Perhaps you are starting up a long dreamed of practice. Or maybe, you’ve been in business for years and need to refresh. Veterinary medicine seems to change by the minute; what worked a decade ago doesn’t seem to guarantee success today. Here are a few things we think top the list of importance:
- Practice Good Quality Medicine
This one seems so obvious. Sure, if you can’t recognize the different needs of a dachshund and a Doberman, clients may wonder. As a rule, clear communication and exceptional client service are key components to judging your practice. You could be Dr. Doolittle, but if clients don’t feel their concerns are addressed and that they get their money’s worth, they’ll move on to another practice.
- Get Back to Basics
If the owner of a cat with itchy ears arrives comes to your practice, sits in the waiting room for 45 minutes waiting to be seen, doesn’t understand what the doctor is saying is the cause of the problem, and doesn’t get the promised call back the next day, a cute calendar won’t answer their concerns. Communication and follow-up—a winning combination.
- Identify Client Wants and Needs
It’s critical that you regularly gather information about what your clients want and how happy they are with your practice. There are many ways to do this: regular client surveys, tracking client complaints, reviewing record transfer requests, etc. Of course there’s the old fashioned way—ask clients about their experience with your practice.
- Offer Payment Options
Clients want to give their pet’s great care, but are struggling with costs. Payment options make a difference; the New York Times reports that clients who have pet insurance or a third party veterinary credit card or are enrolled in a wellness plan visit the veterinary practice more frequently and spend more money on veterinary services. Understanding the options yourself and educating clients will make a big difference in how pet owners take care of their pets and how well your practice does.
- Put Yourself in the Client’s Shoes
If you were discouraged from visiting a family member during a multi-day stay in the hospital, how would you feel? Though not quite human, pets are often seen as family members; and the human family wants to have regular visits. Clients are their pet’s advocates; they want to be able to see that their pet is receiving good care and that he/she hasn’t been abandoned.
- Address the Client’s Questions
Obviously the practice team should communicate what they believe to be important when speaking to clients. Equally important—be sure client questions and concerns are addressed. Again (and again, and again), it’s all about communication. Put the pen down, take your fingers off the keyboard and ASK
- Is there anything else going on that we haven’t covered?
- Did you have any questions about what we have discussed?
- Do you have any other questions or concerns?
- How else can I help you today?
- Give Clear Guidance
The words you use are less important than the clearness of the statement. For example “You might want to consider neutering” just doesn’t sound terribly important. But “You should neuter for the long-term health of your pet.” gets the owner’s attention.
- You Can’t Do Everything
Job One is to practice great medicine. It’s no shame to be less than perfect when it comes to legal documents, tax returns, employee benefit plans, building plans, etc. Seek the advice of those with expertise in appropriate fields: attorneys, accountants, architects and financial planners. Many of these professionals work exclusively with veterinary practices, and can help you realize business and personal success.