Veterinary Hospital in Webster Droves, Mo., told me that the AVImark practice management software enables them to move clients through quickly and efficiently. The software shows which exam rooms are available, along with the time that doctors go in and out. A time clock tracks just how long a client has actually been there.
Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM, consults with veterinary practices through KG Marketing and Training, Inc. She points out that clients who are left waiting in an exam room often have a sense of being forgotten. Shut away in isolation in the exam room, waiting seems even longer than it really is. She trains her staff to keep an eye on her clients. “All it takes is a friendly smile and acknowledgement that you know they are waiting and therefore not forgotten,” she said. “Be their ally. Offer to check and let them know how much longer it will be.”
That’s showing respect.
Carolyn C. Shadle, Ph.D., is the co-owner of ICS Workplace Communication (www.veterinariancommunication.com ). Shadle was awarded her Ph.D. by the State University of New York at Buffalo in interpersonal and organizational communication and has trained managers and team members in businesses as diverse as General Mills and Oracle’s Sun Microsystems. She is a certified Myers-Briggs assessor and trained with Gordon Training International. Find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.