Why client surveys are important for a small veterinary practice

May 19, 2016
Veronica Hanley

How was your visit today? at the reception desk simply isnt enough to help your clinic and your team improve.

(Getty Images)In the world of veterinary medicine, it seems like more and more practices are being acquired by corporations all the time-not that there's anything wrong with that! But, these fancy new corporate hospitals setting up shop down the street may cause smaller independent clinics to think they should utilize similar tricks and gimmicks to improve services for clients.

Practice owners and managers might think, for instance, that televisions in the exam rooms, music playing over the sound system or sparkling water for pets in the waiting area will improve pet owners' fondness for their hospital. But have these practices asked their clients if that's what they really want? How do they know the TVs, music and sparkling water are what their clients are looking for?

The answer lies with surveys. Surveys are a simple, inexpensive tool that can help you keep up with the corporate Joneses, keep clients happy, and, most important, keep your staff abreast of any improvements that need to be made.

At the practice I manage, we have a survey sent automatically to active clients asking them to rate their service after they've been in for an exam. (If they have another exam within the next three months, the practice management software doesn't send it to them again.) We ask simple questions:

“Was our clinic clean?”

“Were you greeted courteously?”

“Were all of your questions answered?”

If our survey is consistently generating five-star ratings or close to it for six months, I change the questions to be more detailed and thought-provoking:

“Does it look like we enjoy our jobs?”

“Do we reduce your stress and that of your pet?”

“Do you follow our preventive and recheck protocols?”

“Were we clear about the services we recommended?”

By changing the questions when necessary, clients don't simply complete the survey with a quick selection of five stars for every answer.

These surveys have proved to be important to our small clinic. They help us improve our services, obviously, but they do much more than that. At the top of the list? They help guide staff meetings. When you need to convince team members that changes need to be made to improve the client experience, the best tool at your disposal is client survey results. The results help your team understand that you aren't just busting their chops based on your own high standards. It lets them know what clients want from them. If you have a team that strives for excellence or if they're trying to progress in their careers, they'll improve. If they couldn't care less, then it's probably a clue to change up your staff.

Simply having your CSR ask clients, “How was your visit today?” is not enough, and finding out about a bad experience online should make every business owner or practice manager cringe because you were the last to know. Automatic email surveys or paper surveys handed out immediately after every visit help you fix problems immediately, praise coworkers, improve the client experience and keep up with how protocols need to change. Surveys lead to better business, better business leads to better profits, and better profits lead to more effective pet healthcare.

Veronica Hanley is practice manager for Vetana Animal Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.