3 tips to connect with clients


It's time to cut the cord on your old ways of communicating with clients. Get in sync with pet owners with this advice.

Veterinary practices nationwide are dialing into a new era of talking to their clients. And while phones still play a prominent role in these connections, it doesn't always mean your clients will be using their phones to call you. Whether they're checking your office hours on their smartphones, receiving text reminders about their scheduled appointments, or reading your marketing messages on their Facebook feed, clients expect to be able to connect with you in new ways. Consider these tips to reach out to pet owners:

1 Embrace new tools.

At Animal Medical of New City in New City, N.Y., Nicole Sirignano, a client care representative, saw a need for live chat. "I do everything on my phone, and I'm sure our clients are the same way," Sirignano says. "I don't want to waste time with a phone call. I want to click a button and get things accomplished."

With permission from her practice owner, she's been testing a live chat application to communicate with clients.

"So far, it's a breeze to use, and I think our clients are going to love it," she says.

The application also allows users to track real-time hits to their websites, view how long each visit lasted, and invite these prospective clients to communicate via chat or email.

2 Cultivate a social attitude.

If your practice has resisted Facebook, Twitter, and texting, it's time to change your attitude, because they're not going away. If you're willing to learn and attend continuing education on these topics, you can be your practice's connection to these thriving tools.

"It's not a matter of whether you want to do it anymore. It's a matter of life or death for your business," says Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ, author of Social Media for Veterinary Professionals (LuLu, 2011). "Veterinary practices not communicating to their clients via social media, cell phones, or text messages might as well be puffing up smoke signals. The gap between the old ways of reaching your clients and the new are that extreme."

3 Commit your practice to growth.

"Our industry grows more competitive every year, and the application of technology is an area many managers struggle with," says Andreas Pahl, MBA, hospital administrator at The Valley Cottage Animal Hospital in Valley Cottage, N.Y. "As practice managers, we're simply not doing our jobs if we're not continually trying to incorporate newer, more effective methods of reaching out to both our clients and our team. It's a moving target, and we need to use modern tools to leverage our efforts."

To prepare your team for the challenges online, Pahl says he's seen many local and national social media programs designed for practices. "One only has to jump in and get started. And you should," he says. "Not only is the water warm, it's loaded with opportunity."

Keeping up the additional online marketing work can be hard. Five years ago, few practices spent much time shaping their presence online. Nowadays, we see practice managers hunkered over their computers writing copy for their websites. We may be spending as much as 10 hours a week fiddling with these new tech tools, and many practices cave under the load, leaving their social media sites languishing. If you struggle with this, try paying attention to your keenest urges to post online content. This is the time when writing the copy will come easiest to you, and the material is likely to be the most entertaining to your audience.

These tech tools are the new paperboys on the block, and when they pitch a message, they land it right on your doorstep. Veterinarians do nothing better than care for clients and patients, and the technology and social media applications are all about bringing people closer together. Letting your customers know that you care has never been easier. For a profession that's built on big brains and big hearts, that's big business.

Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and co-owner of Halow Tassava Consulting.

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