We’ve all been there. You call a client to confirm an appointment for tomorrow, and it rings 5 times and shuts off. You call back and finally get the voicemail. You leave your message about confirming and ask the client to return the call and confirm. The client calls back and says, “I received a missed call from this number?” You take a DEEP sigh and launch into your script… ”Yes, Mrs. Smith, this is ABC Animal Hospital calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. Stevens tomorrow at 11 am for Fluffy for his annual examination and vaccines. Does this time still work for you?”
Even writing that took so much time! Imagine a world where that 15 minutes was given back to you, times 10.
Enter two-way texting plus automated reminder and confirmation texts. What could you do with up to two more hours every day?
I can think of a ton of stuff! Including helping Mr. Roberts to the car with his large bag of food or coming out from behind the desk to speak with Mrs. Thomas, who has questions about her cat… Now think of the world we’re in now, where speaking face-to-face with clients presents a health hazard. There are so many things you can text. And what’s amazing is your clients WILL read them. 90% of text messages are opened and read within 3 minutes!
Traditional text message ideas
In veterinary medicine, traditional text message uses are centered around appointments. Something like:
- A text message goes out prior to an appointment to confirm.
- The client is asked to call the hospital OR to enter a “Y” or “N” to confirm the appointment.
- After the appointment, a form text might go out thanking them for their patronage.
However, there are SO many more uses for text message communications with your clients.
Unconventional text message ideas
Normal bloodwork, normal routine fecal, or heartworm test. Or even a normal liver panel for recheck on NSAID treatment. You take the sample and send the client on their merry way. You then text, “Mrs. Smith, great job taking care of Fluffy! His bloodwork came back all normal, and we will see you next year for his annual physical. Happy Holidays!”
And this can be done even faster with templates! Normal bloodwork, normal fecals, prescription refills all can be texted. I know what you are thinking: “Our clients will never go for this.” Well, I’ve been there. And tried it. And guess what, they do! I implemented this at a practice I was managing, and there was ZERO pushback from clients. Plus, most responded with a kind “thank you.”
Furthermore, my staff LOVED the idea. They had so many things to do that clicking a dropdown, selecting a template, and then firing that off to the client saved them PRECIOUS minutes!
Also, texting can be used to solicit reviews. Mr. Stevenson comes in, and as he is leaving, he says, “You know, Maxxie and I always love coming in here. Everyone is so friendly and warm, and we love Dr. P.” You thank him for his wonderful compliment, and knowing you just got a 2-star review on Yelp recently (darn!) you say, “Mr. Stevenson, we are a small business who rely on our online reviews. Would you be willing to leave us a review if I text you a link to our Google page?”
Mr. Stevenson says, “Absolutely!” And with one click, you have sent Mr. Stevenson the Yelp link. Lo and behold, tomorrow morning, a glowing 5-star review shows up. And who knew Mr. Stevenson was a top Yelp poster, and your ratings jump from 4 to 4.5 stars! All by use of text.
Curbside and the use of two-way texting
During this pandemic, we all experienced the phones blowing up. Not only did we have all the usual calls – such as appointment bookings, medical questions, prescription refills – but we added the “I’m here! Waiting in the red Volvo” calls for every appointment of the day. We also added the “What is going on with my pet?” and the “I have been waiting for two hours, is my pet ready yet?” And the always popular: “I called to check in 5 minutes ago, but no one has come out yet!??” And forget calling out; all the lines were busy with incoming calls anyway! We were drowning. We added phone lines. We created on-hold messaging. But here comes two-way texting to the rescue! With PetDesk, clients can text when they arrive, and receptionists can easily communicate with the client using templates and typing.
“But our clients don’t text” or “Even with two-way text, our clients are still calling!” Of course they are; it’s been the go-to communication method for decades. It takes time, reinforcement, and their first “oh, that’s nice!” experience to change behavior. That, combined with the fact that a client may only be visiting you for their yearly appointment, means it can take some time to get your clientele up to speed on your new procedures.
We regularly use PetDesk’s Mass Messaging feature to let all our clients know about new and improved procedures. Place your “Check-In protocol” on your website. Blast it out on social media. And then do it again. And again. Expect to say it over and over until the majority of your clients to finally “get it.”
Non-traditional text and curbside
Another fantastic way to use text is to send electronic fillable form links to clients through Jotform or Google. Imagine a world where clients would fill in all that pesky paperwork (that used to live on a clipboard) virtually, email it to you, and it can be uploaded in their records. There are tons of great forms that can be made electronic (such as check-in, history, surgery/anesthesia consent…even estimates!) and delivered with ease to your clients using text.
Not only does text help you accomplish this, but with texting templates, this gets even easier. You can create a custom text template that says something like: “Thank you for arriving for Fluffy’s appointment. Please complete our check-in and history form, and we will come out to meet you soon!” Or: “Dental care is so important, so great work keeping Fluffy’s teeth clean! Here are the treatment plan and anesthesia consent forms to complete before Fluffy’s dental procedure tomorrow morning [link]” Now, like anything new, clients need constant reminders to ensure they complete the forms. But with texting, a reminder is super easy (and quick) to send. You save time here, too – no more phone confirmation, no more trying to get a hold of the “other” owner to fax in the consent forms, no more time wasted on the phone!
“But texting isn’t personal!”
We live in a world where texting is normal. Acceptable. In fact, 84% of businesses use, or plan to use, texting in their client communication strategy. With the world in our smartphone, texting is convenient, faster than a phone call, and allows us to send direct, concise messages without being caught up in an emotional phone call or end up getting side-tracked. Dentists have used text message systems (reminders and confirmations) for years. Research shows millennial clients, ages 18-34, prefer text as their primary mode of communication, and 60% of millennials wish they could text with their businesses. Millennials are certainly not our only clients; it turns out that 90% of Gen Z and 68% of Baby Boomers own smartphones, so we know that texting is a trusted medium.
If you’re still thinking, “texting will never go over with my clients,” text a friend, see what they say.
Texting has unlimited potential. It’s preferred by a large proportion of our clients, saves time, and improves efficiency. So why aren’t YOU texting? I challenge you to reconsider ‘what you know” about the role of texting at your veterinary clinic and give texting another shot.
David Liss, MBA, CVPM, PHR, RVT started his career as a veterinary technician in emergency medicine in 2003. During his time as an on-the-floor veterinary technician, he oversaw two 24-hour specialty referral practices as Technician Manager and obtained two veterinary technician specialty certifications, in emergency and critical care and internal medicine. David then became the Program Director of a veterinary technology associate’s degree program in Los Angeles for several years. David returned to management to lead a 24-hour general practice and emergency hybrid hospital and became a certified veterinary practice manager (CVPM) and professional in human resources (PHR). He currently is the regional director of operations for Amerivet Veterinary Partners in the LA area, completed his MBA in 2020, and lectures worldwide.