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"Touch points" help retain clients

Article

Critical interactions impact client loyalty and practice growth.

Greeting returning clients and pets by name. Making eye contact while listening to a client. Handling fee questions with grace and skill. I call these moments "touch points." Touch points involve not only what's said during these interactions but also how it's said. The result can have a favorable or unfavorable impact on your practice.

Here are some examples of touch points:

> A client's first phone call to your hospital to inquire about services and fees or to schedule an appointment

> The greeting a client receives (or doesn't) when arriving at your hospital

> Team members' communication (or noncommunication) regarding delays in seeing the doctor

> The giving of home care instructions

> What's said before and after a pet's death

> Client questions about financial arrangements.

These touch points provide opportunities to exhibit helpfulness, sensitivity, and a sense of friendliness—or the lack of these qualities. A warm tone of voice—or a cold, indifferent tone—can speak volumes.

So how can team members ensure all touch points in your practice are positive? It starts at the top: The practice owner is ultimately responsible for creating a culture built on kindness, courtesy, friendliness, and respect for others—a culture where client loyalty can flourish.

Discuss touch points at team meetings. Review instances when they were handled with skill and compassion. More important, discuss when they were bungled and caused a client to defect. Reach a consensus on the best way to deal with the most common touch points you face to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

In his book A New Brand World (Viking Penguin, 2002), Scott Bedbury recounts how he posed this question to Starbucks' chief coffee guru Dave Olsen: What single thing was most important to Starbucks' success? Was it the coffee? The store? The baristas working behind the counter? Olsen thought for a moment and answered, "Everything matters."

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a speaker and writer based in Roslyn, N.Y. His latest book is 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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