Your veterinary practice simply can’t be available at all times. So how do you keep up with the growing demand for client communications, after-hours scheduling, and emergency calls when there are only so many available workers in your office?
Many vets turn to answering services to increase their availability for clients and free up staff for more pressing issues. These third-party companies can answer your phones and respond to general client inquiries on your behalf. They can also stay available after hours and help answer emergency questions when your team isn’t available.
Could a veterinary answering service be right for your practice? Consider the benefits and downfalls of this client communication solution — and a few alternatives that could work better for your practice’s needs.
Pros of Using a Veterinary Answering Service
Veterinary answering services are popular for a reason — they make your veterinary clinic available when it otherwise wouldn’t be, which can provide several benefits for your practice. Licensed veterinarians often implement these communication solutions for the following reasons:
Free Up Staff Time and Resources
If your veterinary practice is like many others, your employees rarely have a few free minutes during the day. Responding to messages, checking pets in for their appointments, preparing medications, and working through billing issues are just a few of the tasks on their to-do lists each day. When they must stop and answer phone calls every few minutes, they lose focus on the task at hand and often do not complete all their responsibilities each day.
The most significant benefit of an answering service is freeing up the time your employees currently spend on calls. While your team can still answer calls when they’re available, they can just as easily transfer calls to the answering service if needed, allowing them to stay focused on the other tasks they must complete each day.
Some vet clinics find that they can reduce the number of front desk workers in the office, boosting revenue. However, if your team is struggling to keep up with their current workload, at the very least, an answering service can give them room to breathe during the day, potentially reducing employee turnover.
Improve Client Experience and Call Availability
When pet parents call your veterinary office with a question or concern, they likely prefer a prompt response. They may worry about their pet’s health and wonder if they need to bring their animal in for an emergency service.
Unfortunately, many vet clinics are so overworked that they cannot respond to client questions for several hours or even days. In that time, your clients may have already found other veterinary practices to take care of their dogs and cats. If not, they’re probably impatient and frustrated by your practice’s lack of response.
Using a veterinary answering service is an easy solution to improve the client experience. Clients won’t need to wait hours or days to receive answers to their questions. They can speak with a live person as soon as they call your clinic and receive personalized assistance from someone knowledgeable about vet care.
After-Hours Staffing for Emergencies
When clients call your practice with a medical emergency, they may not pay attention to the fact that your office is already closed for the day. In emergency situations, pet parents often start by calling their primary vet practice for assistance.
Your veterinary emergency answering service can respond to emergency calls seven days a week and steer your clients in the right direction. Even if you won’t be able to offer veterinary care after hours, your answering service can inform callers about other vets that may be open or even advise callers about whether their pet’s issue can wait until morning.
Cons of Using a Veterinary Answering Service
While a veterinary after-hours answering service may seem like the perfect solution for your vet clinic at face value, it also comes with a few downsides.
Can Be a Costly Solution
Answering services aren’t cheap. While every company charges differently, you can expect to pay at least $500 a month or about $1 per minute of a phone call. While these services can be more affordable than hiring full-time front desk workers, they may not make sense for practices struggling with profitability.
Inconsistent Quality and Branding
When a pet owner calls your practice and speaks with someone from the answering service, you can’t guarantee that they’ll receive the same level of compassion and great care your team would provide. Answering services typically work for several veterinarians, and they usually don’t change much about their branding from vet to vet.
If your vet clinic has a reputation for excellent client experience, working with a veterinary answering service could put that reputation on the line.
Can Require Hands-On Training and Coordination to Meet Your Clinic’s Needs
To ensure an answering service provides quality care that matches your practice, you’ll likely need to spend time orienting the customer service providers to your clinic’s processes, treatment options, and values. Answering services aren’t completely hands-off solutions. You’ll still need to implement quality control measures, which cost your clinic additional time and money on top of the general cost of the service.
Alternatives to Veterinary Answering Service
Veterinary answering services aren’t the only solutions that could free up your staff’s time and improve your availability for customers. Consider these other solutions that may suit your needs better:
Softphones are internet-based phone systems that can allow your veterinarians and front desk workers to take their office phones home with them. Your team can download an app to their personal smartphones or a desktop client on a work computer, then receive calls to your office phone number on all their devices.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect your employees to be available to field calls 24 hours a day, but if you’re looking for a way to improve your availability when established clients need emergency veterinary care, this solution could work for your office.
Weave Phones makes it easy for your veterinarian practice to incorporate phones into your greater client communication system, and more easily reach clients from anywhere.
Offices that switch to Weave save more than $7000 annually.
Say goodbye to outdated phone systems – try a smarter phone system that can help you better reach new and current customers.Schedule Demo
Call Tree or Call Routing
If you want to limit your after-hours communication to emergency care, you can consider a call tree procedure or call routing technology. Either solution could allow callers to respond to a series of prompts from your answering machine about why they’re calling and what they need help with. Depending on the number they press, they could receive the following information:
- Your office hours
- How to schedule an appointment online
- What to do if their pet needs emergency assistance
- Advice about common medication questions
If desired, you can also include an option that alerts your veterinarians when a caller requests emergency care. Otherwise, you can rely on an IVR system or call routing to steer clients in the right direction.
Weave Phones also includes call tree features to provide automatic, tailored responses when clients call after hours. You can also utilize the call tree function during the workday to free up your team’s time.
Missed Call Texts
Pet owners don’t want to feel ignored when you can’t get to the phone in time. Missed call texts are simple solutions that let callers know you received their message and will get back to them shortly.
With Weave Texting, you can send automatic missed call texts to every person who calls your clinic. These texts can be as simple or detailed as you’d like and, at the very least, can reassure callers that you are not ignoring their concerns.
Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars a month on a veterinary answering service, consider automating your communications with Weave. Contact us today to request your free demo.