When most veterinary professionals think of what clients want, our minds turn to the top-notch medicine and treatment we provide. But recent data from VHMA suggests that what pet owners actually want is customer service. So how do we augment our quality medicine with a better client experience, especially in our stretched-thin practices?
Industry and non-industry trends: What consumers want
While there’s limited data on what pet owners want specifically in terms of the client experience from their veterinarian, there is a great deal of data on preferences from the population as a whole. A survey of over 15,000 U.S. consumers identified four key factors when it comes to the client experience: speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service. It’s not hard to extrapolate that data to our industry: Just look at the number of clients who prefer to make online appointments (an estimated 80%) or use an online pharmacy!
Generational differences: Another group of pet owners
Many practices shifted and expanded their technology offerings to accommodate more digitally minded millennials, who are currently the largest pet-owning population group. Baby boomers and Gen X pet owners have shifted into an increased technology use that continues to rise. But there’s another new group that has aged into pet ownership: Gen Z.
Younger than millennials, Gen Zers were born after 1997 and have been referred to as the first “digitally native” generation. The 25-year-old new puppy owner on your appointment schedule has likely already checked out your practice’s online reviews, website, and more before even making the appointment (or even before adopting the puppy).
Not surprisingly, this generation is quick to find an online solution but tends to prefer more self-service options and does more online research than their millennial counterparts. They may also be less quick to change providers after a bad experience.
Veterinary practices should continue to evolve their offerings to facilitate these preferences as a new generation of pet owners — and hopefully lifelong clients — comes through the practice doors.
Enhance the client experience throughout the pet care journey
While it’s easy to focus on the friendly and helpful customer service your team provides at the time of the appointment, it’s important to remember that the experience begins and ends outside your practice’s walls — and along multiple touchpoints.
The good news: These multiple stops along a pet owner’s care journey give practices multiple opportunities to deliver not only exceptional medical care for the pet, but enhanced client experience features as well. Take a look at these examples:
- Include a video or blog detailing what to expect for a pet’s appointment on your website.
- Have photos and bios of the veterinary team that will care for the pet on your “About Us” page.
- Offer prominent access to online booking (or online appointment requests) and your online pharmacy.
- Provide information about your convenience offerings — drop-off appointments, online refill requests, AutoShip medications, practice app and app chat, etc. — on your website.
- Appointment confirmation:
- Send appointment confirmations via email, text, or app for easy access.
- Include a “what to expect” video or blog that details what the pet owner should bring to their pet’s appointment in your appointment confirmation.
- Allow for online check-in.
- Share the patient care summary, vaccine records, and/or prescription recommendations digitally via email, text, or app.
- Allow for checkout in the exam room.
- Provide flexible payment options, including multiple payment sources, text-to-pay, and/or online pay.
- Offer AutoShip for recurring prescriptions, food, and pet care supplies.
- Send prescription recommendations via email if the product isn’t needed at the time of the appointment.
- Send a post-visit survey.
- Communicate regularly via email, social media, and app. Share helpful pet information and offer rebates and specials when appropriate.
The numbers on multimodal communication
- 98% of pet owners want to receive information from their vet via email.
- 94% of pet owners have, or would, open an email from their veterinarian.
- 41% of pet owners have never received an email from their vet.
- 52% of pet owners prefer getting appointment reminders via text.
- 86% of millennial pet owners want texts for appointment reminders, 58% want them for wellness exam reminders, and 48% want them for refill reminders.
- 83% of millennial pet owners still expect a call (or text) within 48 hours to check up on their pet.
- One study found that pet owners most preferred a phone call (42%) for updates about their hospitalized pets.
Small steps add up to big progress
The first step to improving your practice’s customer service is to know what your clients want:
- Take advantage of feedback from online reviews and post-visit surveys.
- Get input from your team based on their experiences with clients.
- Take a look at analytics you may already have from your website, app, and email services to spot trends.
- Pay attention to requests for various services/conveniences, an uptick in traffic to your online pharmacy or booking page, and what clients are searching for on your website.
After assessing your practice’s specific needs and data, reach out to the companies you have existing relationships with to see if they also offer any of these services, as they’re likely evolving, too.
Meeting clients where they’re at
Client preferences across generations will continue to evolve over time, as will our ability to meet them with continued advances in technology. While quality medicine will always be at the heart of what veterinary professionals do, providing top-notch service will also create more loyal and compliant clients. Small improvements add up quickly and have the power to impact practice efficiency, loyalty, revenue — and, best of all, pet care.
Want help meeting your clients where they’re at? Vetsource’s platform can help. Get in touch to learn more.