Exceed expectations in an instant world with veterinary customer service
Our society thrives on instant gratification. People want things right now and veterinary customers are no exception. If your practice isn't prepared for these expectations, you might find yourself with angry clients who don't understand why their needs aren't met immediately.
Planning ahead can help you avoid this. First, strive for transparent communication that helps prepare your clients to have realistic expectations. Next, seek programs that enhance your response time, making services as efficient as possible.
Communicate that quality care takes time
Transparent communication is key when you're helping veterinary customers manage their expectations. The first step is helping your clients understand that providing quality care isn't an instant process. Sometimes it takes time.
Just as your clients wouldn't want their medical doctor rushing through treatments, they don't want their veterinarian rushing through an appointment with their beloved pet either. Set a transparent and trustworthy tone from the moment your clients arrive with their pets for an appointment. Demonstrate that you're actively listening to their concerns by sharing detailed notes of everything you discussed after your appointment, along with recommendations for follow-up.
If you have a good client engagement platform, you can send this information electronically. These summaries should spell out care instructions along with timelines so your client knows what to expect and when a follow-up visit will take place. Then check in with them by phone or email to see how their pets are doing. If your clients know you truly care about their pets, they'll likely have more patience for following your instructions, rather than expecting instant results.
Improve your communication strategies
Client impatience can result from delays such as a long wait for a returned phone call. Transparency and a robust communication system can help. If an emergency with another pet delays a client's appointment, let that client know. Aim to reply to emails, phone calls, and texts quickly.
You'll also want to provide frequent updates about your practice to let clients know about any changes. Update your social media pages at least weekly. Tailor your messages — and the mediums you use to send them — to focus on your clientele's demographic. Send out postcards along with texts and emails. Look for opportunities to send more personalized and timely messages, such as when a vaccination is due. Send seasonal-based messages that focus on health issues pets face during different times of the year.
A strong client engagement platform can help you with all of this. Don't be afraid to use that system to send more than one reminder about an appointment or prescription refill, or to reach out to the pet owner who stopped visiting. Clients actually appreciate being contacted more than once.
Telehealth and online triage can provide on-demand care
Many practices implemented telehealth options because of COVID-19. Even after the pandemic is over, you'll want to keep these options. By expanding your clinic into a virtual pet practice, you can respond faster to inquiries and decrease wait times.
With a good telehealth triage service, pet owners can use a mobile app to determine how urgent their pet's condition is. In some cases, a pet owner might be told that the condition is serious and they need to be seen in person within 24 hours. When a case is nonthreatening, a pet owner might still be advised to come in, but that they can wait longer without worry. In either situation, pet owners might be given an eConsult to discuss what to do in the meantime. They can chat with a veterinarian through the app, sharing photos and videos that help explain their pet's situation. Only about 5 percent of teletriage cases are genuine emergencies, and a good telehealth service can help clients understand if theirs is one of those.
In some nonurgent situations, veterinarians might even choose to treat pets right away during the eConsult. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises that if a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is in place, "any service is possible" via telemedicine, depending on whether the veterinarian "is comfortable assessing the patient remotely and feels able to exercise good clinical judgment to assist the patient."
After an appointment, a telehealth service might also involve remote monitoring and follow-up video appointments to keep up with the pet's recovery. Whatever situation your clients are facing, this system allows for a faster turnaround time so you can better meet customers' "instant" demands.
Curbside check-ins and online patient portals increase efficiency
In addition to telehealth services, veterinarian offices added other services during the COVID-19 pandemic that increased efficiency and safety and appealed to the "instant gratification" mindset. Even if you're offering in-person appointments, maintaining these add-on services can build loyalty and trust.
For example, busy patients appreciate curbside check-ins and drop-offs. Just make sure you pair the service with a good ID system that allows clients to check in from their mobile device and sign forms digitally.
An enhanced online patient portal is also a good value add. Look for one that allows clients to request appointments and refills online, review the advice given during past appointments, and perhaps even participate in a client loyalty program.
Keep prescriptions stocked and offer convenient home delivery
When you suggest medications for a pet — whether prescribed or supplements — make sure you have those medicines in stock at your practice. Companies like Amazon and FedEx became popular because they could meet next-day demands. If your practice can provide medicines right away without delay, your clients might prefer to get them in-house from you.
Don't be afraid to send more than one reminder about an appointment or prescription refill or to reach out to the pet owner who stopped visiting. Clients actually appreciate being contacted more than once.
You can add extra convenience to medication refills by providing home delivery options that include auto-shipment features. Not only does convenient home delivery appeal to customers, but the auto-shipment feature can also help increase compliance. Some services even feature customized emails or voicemails that remind clients when it's time to refill prescriptions.
Easy-pay and financing solutions help build loyaltyClients who demand fast service often value transparency too. They want to know they'll get a clear, honest response if they ask a question about cost. They don't have time for hidden fees or games. This is why being transparent about pricing is so important. Rather than hiding your fees, be open about disclosing them.
In addition, offer a simple financing solution so clients don't feel overwhelmed by costs. Look for one that features a quick enrollment without hard credit inquiries. And remember to make it easy for clients to pay their bills by offering contactless payment options.
Think outside the box
Finally, when it comes to exceeding expectations while dealing with clients in veterinary practices, try to think outside the box. Your veterinary customer service should include options that directly meet your community's unique needs. Maybe this includes offering home visits for people who can't travel or "taxi rides" for their pets. Or perhaps you'll add supplements and pet care products to an online e-commerce store. Or maybe you'll want to work with wearable tech or digital pet health products to better monitor pets' health changes.
Look closely at your clientele and consider what will be most meaningful to them. If you communicate openly to help set practical expectations from the outset while also offering efficient services, you'll set yourself up for positive client interactions and satisfied customers.
Still not sure how to provide the best customer service?