Five strategies for making reminders work harder


Reminder cards are veterinarians' strongest tool to build repeat business and help their clients keep up-to-date on their pets' care.

Reminder cards are veterinarians' strongest tool to build repeat business and help their clients keep up-to-date on their pets' care. Are your reminders working as hard as they could for you?

Think about how reminder cards fit into the life of the average client. Typically, she might be a busy working mom. Picture her coming home from work. She picks up the mail as she heads into the house. She flips through it, tossing the junk mail and throwing the bills, invitations and your reminder card on top of her growing stack of good intentions. Her week flashes by and now, it's 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. It is the first quiet time she's had, and she's just starting to tackle her pile of good intentions.

She comes to your reminder card. She can't call you at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, and so your reminder card goes back into the stack. Another couple of weeks roll by. She is a good client and a responsible pet owner, but you are wondering why she hasn't called.

This scene is played out again and again across the country. Good clients have good intentions, and they just need a little more help from us to take better care of their pets.

Here are five quick and easy reminder strategies to help pet owners comply with your recommendations:

1. Give clients a second chance to act on their good intentions. If a client does not respond to your reminder card, send them another any time two weeks after you have sent the first. The second reminder does not have to say "second reminder." They know and, maybe this time, they will take it to work with them so that they can call you during regular business hours.

2. If a client does not respond to the second reminder, call them. The written reminder has not worked after two attempts, and you need to try something different. Be sure to coach your staff member on how to phrase the call to show your helpful intent.

The staff member who calls should also be prepared to make the appointment on the spot, or to leave a friendly phone message and the practice's phone number. Most clients will tell you that they're glad that you called and that they had been meaning to make that appointment.

The call should sound something like this:

"Hello. I'm Katie from the Pet Care Hospital, and I'm calling about Max's appointment. I just wanted to make sure that you received our reminder card and to see if I could help you set that up."

If the client is not home, invite them to call the office. Leave the office phone number to make it easy for them to call back. Repeat the phone number a second time and end the phone message by saying, "We hope to hear from you soon!"

3. Send or call clients with reminders for the things that you want them to do, not just their pets' regular appointments. For example, if their pets need to return for follow-up laboratory work for thyroid, phenobarbital, diabetes or any other type of non-routine appointment that will occur weeks or months in the future, send them a reminder or call them at home to help them remember.

4. For re-checks, recalls or appointments, set up the reminder before the client leaves. If the client says, "I don't have my appointment book with me. I'll call you when I get home," make the appointment anyway. Write it down on a card and give it to the client. Tell him/her that this will save them a little trouble and if it doesn't work, they can always call you to change it when they've had a chance to check his or her calendar.

5. Finally, there is little data about the effectiveness of e-mail reminders, but preliminary reports are positive. In other words, it's an area worth investigating. If you choose e-mail contact, consider setting up an appointment request form for the client to complete online. The form should prompt clients to leave a daytime telephone number where you can reach them during your normal working hours. Make sure that someone from your staff is assigned to check e-mail appointment requests, just as they do phone messages, and return the calls in a timely manner.

Ms. Gavzer, MBA, CVPM, is a veterinary business consultant and internationally known writer and speaker. She says her job is to help practices "go and grow" with training, marketing and new ideas. Gavzer has more than 15 years experience in the veterinary industry. She helped create public education campaigns to improve pet health care and encourage owners to take their pets to their veterinarians more often. Gavzer works with practices, associations and industry.

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