Client service is more than just being nice it requires setting expectations, teaching individuals how to EXCEED those expectations and holding individuals accountable.
Client/Customer Service... you know when it's there and when it's not... well you just hope that you can go elsewhere next time. Client service is more than just being nice it requires setting expectations, teaching individuals how to EXCEED those expectations and holding individuals accountable. Many veterinary practices today do a good job with client service... after all many of us like pets and that is what we see coming through the door everyday BUT, how do you have your practice take the next step.
To me there are three levels of client service that can be best illustrated through an example- a client picking up a bag of dog food. (any size) Level One- food is placed next to the client and client is expected to carry it out; Level Two- food is placed next to the client and client is asked" Do you want some help with that?" – Level Three- food is carried to client's car- no questions asked. You may make a statement such as "Martha, will bring that out to your car". Extreme client service is that Level 3 example- it is just done that way!
Think of your reputation- why do clients choose you? Better yet, find out more about your clients by breaking them down into segments- preferably based on lifestyle demographics. For example, does your practice predominate with Double Income No Kids or Suburbanites with young children? What about empty nesters? Are you and your staff of the lifestyle demographic that you serve or is there a big difference between the two? What is your practice's history and culture? What do you want it to be? For example: some practices I walk into give the air of family, others modern, others professional and still others a bit of country. If I walked into a hospital with marble floors- I wouldn't expect complimentary water to be served from a Dixie Cup. As a staff activity, take the time to discuss what our client's expectations may be. Review customer surveys from our practice- what are the areas of strengths- what can we do to make them even greater? What are our area of weakness- what can we do to make them a strength?
Extreme client service is a direct result of exceeding the expectations that you set. Extreme client service is going beyond what you say you will do OR what you have done in the past. Remember, customers determine satisfaction based on two major factors: 1) did they find value in the experience based on cost (monetary and non) and 2) were expectations met. Consistently exceeding a client's expectations causes you to have to move the bar slightly higher. So teaching your staff to EXCEED is required from the start. Give them concrete examples of how to do this. Some common examples- if all pets are scheduled to go home by 5pm- have all of them ready to go by 4:30pm, if a test result occasionally is done in two days tell the client that they will know in 3 days so that you can exceed their expectation; offering to call a client back in 10 minutes rather then to be put on hold and then calling them back in 5minutes. Key to exceeding especially when time is part of the issue is knowing the average length of time and then adding a buffer to it so that you KNOW that you will always meet the time but hopefully you can exceed it.
The final step to ensuring extreme client service is holding individuals accountable for their actions. This is tied very strongly to the culture and history of your practice. Accountability includes everyone from the owner veterinarian to the kennel person. Accountability begins first with each other in the practice. You need to have clear understanding of what our jobs/roles are in the practice and how we work together as a team first. One example may be all exam rooms are restocked nightly by the room nurse. First you need to define what a restocked exam room is so that there is no question of what it should look like. All room nurses should then be trained on this. The most important part is that each room nurse now needs to hold the other room nurses accountable. Another example may be with receptionists- the closing receptionist is responsible for making sure all the files for tomorrow's appointments are set aside AND they also release the other receptionists so, if the files aren't done they have two options- have the other receptionist stay and complete it or complete it themselves. Again all receptionists must hold each other responsible for their role's duties.
Documenting your Practice's History
Why was your practice founded? Knowing the history of a practice and its owner will help staff to understand the culture of the practice and the vision for its future. Take the time to answer these questions in a staff meeting. Provide this information to all new employees.
1. Who founded this practice?
2. Why was the practice started?
3. What kind of challenges did the founder face?
4. Was there a time when it looked like the practice was headed for failure?
5. How was the practice able to overcome adversity and survive?
6. How has the practice changed its business over the years?
7. How has the practice responded to new medical technologies and products?
8. How has the practice responded to pet owner demands?