In the past, pet owners would automatically call their most conveniently located vet clinic for their pet’s needs. These days, there are enough clinics to allow for price shopping and service comparisons, giving pet owners more choices about which vet clinic they choose to use. It also means that if they are unhappy, they can simply walk out the door and straight into a competitor’s clinic.
We know that all vet clinics are not the same, but can our clients understand the differences? In a climate of financial uncertainty their focus is predominantly on price, so it’s more important than ever before to be proactive about pointing out your unique selling points. Does your team know how to actively promote your differences when they’re handling customer enquiries?
I’ve mystery shopped many vet clinics throughout my time in the industry and one thing is clear. Cheap services may attract clients, but they’re not the type of clients who are likely to stay for the long-term, or take up additional recommended veterinary treatments.
Furthermore, I found that the prices for services quoted were akin to apples and oranges. A spey is not just a spey! In most cases inclusions were not volunteered, and I often had to ask if their service included fluids, pain relief or an e-collar.
- Does your team explain what is included in the price?
- Are they unapologetically proud to state your prices by focusing on quality and standards of care?
- Do they ask for the booking before hanging up the phone?
Consider also running your promos at different times to your competitors. There’s no rule that says you can only offer special dental prices in August.
Although it’s common to refer patients to third party specialists when required, many practices also have vets on their teams who have completed further studies in dentistry, orthopaedic surgery, reproductive medicine or other specialities. You might also have nurses on your team who have qualifications in training, remedial massage or grooming.
- Do you actively promote these services to your clients?
- Do you have team bios on your website?
Standards of Care
Your standards of care are justifiably the main reason why your prices may be higher than a neighbouring vet clinic. Transparency and expertise are key to instilling trust, not cheap prices.
Your staff training and knowledge, clinic protocols, and a willingness to innovate and embrace new technologies should be promoted at every opportunity. Your standards of care are what sets you apart from other practices, so don’t be afraid to share your achievements on your website, in your brochures and on social media.
First impressions count!
During my repping days I think I saw every kind of veterinary practice, from a small house in the suburbs that was covered in cobwebs (true!), to a state-of-the-art clinic boasting modern facilities, the latest diagnostic equipment and exceptional attention to cleanliness.
Step outside the front door of your clinic and walk back in as if you were seeing your reception area for the very first time.
- Are there separate waiting areas for cats and dogs?
- Do you promote a Fear Free environment?
- Are the shelves clean and products neatly stacked?
- Is the signage clean, relevant and up to date? (No tattered printouts taped to the desk, Blu-tac, outdated promos or torn posters.)
- Are you greeted with a smile?
- Do your team members wear name badges?
Other factors that may influence clients to visit your practice include:
- Opening hours. Being open on a Sunday for instance, can make a big difference if your nearest competitors are closed.
- External signage. Consider signage opportunities beyond the clinic itself, such as near the main road or at the local shopping centre.
- Referrals and client testimonials.
Your people are the heart and soul of your practice, and their power to influence is enormous when they build trusted relationships with clients and patients. Take some time out to listen to client conversations, both in person and on the phone:
- Do you provide customer service training to your team?
- Do your team members give their name when they answer the phone? Do they ask for (and use) the names of your clients and patients?
- Do they smile, or are they stressed and in a hurry?
- Do you have a clear procedure in place for handling and escalating complaints?
- Are they able to engage clients, ask relevant questions, and ask for the booking?
- Do they take the initiative to offer solutions?
- How do you ensure that enquiries are followed up in a timely fashion?
- Do you have a ‘Meet the Team’ section on your website? (This is a great series for engagement on social media too.)
Phone your nearest competitors and make an inquiry. You’ll be as shocked as I was to realise that customer service practices can differ wildly from one practice to another. How does your practice compare?
By taking a step back and viewing your practice from the perspective of a new client, it’s possible to make a few small changes that will create lasting first impressions and keep your clients coming back for the lifetime of their pet and beyond.
What makes your veterinary practice stand out from the pack? I’d love to hear your suggestions.