When I first started work as a veterinarian, my clinic didn’t have email. We didn’t even have online access. Yes, this was in the current millennium. It was so bad that one time I had to call the state veterinarian with a question and even they, a government official, kind of made fun of our stone-age technology.
When I asked for online access, I was told “no.” The reasoning? We couldn’t be trusted. To this day I’m not quite sure what havoc they thought we would wreak upon the place, but I’m pretty sure that even this low-tech facility eventually came around when it became clear there were no other options.
Patterns have a way of repeating themselves, and now here we are: in the middle of a pandemic, with executive orders flying left and right and curbside drop-offs becoming the norm, and your boss still doesn’t want to consider two-way messaging or video chats. If it doesn’t happen now, it probably never will. And that is not a good thing for your clinic’s long term success.
So how do you talk to your boss about technology in a way that doesn’t offend them but gets them to give your ideas a shot? (Hint: don’t lead with “Ok, boomer, here’s the deal:”)
1. Understand their goal and mission
It’s tempting to go right into making your case, whether you’re trying to get the boss to agree to live-streaming a visit or texting a short video after surgery. It seems so obvious, right? Who could possibly disagree?
Hold up. Remember, your boss has already indicated that they’re not really getting what you’re selling or else you wouldn’t be reading this post, right? You’ve got to use some old school finesse. Wow ‘em with your deep understanding of what really matters in this world, which is- whatever they say it is.
What drives your boss to come into work every day? Is it the deep bond they have with their clientele? Maybe it’s a financial goal. Whatever motivates your boss the most, start with that and work your way backwards to explain how your proposed technology helps that happen.
2. Talk in terms of problems solved
You’re never going to convince your boss they need an upgrade if they think everything is just hunky-dory as is. There are people like that out there. They’re fine with paper records and ancient x-ray film and 1982 steroid protocols. Some people can’t be saved from themselves.
But for most business owners, it’s not so much a stubborn resistance to change as it is simply not seeing the potential. What are the biggest struggles in the clinic right now? Decreased revenue? Running with half your team because you are on rotations and trying to fit in more people with fewer staff? Tech solves a lot of problems, but you need to focus on the one they care about the most.
3. Connect the benefits to their goal
OK, so you know what drives your boss and what their biggest struggles are. Now think about the technology you want to introduce. What are its key benefits? If you’re looking to integrate something like a text app, the benefit is clear to those of us who use apps: they’re awesome.
However, if your boss doesn’t use apps or understand why anyone would choose a practice based on it, you’re going to have to connect the dots a little. If client retention is a pain point for you like it is for so many clinics, how does this piece of technology represent the solution?
You know that clients put a high value on video follow-ups, which improves loyalty. You also know that messaging versus phone calls is an incredibly efficient way to help your CSRs help more pets, which means less wait time and a higher perceived value when the CSR is focused on them.
If you’re time-crunched, the benefit in using messaging could be because it saves your front desk time in having to sit on the phone making reminder calls, which is the argument to start with if you’re understaffed and fighting for time. Or maybe you just feel like clients don’t see the value in what you do and you’re constantly having to remind them why these regular visits are so important? Maybe a loyalty program, with its demonstrated results in bringing people back in, is the way to lead your pitch.
4. Have some data points
Here we are at the critical point. You’ve gotten their attention by showing how much you get their perspective. You know what problems plague them the most. You’ve laid the groundwork for how your proposal is the solution to their problem.
Now, and only now, do you bring in your data points. Veterinarians will tell you they love data points, and it’s true, but we’re also humans who need to believe in the value of what they’re considering before looking for the proof. You don’t use the data to convince them of your solution. You convince them of the solution by solving their problem for them, then you use your data to seal the deal.
Say you’re considering PetDesk, for example. According to a recent study, using the app saves 8 CSR hours a month. Seems like a clear winner, right? But if you have a technophobe boss, you’re going to have to ease your way into that or else you’ll run into the dreaded “We’ve been fine for 20 years, we’ll be fine for the next 20.” Calculate what a CSR could do with 8 extra hours- it’s a lot, right? Maybe it’s a list of tasks you’re always struggling to complete, or more time to work on the schedule. Maybe it’s less overtime. Figure out why your proposal makes the effort worth it.
It may sound like a daunting prospect, but this approach is a tried-and-true way to fast track that approval you need to do that really cool thing you’re dying to do. They’ll get there eventually – all business owners do, if they want to stay in business- but this will save you a lot of angst along the way. Good luck, and happy pitching!
Jessica Vogelsang, DVM – Founder of pawcurious
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang centers her life around two passions: animals and storytelling. She began pawcurious.com in 2009 as a way to connect with animal lovers around the world and has since become one of the most widely read veterinarians on the web. Dr. Vogelsang covers a variety of topics such as animal health, client communication, resilience, and the power of storytelling to create lasting bonds.
Dr. Vogelsang previously worked with PetDesk to create a lecture on finding success by evolving your practice.