If we’ve been able to get you to believe that retaining clients saves you money, then you may be wondering how to hold on to them, how to create your own loyal client throng. The truth is it’s easier than you may think.
“For me, it’s about remembering my animals and asking me about them when not in a clinical setting,” reports Jenny Craig, a longtime resident of Peck, Idaho. “I love when I run into my veterinarian in the grocery store and she asks me how my goats weathered the thunderstorm last night. It’s that outward compassion that keeps me coming back.” Along with her goats, Craig’s menagerie of critters have stuck with their veterinarian for nearly 10 years due to “the unrelenting compassion” that she shows each and every animal. “It’s the little details that all add up.”
As a fellow veterinarian I know the level of commitment that you feel toward every patient, even the ones that may try to bite. The secret to getting clients to continue using your services is to make sure they can feel that commitment.
Now that you know what a loyal client wants from you (check back to the Why Loyal Clients May Be Hard to Find article if you need a reminder), let’s start to put it all together in order to grow a base of trusted and true patrons.
A Loyal Client Base Starts at the Front Door
Your client’s impression of your veterinary practice starts in the parking lot, actually. If someone steps out of their car and into a fresh pile of dog poo on the asphalt, they might just decide to close the door and head back home. Keeping your space clean, tidy, and safe gives clients the overall impression that you care about your business. And if you care about your business, you probably care about your clients and patients as well.
The Waiting Area
No one likes to wait, but if that negative is preceded by a positive, clients are more likely to stick around. Everyone who walks through your door should be greeted with a smile and acknowledged immediately. Be sure your staff knows to respond to everyone even if they’re on the phone or helping another customer. Greet them or their pets by name whenever possible. Nothing makes someone feel more at home than recognition.
Veterinary technicians are often the first faces of the medical team that a client encounters. Their interactions can make or break the visit for both pet and people. Make sure your technicians introduce themselves and are professional, friendly, and compassionate. It’s also nice if the information they gather doesn’t have to be repeated when the veterinarian comes into the room. After all, no critter wants to see that thermometer twice.
The Big Show
When you enter the exam room, make sure to introduce yourself if this is the client’s first visit to your practice. Greet them and their pet by name. Be sure to listen to all of their questions and concerns, and watch any video of their pet’s behavior that they want to show you on their phone. (If this sounds weird, chances are you’ll encounter it soon enough!) Clients need to feel like they’re being taken seriously. Treat pets with gentleness even if they’re baring their teeth and growling at you. Don’t rush through your time with the client, and at the end of the exam, thank them for coming in.
Communication is key in veterinary medicine. Don’t just treat the patient and walk away. Talk to your client about what you are doing and why, and what you would like to do in the future. Speak in terms that everyone can understand and come up with some analogies for common conditions. My favorite one is comparing heartworm preventatives to cleaning a dirty bathtub. It doesn’t do any good to use a spray that prevents soap scum buildup (heartworm) if you’ve already got a ring around your tub. In other words you need to test for heartworm before starting the preventative. It’s also nice to provide some take-home pamphlets on vaccination protocols, surgery recovery, and some common illnesses that clients can read later to better understand what you talked about.
The Last Step
As clients check out with your staff, make sure they are thanked for coming in and that any further questions are answered. Your billing process needs to be accurate, detailed, and efficient. The worst thing in the world is to incorrectly charge a client for a euthanasia and have to send a corrected bill later on. It also helps to have separate exit and entrance doors to help prevent unwanted animal interactions.
Implementing a reminder system is a great way to drum up return visits. Clients have enough on their minds without having to remember that Sadie needs a dental exam every six months. Creating reminders for vaccinations, follow-ups, and yearly procedures is a great way to keep them coming through the door again and again. Just don’t remind them so much that it becomes an annoyance.
Consumers love to give feedback, especially if they feel that it’s being taken seriously. Offer some way that clients can give you feedback about their visit, your staff, or your facility. This can be in writing, verbally, or anonymously. Then take that feedback into consideration and implement changes as necessary.
Appreciation for Loyal Clients
Give a little back to loyal clients by showing your appreciation for their business. Host a BBQ, offer discounts, or send holiday cards to those clients who keep coming back. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but just taking a little more of a step to say thank you goes a long way in your clients’ eyes.
Pets are part of the family these days, and clients expect you to treat them as such. Not only do clients expect superior medical care but they also want to be treated with respect and compassion each and every time they walk through the door. Taking a look at your veterinary practice in its entirety and implementing even minute changes can really increase your client retention and in turn grow your veterinary business and revenue.