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Tips from the trenches (Proceedings)


It's no longer good enough to just meet a client's expectations for customer service. They expect it.

It's no longer good enough to just meet a client's expectations for customer service. They expect it. We can't just satisfy them...we have to please them, pamper them, wow them!

In this, the "frugal future," we must always provide value.

The goals are happy, healthy pets, delighted clients, a happy, productive staff and a thriving practice.

  • T.G.I.M – This sign sat on the desk of the world's richest man along with a sign that said, "Only Robinson Crusoe has everything done by Friday."

  • "Your first pet" attitude

  • Reader boards – You have three seconds or less to make your point so use eight words or less.

  • New client vs. trial user – Think of this interaction --- on the phone and/or in person --- as a first date. What can you do to turn clues (subjective and objective) into a long-term relationship?

  • Happy and hungry – Ask owners to bring in pets hungry (respond better to food rewards) and have them spritz carriers with synthetic pheromones (to help make the experience a happy one).

  • Pet pickup and delivery service – Offer this service within 3-5 miles of the hospital with fixed hours. Consider having an employee run the service as their own business.

  • Outside banners – Use this as an ideal opportunity to promote a key service, product or promotion.

  • Welcome sign – Call facility, " ______ Hospital and Health Center." List hours and other key information.

  • Slogan – Eight words or less that describes what's in your heart, head and practice. Over time, this slogan repeated over and over, helps create your band.

  • Mascot – A living, breathing example of celebrating, protecting and nurturing the Bond.

  • Smile-on-the-Phone – Remember, phone etiquette is often the first impression clients have of us.

  • Vanity numbers – Look for phone numbers like 267-Pets, 267-Purr, 267-Meow, 267-4WOW, or 267-1234.

  • Business card – List "EZ Pet Hours." Have cards grouped together by veterinarians, groomers, and circle appropriate name.

  • Card files – Helps keep business cards neat, encourages cross-marketing, asks for referrals, etc.

  • Client survey – Takes less than 30 seconds to complete. Give objective information on five very important areas.

  • Priority of office visits – In this order: emergencies (or sick), appointments, walk-ins.

  • Medical staff directory – "The bald guy...that's him!" Have photo, name and short biography.

  • Professional association sign – The listing builds credibility and confidence.

  • Map of client's homes – A real eye opener to show just how far clients will travel for some of your great service, expertise and TLC.

  • Warm-fuzzies – A three ring binder full of thank you's from clients who were grateful or touched.

  • America's Most Wanted - Take pictures of all new puppies and kittens, adopted animals or new patients. Print out two pictures, give one to the client, keep the other one in the file until it's time to say goodbye to the beloved pet.

  • Treasure chest – This box is full of the same kind of toys we used to get at the dentist---toy airplanes, rings, plastic dinosaurs. A good source is Oriental Trading Company.

  • Staff photographs with pets and family – Nothing else shows the Bond, or illustrates you are "one of them," quite like this. Have them professionally taken and framed

  • Courtesy refreshment center – Don't just ask clients if they want anything...serve them! Coffee, tea, ice-water or soft drinks to sooth a long wait, refresh a tired, hot or cold client, or to just plain pamper them.

  • Exam room door – A peep hole to monitor video tape, who's in there, a dog by the door, etc. No more opening the door and "Oops!"

  • Pet Ecosystem management – A pre-cradle to post-grave orchestration and partnership.

  • $100 dog treat – Food is currency in the dog world so make sure you have enough in your "treat" wallet. I personally use slices of hot dogs that have been cut into poker chips.

  • Bulletin boards – Use posters, flyers, etc. to educate, cross-market and shock if necessary. Laminate the really good ones.

  • Coat rack – Really appreciated and used. Women do not like to set their purse on a dirty table or floor (their perception).

  • Referral plaque – This plaque is highly visible and works.

  • Visual props – Use models, hearts with heartworms, radiographs of hip dysplasia, museum pieces of bladder stones and gastric foreign bodies.

  • Fragrance is phenomenal – It is not good enough to "not stink." Have a delightful fragrance that clients will comment on.

  • "Heads you win/tails you win" sign – A reminder to do a talking, three dimensional, "tip-of-the-nose" to the "tip-of-the-tail" exam on every patient. Acknowledge, but go past the entering complaint until you are done checking out everything else.

  • White lab coat – Surveys have shown that a white lab coat and a stethoscope increase the client's perception of value by over 17%! Buy six to ten coats, have your name (practice name and/or slogan too) embroidered in Rayon threat (cotton bleeds or runs) and take these coats to a dry cleaners for a pressing with light starch. Plan on replacing all coats every two to three years.

  • Bandannas – A visible sign of the Bond and of your affection for this unique pet. Kids love them, clients are delighted with them and potential clients comment on them. Do them seasonally. Some veterinary practices even put on a custom sticker identifying them as "handmade."

  • Begin with the end in mind – Photo, snippet of hair, paw print

  • "Amping Up" the importance of taking a call – Always be honest, but say "I was getting ready to go into surgery (exam room, take radiographs, etc.) but I wanted to take your call.

  • Follow up calls – Successful vets do most of their own. My rule: three call backs after major surgery (like a fracture repair); two call backs after minor surgery (such as a cat abscess); one call back after same day procedure (clean ears).

  • Communication board – The vital signs of the practice. Veterinary hospitals are typically run like "boxing matches." No one knows what the score is until it's over...and then it's too late to do anything about it. There are five sections to the board: The Score; Customer Contacts; Enemy Activities; Good News; Just-For-Fun.

  • Farewell marketing message – A final "Thank You For Your Business" and a reminder to drive carefully.

  • Medical rounds – Reminds everyone of the "circle of involvement" necessary for happy, healthy pets and for educated owners who make informed decisions based on our recommendations.

  • Good job bucks – Give five "bucks" to each employee each month with their paycheck to recognize all of the "good" that surrounds them each day. Then let employees buy gifts, paid days off with the bucks. Many clinics choose their employee of the month this way.

  • Employee of the month – Put on a plaque, provide a preferred parking space and give a standing ovation.

  • Measure "tone level" and reward it often – Since clients buy on emotion, it is critical that, as a staff, we stay full of energy, productive, eager to serve, fun to work with and seeking to constantly improve, both personally and professionally. Help the process by having the staff vote weekly (during regular staff meeting) for the team member that was the most fun, productive and enjoyable to work with that week. They then get to pick out a prize "blood tube" and the staff sees them "light up!"

  • $5 Sorry We Inconvenienced You coupons – These are an inexpensive way of compensating clients for the loss of "precious time," or any hassles. Best of all is to compensate someone when they don't even know they've been mistreated.

  • Food stickers – Market your commitment to homeless pets, Good Samaritan fund, etc. This sticker alone (Help Homeless Pets) will, in a year, result in an average 20% increase in food sales.

  • Custom address labels – Great to send out as a yearly gift to your 100 best dog and 100 best cat clients. Contact Colorful Images.

  • Thanksgiving or holiday card in July – Sure, Christmas card are nice, but they are not WOW! To delight clients, do one of the following: Thanksgiving card or Christmas type card in July.

  • Stamping checks – Stamp every check with "Thank you for your business or Thank you for your trust." This is an unexpected, little extra (especially after the sale) that is really appreciated.

  • Retail secrets – These are not really secrets at all, but just proven merchandising and marketing techniques. Largest size on the right hand side, priced in upper right hand corner, fronted, faced, and grouped by species/function/brand.

  • Seeing Eye Human program – Creating a cadre of zealots!

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