7 steps to better two-legged species care


Pets don't walk themselves into your veterinary hospital (much as you wish they would). Check to make sure you're doing these seven things to make your practice a success with clients.

Focus a little more on the folks on the left and you'll wind up helping that furry guy on the right. (Photo Getty Images)A recent blog by marketing guru Sujan Patel titled “10 lessons every entrepreneur should learn about customer service” from CRM reviews company GetApp inspired me to consider these lessons for today's veterinary practice. The following lessons are adapted from his thoughts. Please take them as a fresh perspective on some familiar ideas.

1. Listen to your employees and clients

The best way to understand what they want is to ask them. Chances are you'll find simple solutions to what you thought were complex issues. Put together a small focus group of top clients over a restaurant dinner. Ask what they do and don't like. Then shut up and listen.

2. Do what you say you'll do

Keeping your word and delivering on your commitments every time are the best way to develop and maintain client and staff loyalty and trust. Do you ever promise a phone call you never make or email you never send? Do you sometimes take a long time to report back to clients on test results or patient updates? Failure to deliver on promises is a sure way to lose customers.

3. Invest in people the way you invest in patients

Having the latest and greatest in diagnostic and technical tools is increasingly difficult. There's always a new tool or toy that makes our job easier, but not all developments need to come in a shiny stainless steel case. Your front desk and technical teams should be encouraged to stay current in both patient care and client care. Don't neglect training programs, courses and software that will help your staff in areas of client communication and service.

4. Don't win a battle but lose the war

From time to time, we all face disagreements with clients and staff. Yes, you need policies and guidelines in place, but be willing to flex and bend. Is it worth enforcing a policy at the risk of losing a customer?

“Your time is just as valuable as my time,” I told clients.

Look for solutions that are win-win. Consider building in policies that show clients you'll walk the talk too. I had a policy in my practice that if clients waited too long in the reception area or exam room, I would discount their office visit. “Your time is just as valuable as my time,” I told them.

5. Hire for good attitudes

I know that hiring for clinical and technical skills is hard enough, but don't neglect the soft skills. You only want empathetic, friendly and mutually respectful people in your practice. The correct balance between skill and attitude will let you provide truly standout care and client experience.

6. Don't soil your brand

Remember, you're a professional and all of your comments should reflect that. Other customers are watching, and becoming defensive or aggressive reflects badly on you. Try to develop renewed goodwill. Respond with a professional acknowledgment and even an apology, if warranted. Focus on rebuilding the relationship, not on being right. Humility is more redemptive than hubris.

7. Be available

Most veterinarians resist and even resent the expectation that they're available 24/7. With the advent of emergency hospitals, pet owners are more accustomed to having after-hours problems solved by someone else. But on the other hand, some cases are ongoing and chronic and require some familiarity with the patient. And today's pet owners are used to online windows and instant text messaging.

Giving a client in a specific situation your home or mobile number is a gift rarely used and even more rarely abused.

Consider setting up a mobile phone line exclusively for message texting. Check out smartphone and online apps and services like iMessage and Whatsapp. These forms of communication aren't for everybody, but if you're like me and hate talking on the phone, text messaging can be a great solution. If you are a phone lover, consider giving your home or mobile number to select clients in select situations. It has been my experience that this gift of trust is rarely used and even more rarely abused.

Dr. Michael Paul is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He lives in Anguilla in the British West Indies.

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