Personalize Pet Patient Care All Year Along - Stay Top of Mind
Patient communication is an essential success-building strategy for your veterinary practice. You can’t go wrong by over-communicating.
Customer communications help to retain pet parents as clients. You know this, of course. But you might not know that communicating is no longer enough. Now you must over-communicate to survive in an ultra-competitive veterinary marketplace.
It’s easy to see why this is necessary. For one thing, life today is busier, faster and more stressful. People have much more on their minds than they did five or 10 years ago. For another, with smartphones and social media, promotional messaging has exploded. Your customers are drowning in advertising content. Because of these two factors, you must communicate often and well in order to capture and keep their attention.
There are several other reasons why over-communicating is essential today:
- Aggressively communicating with your customers helps you to achieve your business objectives. Whether it’s educating pet owners, streamlining appointment scheduling or turning new customers into long-term fans, having a strong message and repeating it frequently will help you run a more successful and profitable business.
- With most vet practices offering comparable services, through similarly educated providers, using similar technology, it’s hard to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Over-communicating is an essential method of distinguishing your practice in a parity marketplace.
Finally, bad pet outcomes are always a possibility. However, pet parents with goodwill toward their vets will be less likely to sue. Over-communicating plays a large role in creating a litigation-resistant client base.
So how does one over-communicate? Read on for some best practices.
Over-Communicate: Before the Appointment
Keeping your animal patients healthy involves more than just seeing them in the office once or twice a year. It requires continuous and strong communication with their “parents” between visits. By executing numerous touchpoints, you’ll assure that their pets’ health stays top of mind.
Making available a veterinary communications app branded with your practice’s logo is a great first step. It not only allows customers to message you and to make appointments, it also lets them refill prescriptions and participate in loyalty programs. Most importantly, it facilitates push notifications, which helps you stay in touch. There are many client-communications apps available. If you’re not using one, it should be easy to find one that works for you.
A related communication technique is using your practice management system to automate appointment reminders. Most vets are doing this already. What they might not be doing is texting reminders to clients’ smartphones. Since millennial pet parents live on their devices, if you want them to see your reminders, send them to their mobile devices several times.
Finally, make sure you’re fully leveraging other communication tools to both educate pet parents and elevate your practice’s brand. For example, are you posting pet-care tips several times a week on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter)? Do you publish a pet-parent newsletter at least monthly, preferably biweekly or weekly, and does it include photos of your pet patients interacting with your staff? Are you using your website to post important news about your practice and about your team’s accomplishments? Are you using your blog to educate clients about pet health?
In short, to build positive relationships before the appointment, communicate strongly, frequently and on multiple channels, and gear all your messages to promoting the health and welfare of your pet patients.
If you do this well, seeing your clients and their pets in person will give you an excellent opportunity to take your relationship to the next level.
Over-Communicate: During the Appointment
The in-office appointment is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your relationship with pet owners. Make each visit an enjoyable experience so they’ll look forward to keeping their wellness appointments and also to come in at the first sign of a pet’s illness.
One way to enhance communications during appointments is to explain the exams you perform. For example, a study found a significant disconnect between what vets did during pet-wellness visits and what pet parents remembered happening during the same appointment. This was especially obvious with pain assessment and dental exams.
How to close the communication gap? Consider adopting the following techniques if you’re not using them yet:
- Avoid using medical jargon. Speak slowly, clearly and simply.
- Provide a written health summary for pets. Then use the appointment to walk through the document point by point.
- Be transparent about surgical procedures and possible negative outcomes.
- Fully explain major medication side effects.
- Encourage pet-parents to ask questions and to share their concerns about their pets’ health.
Over-Communicate: After the Appointment
Once your pet parents return home, reinforce what happened during their visit. This will greatly enhance the quality of your relationship with them. Here are some useful pointers:
- Have your staff follow up with pet parents to see how prescribed treatments are going. Also, ask them to rate the quality of their visit and to post a review online.
- Don’t just check in right after the visit. Do it again four or six weeks later to make sure treatments are progressing nicely.
- Reinforce common-sense preventive-care techniques to keep pets healthy between visits.
- Encourage pet parents to visit your website to learn more about how to keep their pets in excellent health.
- Use your practice-management or marketing-management system to automate the emailing of branded educational content, practice achievements and promotional offers.
- Also, use the system to capture feedback on current pet health. For example, you might ask them to rank their pet’s current health on a numerical scale and to list any issues of concern.
Finally, create an integrated communication plan using every channel at your disposal to help your pet parents become savvier about caring for their beloved pet. The more you communicate, the better your patient outcomes and customer satisfaction will be. In these challenging times, over-communicating is the only way to go!
To help your pet parents pay for veterinary care, talk to them about the value of having pet insurance. Encourage them to learn about our Gallagher Perks pet insurance program.