There are no doubt lots of things your practice could add, but there are likely just as many that you could remove—much to the betterment of your veterinary hospital.
We always seem to worry about doing more when maybe we just need less. I’m truly convinced you can move on from these things this year.
Let’s be honest: Car dealerships have a free coffee station because they know you’ll be waiting a really looooooong time. But do you really need to be putting a hot cup of joe in a client’s hand when they’re trying to hold back Fido with the other one? It’s a silly proposition that doesn’t make sense. I watch clients enter our reception area in every season of the year, and loads of them are flustered, sweating and overwhelmed—even when it’s 20 degrees outside. Offer a cold or room-temperature bottle of water instead. While you’re at it, provide something to keep their kids busy. Check the dollar store for activity books, or consider simple craft kits like pop-up houses or finger puppets with stick-on eyes. No one will notice when your mediocre push-button coffee machine makes its way to your employee break room where it belongs.
If there’s someone toxic on your reception team, find a way to remove them. Make your practice the best it can be. Take a chance and hire someone from outside our industry who excels in “people skills.” The hospitality industry has loads of these folks who are sometimes looking for a new career path. Give your new front-desk folks the tools they need to make each and every customer interaction special, memorable and professional. This has nothing to do with scale—even if you’re small, it doesn’t mean your clients need to feel like they are.
Sometimes our grandiose plans to make the gears run smoothly in our practices simply don’t work out. Have a pow-wow with your team this March—a month that has a natural progression into a fresh season of growth. Ask them what isn’t working at your practice, and ask them to craft a new plan to fix it. In three months, review the changes and tweak them toward success. Your staff will see your openness to change as a breath of fresh air and will start to look for new ways to improve the practice. Bonus tip: Ask your clients to comment on the changes, if they’re noticeable to customers. The feedback from pet owners might help your staff see the positive impact of their ideas.
The most common thing we hear from new clients with old animals is that they “weren’t happy” with their old vet. When we politely dig a little deeper, there are two responses: “They didn’t solve the [insert medical problem here]” and, “They up-sold everything and each visit cost more than the last.” Don’t forget that our clients have brains and can see through the fog. Make medically important recommendations. Sell products you’d use on your own pet and explain why. Encourage beneficial treatments but don’t belabor the issue at hand. If clients come around, great. If they don’t, you still did your job and, most likely, you’ll still see them in the future.
Brent Dickinson is practice manager at Dickinson-McNeill Veterinary Clinic in Chesterfield, New Jersey.