Advice Unleashed (January 2019)
American Veterinarian Staff
Tips from business, financial, and practice management experts.
JOHN OWENS, VETERINARY ATTORNEY at the Law Offices of John Owens, LLC, says there is a difference between apologizing and being empathetic. “When you’re empathetic, if an incident occurs, your first response is to say that you’re sorry, but more than likely, you are just as affected as your client is when something goes wrong.” What you are really saying with that apology is, “I’m sorry this happened.”
An apology has 2 added components: admitting that the problem was your fault and finding out what you can do about it to appease your client. Mr. Owens says veterinarians often are much too eager to take blame before they determine whether something really is their fault.
A structured system for developing apologies is a great tool; having a preplanned script tends not to work as well. “Besides compassion and understanding, one of the primary things clients are looking for in an apology is honesty,” he says. “If an apology comes across as scripted or preplanned, it tends to lack that honesty and actually can do more harm than good.”
Hiring? Look Beyond Online Ads
A WHOPPING 60% of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because the process is too long or too complex, says Stacy Pursell, BA, CPC, CERS, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter. “When you’re looking to hire qualified candidates for your practice,” she says, “you want the pool to be as large as possible.” If you’re only posting open jobs online, you’ll miss not only those who don’t complete the application process but also potential candidates who are not actively seeking a job. “In today’s market, veterinary employers need to do more than just use online job advertisements if they want more success hiring the great candidates.”
To broaden your search, Pursell advises, consider advertising in professional publications or at local veterinary medical or technical colleges and univer­sities, using employee referrals, or hiring a recruiter.
Fostering a Culture of Empowerment
WHEN PRACTICES SET STANDARDS and develop systems, they can really empower their team, says Tracy Dowdy, CVPM, managing director of MRG Consulting and founder of the Relationship Centered Practice Academy. It starts with a mindset shift, she says, where practices see the advantages of sharing the knowledge wealth and the emotional wealth with the entire veterinary team.
It starts at the top, with the leadership,” she says. “Practice owners and veterinarians have to trust that their teams has the skills and knowledge necessary to educate pet owners and to do the tasks that don’t require a veterinary license.”
The Third Person in the Exam Room
NANCY DEWITZ, DIRECTOR of sales and marketing and technical consultant for the marketing consulting firm Beyond Indigo Pets, suggests that practices imple­ment a care team for each exam: the veterinarian conducting the exam, the veterinary technician helping with the animal, and a third person inputting informa­tion directly into the practice management system.
“This way, medical records are getting updated right away; billing happens right away, because it’s incor­porated into the practice management software; and the veterinarian is forced to verbalize what’s going on during the exam, which means the client has a much better understanding of what’s happening—and of the value you’re providing,” she says.
Think you can’t afford to have a third person in the exam room? Think again. “Most of the time,” Ms. Dewitz says, “the increase in efficiency when conducting exams and the use of electronic medical records more than make up for the added salary.”
Perfecting Your Online Practice Persona
CAITLIN DEWILDE, DVM, owner of the social media consulting firm The Social DVM, LLC, offers some dos and don’ts for building a professional online persona. First, make sure you’re using a professional page. “For sites like Facebook and Instagram, you want a business page,” she says. “That will give you a lot more access to Insights and analytics about when to post and who your clientele and followers are.” Facebook allows business users to schedule posts up to 6 months in advance.
You also want to add value to what you’re sharing, says Dr. DeWilde. “Make sure the content you’re putting out there is something that will resonate with your clients and offers value in some way.” Dr. DeWilde cautions veterinarians who communicate with pet owners on social media to protect the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. “You need to have a policy and a protocol in place about communicating with pet owners online,” she says. “If you give medical advice to a nonclient, you are violating the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”