Dr. Ross Henderson, a talented, good-hearted veterinarian in Colorado, put a video on YouTube of him playing his guitar and singing to a dog who was about to go into surgery. The video hit over a million views and now Dr. Henderson and his entire family at Fox Hollow Animal Hospital in Colorado have their own show on Animal Planet called “Hanging with the Henderson’s.”

One candid, special moment of caring for a patient was captured on camera and millions of people tuned in.

It’s no surprise that as the veterinary landscape continues to rapidly change, customer service is becoming more important. It doesn’t mean all veterinarians need to sing or play the guitar, but it does mean that caring about your clients and adding unique touches will have a marked impact on your client’s experience. 

In an article by Andy Roark, DVM, MS and W. Dane Foxwell, they showed that a satisfied customer is more likely to become a loyal customer, which is important for two bottom-line reasons. First, the cost of attracting a new client can be as much as 10 times the cost of retaining an existing one. Second, satisfied and loyal customers are more willing to pay higher prices than neutral or dissatisfied clients.

There are plenty of opinions out there as to what good customer service is or is not, and they can vary depending on whether you are asking the customer or the business. However, these customer-centric organizations have driven outstanding retention results that continue to stand the test of time.  Although they are all big companies now, they were once little – they just did big things to become super successful.

Here are three tips from three best customer service companies that you can use to create a better customer experience for any veterinary practice – big or small:

1. Disney – It’s all about the memorable moments

While there are amusement parks all over the world, there are none that compare to the Disney parks. Disney is called the “Happiest place on Earth” because they provide memorable experiences for their guests. In the book “If Disney Ran Your Hospital” by Fred Lee, the author says that customer satisfaction is fool’s gold. It looks valuable and we all like seeing high patient satisfaction scores but it doesn’t mean patients will be loyal to your business. Loyalty is generated by “memorable things that happen that we didn’t expect.”

The good news is that your customers already have a strong emotional attachment to something that can connect them to your hospital – their pets. Taking note from Disney, the next step is to ensure that your clients have a memorable experience with your hospital. A great example is Dr. Steinberg at the Cat Clinic in Costa Mesa, California. She creates memorable experiences for her patients by connecting with them. Her reviews on Google and Yelp reflect her attention to connecting with her patients on an emotional level. One review says that during a time of losing her beloved cat Bailey one pet parent said,  “I received a letter in the mail from the School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis. Dr. Steinberg and staff had made a memorial donation to the ‘Companion Animal Memorial Fund’ in memory of Bailey. I stood in my kitchen after opening the letter and wept.”

In this instance, Dr. Steinberg was able to create a lasting impression for one of her clients, who will continue to visit the Cat Clinic for her other pets. 

2.  Southwest Airlines – Make it simple for your clients

We could just as easily talk about using Southwest as an example of making flights memorable, with their singing flight attendants and quirky humor. However, one of the things that sets Southwest apart is that they make things easy for people in an industry that had a historically bad reputation of being overly complicated. Southwest began to offer travelers the ability to carry-on luggage at no charge, to cancel and change flights with ease, and to purchase flights with some of the lowest fares in the industry, all with a smile from a strong staff of customer service agents, both in-person and online. It all became so easy; Southwest changed the game for the airline industry by making things simple for their travelers.

While the veterinary industry isn’t the easiest industry to streamline processes, there are many different approaches you can take to make both your workload and the experience of your clients simpler.

After almost five years of working in the veterinary industry, I’ve been able to see a lot of different approaches to building healthy client relationships,” said Shona Fenner, Director of Customer Success at PetDesk. “While practice demographics and services can vary by location, the unifying theme of successful efforts is simplicity. Specifically, simplifying aspects of clients scheduling, getting to and through the appointment, and understanding why they are there, and how it benefits their pet.”

Her advice to start boosting the ease-factor, is to first audit your current processes and involve your staff in the decision making process. Having different viewpoints along each step of your client’s time with your business helps pinpoint small changes in the client experience that can make a big difference. Additionally, managers that show trust and collaboration with staff to improve the business are engaging those team members and encouraging them to re-think their approaches to providing exceptional service to every client.

Make it simple for your clients to contact you, make it simple for them to understand what their pet needs, and make it simple to work with you so they can be the greatest pet parents they can be.

3. Amazon – Vary your approach and adapt with the times

Amazon built one of the best online shopping experiences of all time and yet, some customers wanted something more. Some Amazon customers still wanted an in-person experience. As a multi-billion dollar industry, Amazon could have simply stuck to being an online retailer, but instead they chose to listen to their customers needs and invest in brick-and-mortar experiences. They took what the people wanted and modified their strategy, but more importantly provided options to adapt to a variety of different needs. 

Think about your current client – what is it that they’re currently doing to interact with other businesses? What about their own doctors? Clients want to interact with you on Facebook, Instagram, and through their smartphones. We all know that postcards have been a part of the veterinary industry for a long time, and quite a few people still love receiving them. However, the number of people who would prefer receiving text reminders or connecting with their veterinarian through an app is rapidly growing. They want to be able to have all of their pet’s information in the palm of their hand, and the ability to contact their veterinarian however it is most convenient for them. 

Considering what is the most convenient for your clients not only helps your current clients, but can bring new clients in as well. Central Veterinary Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee started using PetDesk’s full reminder system and app for their clients back in 2017. They, like many clinics, had only used postcards in the past as their reminder system but they adapted the techniques to match their clients’ needs. Now, not only do they have over 2,000 app users (which is a huge amount at any clinic) but they also have almost 500 positive Google reviews. They are so busy now, averaging 180 new clients a month, that they are in the process of expanding to another location. 

By creating an experience that adapted to their clients’ needs, Central Veterinary Hospital was able to service an even wider area of Knoxville. 

Closing Thoughts

In a time where word of mouth spreads like wildfire and can make or break your business, and in an industry where it is crucial to build relationships with your clients thoughtful customer experience is more important than ever.

Be memorable, make things simple, vary and adapt to create an experience that will get your pet parents coming back year after year for generations to come.

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