Cheap advertising-and improved client communication-is just a click away.
Looking for ways to combat declining pet visits? A frequently underutilized strategy is the use of e-mail, a low-cost, highly effective way to communicate with clients on a regular basis. In addition to corresponding with clients, there are countless ways to utilize e-mail. Here are 10 to start with:
1. Reminder notices
2. Educational information
3. Appointment reminders and confirmations
4. Pre- and postoperative instruction
5. "Welcome to our practice" mailings
6. Announcement of new services
7. Client satisfaction surveys
8. Thank you notes for referrals
9. Practice newsletters
10. Birthday cards
E-mail is also great for sending out alerts for services your clients may not know about, such as extended hours, online appointment scheduling, dogs/cats only day, and competitive product prices. These were some of the strategies recommended in a study conducted by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, Brakke Consulting, and Bayer Animal Health.
Make sure your front desk staff requests e-mail addresses from every client and that they assure clients you'll never share their e-mail addresses with anyone else. It's also helpful to include a line for an e-mail address on the new client information form. Here are some more things to remember when it comes to using e-mail at your practice:
> Obtain clients' permission before sending e-mail and provide an opt-out option in every e-mail.
> Ask for clients' communication preferences
> Be sure to contact your practice management software representative and ask the company to assist you in making the process automatic.
Prepare your team so they're ready to respond to clients who hesitate or want to know why you need their e-mail address. Once they see how useful your e-mails will be and that you won't be sending them spam, they'll be willing to share.
Bob Levoy is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).