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If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news lately you’ll know that the spread of Coronavirus is having a widespread impact around the world and will soon begin to have an impact on our daily lives in Australia. Not just in a healthcare sense but financially too. A recession is inevitable.
It’s true that we cannot make our veterinary practices 100% recession proof. Many pet owners will defer non-urgent treatments and procedures until the crisis passes.
However the good news is that we have a few weeks to start changing customer behaviours and modify the way we deliver our services. With some forward planning and a few procedural changes, we can continue to maintain business continuity, look after our team members and provide optimal patient and client care.
1. Client Communications
Delivering consistent and timely communications to your clients is critical. You are a trusted advisor for their pet’s health and they will be looking to you for knowledge, updates and reassurance.
Communicate proactively via social media, newsletters and website articles to keep your clients informed with updates from the AVA and changes to your scheduling, staffing and service delivery.
2. Rethink your marketing strategy
Perhaps this is not the ideal time to spend your marketing dollars on promoting holiday boarding or holding an event such as a clinic open day. Pet owners want to know that you have your finger on the pulse and that you’re in tune with their needs.
Have a think about what problems you can solve for your clients in the coming months. What can you do differently to show them that you are listening?
3. Cleaning and Disinfection
What steps have you taken in your clinic to proactively reduce risks to clients and patients? e.g. providing hand sanitiser at reception, replacing hand towels with paper towels, maintaining daily cleaning including disinfection of computers, keyboards and consult rooms.
Let your clients know what you are doing to protect their safety.
The technology is available. Even in the most simplistic sense, non-urgent visits could possibly be replaced with a phone call or video call from the client. Identify ways in which you can support your clients remotely whilst still maintaining continuity of patient care.
5. Patient prescriptions
Review prescriptions for regular patients that are due to expire. Without stockpiling as such, it may still be prudent to dispense some medications earlier than usual. Are you able to reach out to your regular clients via phone or email to discuss their medication requirements for the next few months?
6. Staff Training
Provide team members with pre-prepared responses for handling enquiries from customers. Your team members may be challenged at times when emotions run high and customers are anxious.
Cross-train key staff so that your practice can continue to function at all times. If your receptionist becomes ill for example, your nurses may need to step in.
7. Mobile Vets
If you’re currently offering home visits, will you continue to do so? If so, what preventative measures will you take to protect your own health and that of your team? Again, client communication is key. You could proactively contact clients who book regular home visits to see if they need anything in the upcoming weeks. Or you may want to reassure them about your availability, depending on what you decide to do.
8. Loyalty Incentives
Make it easier for your clients to keep visiting your practice by offering discounts and rewards that will assist them through a recession. Pet care packages, loyalty cards, frequent feeder programs and in-clinic promotions will be a huge help to pet owners when money is tight.
These are some of the ways that you can help to minimise the impact of the Coronavirus on your clients, your patients and your practice.
It is crucial that we talk about the implications and scenarios of a pandemic now, so that we can be prepared and begin to implement new procedures and give our clients time to adjust to the changes.
As the situation changes and evolves, maintain contact with your team and with your clients to prevent confusion and minimise stress. Share ideas with your colleagues and keep an open mind with suggestions from your team – this is new for all of us.
p.s. I will be putting together some free communications and marketing resources for your practice very soon, which I hope will save you some time. If you need assistance with your client communications or team training I am here to help!
Take care and stay well!