09 Dec 5 ways to make your veterinary practice stand out locally
Pet and horse owners have a huge amount of choice when it comes to selecting a practice to care for their beloved animals – gone are the days when they would simply choose the nearest practice and stay there. Because whilst location is still a consideration, with several practices often operating in the same small town, it’s certainly not the only focus. Onswitch research confirms that the factors potential clients consider when looking at available options are (in order of decreasing importance):
Two thirds of owners live within five miles of their practice. 90% of initial contact with a practice takes place over the phone. The provision of excellent client care at this first stage of the customer journey is therefore crucial if the caller is to become a loyal client. Weekend and evening appointments help busy owners access care at a time that suits them.
A third of owners first chose their practice because of a recommendation from family and friends, or another animal care business (farrier, dog walker, cattery etc.) Owners will research practices online, checking not only the practice website and social media pages, but also reviews on sites such as yell.com, Google+ and vethelpdirect.com. A warm and engaging online presence is a fundamental requirement of every modern practice in this increasingly demanding and competitive world.
Friendly and caring team
Clinical competence is assumed – owners want to know that the vets and RVNs will be gentle and respectful towards their pet or horse, as well as acknowledging their own understanding of what is best for their uniquely individual animal.
Contrary to what you might think, price is relatively unimportant – just 10% of owners say that it is their primary driver. Owners want ‘good value’, but only after other considerations have been met. Even then, it is not cheap prices they are looking for, but cost justification through an excellent all-round service.
So how can you make sure that your practice is the one that owners choose? We’ve put together five simple but effective tips to help your practice stand out in your local area.
1. Make sure the customer experience provided by everyone in the team is consistently excellent.
It’s no coincidence we’ve put this at number one – owners tell us that they assume clinical service is the pretty much the same at every practice, and they’re not impressed by fancy equipment and theatres. If the team at your practice make clients feel that they are valued and welcomed then you’re onto a winner. Starting from the very first phone call, potential clients will be forming an impression of what the care at your practice feels like. Train the reception and nursing team (or indeed anyone who ever answers the phone) to follow the ‘5 Steps’ – a proven communication tool that structures the conversation so that practice and client each get the most out of the call. We run ‘5 Steps’ workshops across the country all year round – you can find out more [here].
Similarly, in the consult room, train your vets and nurses to use the ‘7 Steps’, ensuring that communication with clients is engaging and effective. Again, Onswitch run courses throughout the year, and we can even come to your practice and deliver a bespoke day of training for your team – find out more [here]
2. Measure your team’s performance.
Here at Onswitch we believe passionately that what gets measured gets better. Understanding how the team come across on the phone and in the consult room is vital if you are to spot declining client numbers as soon as they start to happen so that you can coach them to be better, and not find out a year later when the accounts are done and it’s too late to reverse the trend. The Onswitch Index programme is a unique nationwide research programme, calling well over a thousand UK practices every month to measure telephone customer care. Single-site practice subscription costs just £130 +VAT per month, an investment that will pay back several times over if just a couple of clients each month are retained. Find out more [here]
In the consult room it’s equally important to measure performance, and we have developed our Consult Coach programme to do just that. Find out more [here]
3. Use a ‘recommend a friend’ programme. A third of owners choose their practice after hearing positive things from a friend, family member or animal health care business. When your service is good, clients will tell people about it, but you can help encourage this by introducing ‘recommend a friend’ cards – current clients fill in their details and hand to a friend who brings it in to the practice. When the new client registers, both the recommender and recommendee get a £10 discount off their next bill – much cheaper than advertising!
4. Keep your online presence fresh and engaging. It’s a good idea to give somebody in the team responsibility for keeping your website and social media up to date with news and special offers. Potential clients won’t be impressed by websites that feature team members who left years ago or have ‘latest news’ from six months back. Social media pages should ideally be updated twice a day. Encourage clients to post patient updates and photos on facebook and always make sure you respond to reviews, asking posters of any negative ones to come in for a chat so that you can improve your processes where necessary.
5. Take a second look at your practice premises. Potential clients will drive by your practice every day. If you have banners with special offers, well-maintained signs and car parking space, plants and litter bins outside, opening hours displayed clearly in the window and modern branding then you’ll look like the forward-thinking and welcoming business you are. Peeling paint, overgrown pathways and mouldy signs will help you stand out locally, but not in the way you want!