What can your veterinary practice do to keep pet owners active?
We sat down with Kelly Cronin, an operations support manager and industry expert, to discuss various solutions to the problem of attrition in the veterinary field. This webinar is part of Weave’s In the Trenches series, where we invite business veterans (and veterinarians) to share their specific experiences and knowledge with practices looking to optimize their organization.
Kelly Cronin has spent the past thirty years in veterinary spaces, and is a VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist) in emergency and critical care. Along with her vast experience in the veterinary industry, Kelly also earned her MBA from Mississippi State University and is certified as a Professional in Human Resources. Her work has taken her from Alaska to New Mexico to Wisconsin, where she currently specializes in multi-site management.
In her conversation with Adam Smith of Weave, Kelly shares a host of tips for creating an environment that consistently generates loyal clients for veterinary clinics. Below are 13 genius solutions to help your practice avoid client attrition.
→Watch How A Veterinarian Industry Expert Keeps Pet Owners Active ↓
1. Get to know your clients
Although KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) have their place, a real understanding of what prevents attrition is hard to attain without getting to know your clients. Monthly reports can provide some insight into attrition and retention, but nothing can replace healthy and caring customer relationships. “Clients who know you don’t leave you,” says Kelly.
Attrition can be minimized with every interaction. Kelly recommends sending post-appointment surveys to grasp what clients value about your clinic. She shares the example of her dentist, who immediately made an effort to bond with her after noticing her University of Wisconsin sweatshirt. Her dentist’s office always knows her when she calls and checks up with her before and after appointments, ensuring she keeps coming back.
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2. Make an assessment at each interaction
Kelly knows from experience that it’s much more costly to get new clients than to keep old ones. That’s why she encourages veterinarians to assess a pet owner’s needs after each interaction. Vets and their staff should hone the unique ability to build relationships and make pets and their owners feel like family.
Channeling her medical background, Kelly compares these micro-assessments to applying a tourniquet. It’s easier to stop the bleeding than to give a transfusion after the damage is done. By regularly checking up with your clients, you can avoid having them move on to another veterinary clinic.
3. Teach your employees soft skills
Introverts tend to gravitate toward veterinary medicine, Kelly admits. An introverted staff isn’t necessarily an obstacle, however. With the right training, employees don’t have to rely on their inherent abilities to retain clients.
Kelly is a fan of call recording, partially because it supplies her with examples of both outstanding and lackluster phone conversations with customers. She likes to keep a bank of recordings available for showing new receptionists how to handle challenging situations. She’s found Weave’s call recording feature particularly useful in this regard.
4. Find employees with a service background
Veterinarians and their staff can’t teach new employees everything. That’s why Kelly suggests vets look for candidates with a service industry background, such as those who have worked in restaurants. It’s tough work finding potential staff members with a wealth of veterinary experience, so service industry experience functions as a decent foundation.
Another question Kelly recommends asking interviewees is how they treat their pets. Their adherence to the gold standard of care for their own pets is indicative of how they’ll take care of the clinic’s clients. Neglectful pet owners are very likely a bad hire.
5. Ensure satisfaction with callbacks
As she previously mentioned, Kelly doesn’t think reviewing periodic and month-end reports on your practice management software is sufficient for fighting attrition. Repeat and total appointment numbers are just statistics. They need to be coupled with actual conversations between veterinarians and their clients.
Make sure you follow up with pet owners by talking to them about their recent visit to your clinic. Google reviews are useful, but also can’t tell vets the whole story of why clients choose to return to their practice. In fact, satisfied customers are 3 times less likely to post their opinions on review sites than dissatisfied customers.
6. Send automated surveys by text
Kelly encourages vets to reach out to clients before they post on review sites. Automated surveys give your clinic insights regarding the client experience and also provide you with the opportunity to book future appointments. A savvy reminder system will distribute texts with links to surveys and scheduling at an appropriate cadence.
Text reminders can also include details like GPS directions and phone numbers. When people use these directions to reach your clinic, Google Maps registers their destination and boosts your rankings in their search results. This builds both your retention rate and your online presence.
7. Cater to all your demographics
While communicating with your clients, keep in mind that different age demographics tend to prefer different modes of communication. Everybody connects with their veterinary clinic in their own way. Kelly says she tries to meet the preferences of each demographic and individual in a given practice.
Millennials are incredibly reliant on texting, so scheduling them is easiest by providing a link to your online booking page in a text message. Professionals frequently favor emailing, and other customers continue to rely on postcards as a physical reminder of an upcoming visit. In one of her clinics, Kelly saw annual postal charges drop by 66% thanks to a mailing system that only triggered if clients failed to set an appointment online.
8. Provide each customer with a “client liaison”
Some offices choose to address attrition by providing their clients with a “client liaison” from the get-go. This liaison is an employee that creates a personal connection with a pet owner and makes them feel at home as your client. This relationship tends to humanize your clinic by putting a face with your practice.
Introduction videos serve a similar purpose. Even just a one-minute video of veterinarians and their staff can make a world of difference. Again, choose team members with a strong service background and experience with creating lasting client relationships.
9. Create a “day of” call list
Occasional no-shows and cancellations are inevitable in the veterinary industry. Kelly recommends putting together a call list of clients most likely to accept an appointment on short notice. She tells clinics to incentivize these same-day visits by offering a 10% discount to these willing customers.
It’s often vital to an animal’s health that pet owners not cancel. Kelly shares the sad story of Charlie, a chocolate lab that had some complications after being neutered. Because the owner cancelled, Charlie needs eight units of blood two days later to survive. Reducing cancellations and no-shows directly impacts your clients.
→Watch how to Easily Identify Pet Owners who are Overdue for a Service using Weave ↓
10. Train on empathy and connection
According to Kelly, one of the most difficult aspects of minimizing attrition is training employees on empathy and connection. For her, it’s more challenging than the more physical tasks technicians and assistants perform on a daily basis.
In order to show how much a single client and their pet means to the clinic, Kelly breaks down the numbers. She goes step-by-step through the customer journey and demonstrates how each client brings in $5,000-$8,000 in the course of a lifetime. She also shows new employees how much it costs per hour to run a veterinary clinic.
11. Utilize collateral everywhere
It’s crucial for your practice to use its marketing materials in as many places as possible. This list of places includes, but isn’t limited to, your social media accounts, website, emails, and text messages. By collateral, Kelly means posts, newsletters, and videos meant to relay important information and stop client attrition through authentic connection.
12. Create and share videos
Though it’s sometimes effective to give pet owners instructions in person or by email, Kelly finds her clinics increasingly dependent on video clips to save their teams time and build trust with customers. Clients often don’t register verbal instructions when they’ve got a puppy jumping around and kids waiting in the car.
Short videos on common questions, like “How to Pill a Cat” and “Why Your Dog Needs an E-Collar,” are a great opportunity to share valuable information with your clients. Be certain to brand all your videos and post them on social media, on your website, and in text messages.
13. Work smarter, not harder
Everyone is busy right now, especially veterinarians. Make yourself less busy by adopting efficient communication solutions. Now’s the time to shape your practice and establish processes for addressing the problem of attrition and winning your clients’ lifelong loyalty.