Ask Emily: How to maintain speed during slow times

December 1, 2019
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shiver resides in Florida.

Here are 4 ways to attract new clients and reach out to existing ones during those slower times.

Our team at dvm360.com and Firstline magazine asked practice manager Emily Shiver (a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager and a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional) to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, assistants, client service receptionists and more. Got a question for her? Email us at firstline@mmhgroup.com.

Q: What can we do during slow periods at the veterinary clinic to bring in new clients and remind the existing clients their pets need to come in?

There are so many ways to “hustle.” I've included four of my favorite and most successful techniques, especially useful during those slower periods.

1. Make those calls!

Print out lists of reminders - past due and coming due. A friendly call adds a personal touch for existing clients. Expect to get a lot of eye rolls when you hand a team member a long list of people to call. Been there! 

To make it more fun for staff, offer up a challenge. Give out for a prize most appointments scheduled and completed. It doesn't have to be crazy-a gift card works wonders. 

Create a phone script so everyone delivers the same message: “Hello! This is Emily from Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital. I was calling to check on JoJo. We haven't seen that little sweetie in a few months, and there are several important things he's overdue (or coming due) for. Let's get him on the schedule. I have Tuesday or Thursday appointments available this week. <Let them respond to the two different time options.> We're looking forward to seeing you two again! See you Tuesday!”

2. Go out into the community

Dog parks. Most cities have at least one dog park or hiking trail. Take brochures and business cards to hand out to pet owners. Another thought is to get in touch with your vendors to see if they can provide little goodies like poop bags or bowls to hand out at the park. The back of our business cards says the holder can receive 10% off a first visit (services only), and there's a line or two for me to write “who referred.” In this case, I would write "XYZ Dog Park" or "Cumberland Hiking Trail," so I know who's responding and where to spend my time.  

Attend events. Search Facebook for local pet events, and use the same advice from dog parks above. Bring goodies, brochures and business cards.

3. Make friends and allies 

Visit local boarding and grooming facilities, even if your practice already provides those services. Offer your support and start to build relationships. Create a community board highlighting these relationships to display at your practice. 

Additionally, pay a visit to any local businesses-after all, they and their customers have pets too!  Tell them about your community board and explain that you'll display their business cards if they'll display yours in their business.  Consider making tear-off sheets with practice information and your phone number, etc. Don't get lost in a sea of other business cards. Create something that stands out!

4. Referral rewards

Send every client home with two business cards with an explanation of how your particular referral rewards program works. As I mentioned previously, the back of our business cards has an offer for 10% off a first visit (services only), and you can write an individual client's ID number to track who's referring. I've had giving referrers a $10 reward certificate that to use on services. Another idea would be to get free products from your vendors and offer those products as a reward.

Those are my four favorite ways to reach existing clients and attract new ones. If you try any of them, share the metrics with your staff before starting any of these four techniques, keep them updated and always remember to celebrate the little victories.

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