6 tips for the new associate

December 29, 2019

If clients are showing some resistance to scheduling with your hospital's new veterinarian, try these best practices to get them from "I'd rather not" to "Let's do this!"

"Hi. I'm Cheryl. This is my dog, Silas. Now wow me, Dr. Newbie." (Viacheslav Iakobchuk / stock.adobe.com)

Congratulations on your practice's new veterinarian! That's no small feat in this day and age. Now, don't let that excitement fade when the clients show resistance to scheduling appointments with Dr. Newbie. Try some tried-and-true methods to get your current clients to fall in love with the new doc.

1. Prepare for arrival

If you know you're in a position to bring on a new veterinarian, tell clients about it. Explain that you're actively searching, and it may take a few months to find the right fit. Go into detail about what the “right fit” means. The biggest pushback I've seen from clients is when a new doctor treats them differently than they're used to or practices medicine that may not be up to the standard they're accustomed to. Ease fears by explaining that any new associate who wants to join the team will be hired based on the core values of the practice just as every other team member.

2. Announce the arrival

Once you're one of the lucky few hospitals that manages to find “the right fit," it's time to party! Celebrate the arrival and include your clients. Here are some things I do:

  • Welcome Dr. Newbie on your signage (by the road, in the clinic, in rooms, etc.)

  • Announce the hire on your website and social media accounts

  • Make introductions to every client you possibly can (appointments, picking up medications/food, etc.)

  • Include a blurb about Dr. Newbie on reminders that go out

  • Send an email encouraging clients to stop by to say hello or ask to meet your newest doctor

  • Schedule at least one appointment for every new client with Dr. Newbie.

3. Encourage wellness exams

Every time a client schedules a wellness exam, team members should encourage the client to schedule with Dr. Newbie. Pet owners are typically reluctant and want to see their favorite doctor, the one they've come to trust with their baby. I take this opportunity to say something like this: “I know you love Dr. TriedandTrue-we all do! Due to this being a wellness exam for Turbo, this is the best time for you to meet Dr. Newbie. That way in the event Dr. TriedandTrue is out and Turbo has an emergency, you'l; be more comfortable during your visit with Dr. Newbie. Of course, Dr. TriedandTrue can remain Turbo's primary veterinarian. We're just so excited for you to meet Dr. Newbie!”

Most clients are grateful that you care enough to want them to have a great experience and will usually come around to the idea. We have a team of six doctors, and most of our clients are happy to see any veterinarian who fits in their schedule. We make it a point to make sure they get comfortable seeing any of them. (Editor's note: If you need to get pumped about wellness again, read this.)

4. Build trust

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with callbacks: We can appreciate the client bonding and service, but, boy, can they take a long time. Why not take this golden opportunity for Dr. Newbie to create lasting relationships with clients and take them? Of course, they'll be calling with lab results and checking on sick patients, but also have the new doctor call about wellness exams. Clients love it. The new doctor could say something like, “Hello, Mrs. Truly! It was such a pleasure meeting you and Turbo the other day. How is he doing after his visit? He was such a good boy. I look forward to being your partner in his care for years to come!”

5. Schedule rechecks

This may seem obvious, but make sure current clients are on the same page with scheduling rechecks with Dr. Newbie. This will continue to build the client bond and increase forward-booking numbers (you're welcome *wink wink*). (Editor's note: What? Your clients don't come back for rechecks? Read this.)

6. Send personalized thank-yous

Phone calls after visits are my No. 1 choice, but let's say you can't reach them all or you tried a couple times with no luck. It's time to pull out the ol' old stationery and have Dr. Newbie get to writing. Mailing a little note can really bring a smile to a client's face. (Editor's note: See what Dr. Kathryn Primm has to say about this personal touch.)

I get it: Not everyone likes or appreciates change. Clients seem to really, really like stability. But I think you can create an environment of what I like to call “stable change,” and that happens by preparing, celebrating and introducing the new associate along with taking the time to build new client relationships. Now, go celebrate-because I know you searched long and hard to find that eager new veterinarian to join your great practice team.

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.