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Overdue Reminders – Lost Client Or Lost Opportunity?

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks making calls to pet owners about wellness promos and overdue services.

I love making these calls! 

Yes – they are conversion and compliance calls, but they are also service calls. It’s a chance to proactively reach out to our clients and let them know that we haven’t forgotten about them. We genuinely want to know if their pet is ok and if there is anything we can do to help. 

What struck me this week, was how many people I spoke to said: “I’ve been meaning to call you!”.

I am used to hearing this, but I am hearing it so much more in 2020. This year has thrown our lives into confusion, uncertainty and disarray. Our priorities have changed. Our routines have changed. A reminder for a cat vaccination slips to the bottom of the email inbox or gets added to the ‘to-do later’ pile. By the time I call the client, they often greet me like a long lost friend and thank me for calling to remind them. This is a reflection of the trusted relationship they have with you, their veterinarian. 

Some of the clients on my calling list have not visited the practice for 12-24 months. There are many pet owners who vaccinate their pet once a year and don’t see any need to visit in between. That’s fine. These are the clients who are happy to book an appointment on the spot. They are generally compliant…just a little late.

Then there are the clients who have not visited within 2 years. We call these ‘lost clients’. The likelihood of winning them back is very small (<5%). They have usually left because of life circumstances. e.g. moved away, pet deceased or rehomed, or family separation.

Then we have the category of patients that have not been to see us for 12 – 18 months. These are the ‘in-between’ clients who are deferring for financial reasons or life events. Or they deferred for a little while and then forgot. These are the clients who tell me “I’ve been meaning to call you!”

Depending on the age of the pet, changes to their health status can occur quickly. My call may have been about an overdue vaccination, but in further discussion with the client, they may tell me that Fluffy has been scratching at his ear again the past few weeks, or that they noticed a lump. By the time I book an appointment for them they are relieved to have taken action. They have some peace of mind.

If we send 3 emails and/or sms reminders and then do nothing for 6 months, we risk losing these clients forever. Without regular contact from us, they are more likely to be tempted elsewhere for their pet’s veterinary care. A phone call is more personal than a letter. It is an opportunity to invite the client to tell us what they are concerned about. 

Our practices may be busy now, but we still have competition. When Jobseeker bonuses end and unemployment skyrockets, pet owners will respond best to the veterinary practice that listens and cares.

I recommend running a report every 6 months for clients that have not visited for 12 – 18 months and giving them a call. At the very least they will appreciate that you haven’t forgotten them.

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