The importance of customer service in veterinary practices

Working in veterinary practice we must never forget that owners have choices when it comes to their pet’s or horse’s care. Research consistently proves that they make that choice primarily based on the customer experience – how the practice feels rather than what it does and how much it charges. Decisions are driven by emotions, even in (and perhaps more so because of) this digital age of online transaction. Shaw’s study ‘The DNA of customer experience’ finds that 50% of any purchase is emotional – how you make your clients feel about doing business with you is key to how many times they’ll come back, and how many friends they’ll tell. Creating advocates for your business is both the ultimate objective, and also the natural end point when you provide a genuinely brilliant and consistent customer experience – make people feel great about your practice and they won’t be able to stop themselves telling others about you.


Thus, a practice that focuses on making the customer experience personal, welcoming, professional and convenient from start to finish will ultimately win and keep more clients. And let’s not forget that the customer experience begins long before the owner sets foot in the door.


Attracting clients – why should they choose you?

Owners understand that they get what they pay for and will happily pay a little more where they feel that the customer experience is worth it. They’re driven by emotion remember – they want to choose a local service where they feel they belong, a practice team they really like, and who are liked by people whose opinions they value (friends, family and other animal care businesses).


Online presence is really just about backing up this emotion in the digital world, not replacing it – customer care extends across every single touch point clients have with your practice and your team. Of course, you should have a vibrant website and a buzzy social media feed, but they will not disguise poor service at the reception desk or indifference in the consult room. Don’t mistake digital marketing as the sole saviour of modern practice – it really does come back to how your customers feel when they are in your building; your online presence helps bring them there, but what your team do and how your practice feels is key. 50% of purchases are driven by emotion remember. 50%.


Winning on the phone – effective first call resolution

Once a potential client has seen and heard enough about you to call, this is your chance to walk the talk, to really demonstrate how great your customer experience is.

There are 5 Steps in which you can do this through a short telephone call:

1. Give a great greeting

2. Get the client’s and pet’s name, get the picture

3. Demonstrate Love –Value –Price (in that order)

4. Give extra information: web, social media, opening hours etc.

5. Offer an appointment

You can find out more about the 5 Steps and book a training course [here]

But it’s not just about getting a consult booked – after all, offering an appointment is the last step in the process and some calls will be follow-ups or quick enquiries. Regardless of the nature of the call, it’s important to establish an emotional connection to the caller first – ask for (and use) both their name and that of the animal, show genuine interest in the pet / horse and give plenty of information to demonstrate the value of your service before you put a price on it.

Delivering a superior experience in the consult room

This is fundamentally what your client is paying for; 10-15 minutes of expertise delivered with compassion and understanding and without a patronising or indifferent tone. This is show time! Onswitch teach the 7 Steps – a simple and clear set of guidelines to help clinical teams deliver superior consults, developed from the Calgary Cambridge model used in medical schools across the world. You can find out more and book a training course [here]

The model is based on the principle of building an open and trusting client / clinician relationship through a standard process – asking for information and listening to the client, collecting evidence through a physical examination, explanation of findings, recommendation and planning of next steps, followed by a decisive close:

1. Prepare yourself (make sure the room is clean and tidy, and the items you’re going to need are close at hand – owners hate it when you leave the room mid-consult so read the notes and remind yourself what the patient is in for)

2. Create a rapport (introduce yourself, make eye contact, listen actively, engage in conversation and use the animals’ name throughout)

3. Ask open questions (what, why, how – questions that require elaboration rather than a yes / no answer)

4. Carry out an obvious pet or horse examination

5. Make clear recommendations (don’t use phrases such as “I think…”, “perhaps we could…” and “let’s wait and see…”)

6. Check understanding and signpost next steps (studies show that compliance is good when owner and vet agree on the priority for the patient, but conversely it is poor when the vet does not address the owner’s initial concern)

7. Book the next appointment / contact

Customer care is the single most important area to focus on if you’re looking to run a successful and profitable business. Without it, your client numbers will dwindle away, and without clients you don’t have a business. Onswitch provides a range of services and training courses that can help your practice optimise the customer experience you deliver, at every step of the way.

Investing in training the team and measuring their performance will pay dividends through increased recommendation rates, improved team motivation and healthy turnover and profit figures. Veterinary practice is a service industry, and we forget at our peril that our job is not just to care for patients, but for their owners too – after all, they pay our bills!

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