Examine a veterinary practice that provides award-winning service, and it becomes clear that it’s because of all the small things the staff does right. I frequently tell my staff it’s the 101 or the 1001 little things we do that make our clinic a great practice.
Here are 10 of my most successful client-service tips, which can help your clinic reach beyond everyday customer service. These ideas aren’t new, but when done right and regularly, clients will take notice. They’ll want to remain with your clinic and, along the way, probably recommend you to their friends.
1. New Client Welcome Letter
“Wow” new clients in as many ways as possible. You worked hard to get them, so work to keep them. A one-page, signed introductory letter makes a good impression. Stick to letters; post cards are less personal.
2. New Pet Congratulation Cards
Cute cards that congratulate clients on their newest family member can be designed on your computer. Send them to all clients who have a new pet.
3. Follow-up Calls
Be diligent about follow-up calls. They let clients know you are concerned about their pets, and it allows you to remain informed of case progress and client compliance of aftercare. Follow-up calls should be made (one to three days after procedure, depending its nature) for all surgeries, all other medical cases and all new clients. Many veterinary software programs offer convenient call-back programs to make the process easier.
4. Examination Report Cards
Report cards provide a good summary for the client, allowing them to establish a sense of the examination’s value. Furthermore, they help ensure you’ve done a thorough physical, and jotting down a few comments personalizes the process. For fun, apply cute pet stickers or stamps to the reports (available from many of the veterinary office supply companies). Always complete the cards in the exam room and review it with the owner when the exam is complete.
5. Memorial Donation
Some clinics donate $5 to an animal charity fund when a client’s pet dies. Most veterinarians send sympathy cards, but a donation goes above and beyond that. Clients are touched when we make a donation in their pet’s name; we receive more thank-you cards from this gesture than anything else. Many foundations offer donation programs, including the Morris Animal Foundation, American Veterinary Medical Foundation and most state veterinary medical associations.
6. Birthday Cards
Birthday cards are great way to stay in touch with your clients. It also catches them by surprise because many other people won’t remember their pet’s birthday. Give a gift of $5 off clinic services during the month of their pet’s birthday and you’ll be surprised at how many clients take advantage of the discount.
7. Gift Program
Send flowers or a cute gift to clients whose pets have had a major hospital stay or surgery. A client who spends more than $500 on surgery or hospital care will receive “get well soon” flowers. Additionally, for special clients, sending flowers when their pet dies is an empathetic gesture. Try to limit the cost of the gift to about $15.
8. Client Survey Cards
Veterinarians know clients can better judge staff by how much they care versus how much they know. Several times I’ve witnessed surgery patients or boarders go home soiled and the clients were totally unimpressed. While we may have done a good job with the surgery or boarding care, all the client could judge us on was the way their pet looked or smelled. Release cards give the technician’s or assistant’s name, explains about after-care and are self-addressed so the client can comment on the overall experience. The surveys work well because the staff member has taken accountability for the discharge.
9. Home Office Number
If you don’t provide emergency care, you can deal with after-hours emergencies by sharing pager duty with the veterinarians each night. This works well if you have several doctors on staff. If you give out the pager number, make sure it is properly manned.
10. Referral Program
Referral programs can be as simple as sending thank-you cards to clients who sent you referrals, or as involved as giving a more elaborate gift each time an additional new client is referred by a client. Give new clients a $10 discount (hopefully they’ll send new clients also) and post $10 credit to the referring client’s account. You can give different gifts each time for repeat referrals to keep the program fresh and valuable.