Make your practice the happiest place on earth

Firstline, Firstline May/June 2020, Volume 16, Issue 3

How to make new veterinary clients happy and break out of your old habits all in one go.

Loads of us practice managers are stuck in our ways. We're not breaking our habits year to year as part of the annual resolution package we outline for ourselves. We've followed the same old protocols for ages, doing things, for the most part, because we think they work just fine. These processes might work, but rarely do they work well. (If they did, would you still be reading this?)

So why not spice your processes up? Why not try something new that could turn things around, enhance the customer experience and increase profits, all while making you feel like you crossed something off your New Year's list?

If you want to start fresh, do it with new clients. For starters, they've never seen your old ways. This puts you in the driver's seat for a new path to success. They are also a great audience for excitement.

Our practice is thrilled to have been in business for 40 years this year, but we try not to let age lead to comfort. We make a point to extend a great handshake to new customers, joining them on the other side of our front desk to greet their pets with enthusiasm and respect. This way we present as a young and spirited team but maintain the endurance of an old, wise one. Walking clients to their car, assisting with their pet's carrier or simply engaging in conversation is another delightful way to show them that you value their presence at your practice.

I recently took a flight home from Orlando on a “discount” airline. While I wasn't expecting much, I disembarked the flight rather impressed. One particular flight attendant seemed excited to see my 3-year-old son board the plane and went out of her way to ensure his comfort during the whole flight, checking in from time to time. This set them apart from other less friendly flights I‘ve been on in the last few years. When it comes to veterinary clients, I truly think most of them don't expect much of us. In their eyes, we're in the medical industry, but if my trip to Disney World showed me anything, that's not entirely true. We're in the service industry because we have direct contact with our clients, personally handling the issues they encounter and doing our best to make them right. It's just what that famous mouse does, except his “issue” is trying to deliver the most bang for your buck.

If you step back and look at your day-to-day routine, it's easy to see why a lot of us fail at our missions to have great veterinary practices. We commonly don't put our focus on what matters, forgetting that the pot at the end of the rainbow is those people on the other side of our front desks. A client recently told me that she was sick of her old veterinary clinic because she felt like a problem to them. A problem. I explained to her that when we are offered the opportunity to serve our customers, they become a part of our family. She said she ended up at our clinic because she saw the word “family” so many times in our online reviews. She read about how people had brought multiple pets over the decades to our practice because they felt like family.

So, if you want people in your clan, make every attempt to be as personal as possible (without being weird). Bend down to greet their children, quietly offering the parents a snack or an age-appropriate book (dollar stores have great, cheap options). While you're at it, learn that child's name and put it in the notes section of your management software with a brief description (little girl, dark hair, named Lyla). The next time you see the family, I assure you her mother will feel so special when you remember her daughter's name and ask her about her favorite color this month.

Another approach is to call a few days after a pet's visit and ask the owner if they had any questions they forgot to ask during their time with your team. You wouldn't believe how many people truly do have a question but felt like they would be annoying if they called. Email is also an easy way to accomplish this.

Try new little things all the time and see what works. Not every big thing has to cost big money. In fact, like the old saying goes, the best things in life are free. But, don't worry-they'll make you money in the long run!

Brent Dickinson is practice manager at Dickinson-McNeill Veterinary Clinic in Chesterfield, New Jersey.

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