5 ways to get veterinary clients to say yes to refills

by By Stacee Santi, DVM

13 min read

People — pet owners included — almost always take the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, pet owners often see refilling medications at the veterinary practice as time-consuming and tedious. With busy schedules and poor planning, pet owners need a refill process that sets them up for success, and that same refill process can also help you grow your pharmacy business. Keep reading for five ways to improve your refill performance.

1: Improve the ordering experience

Giving your clients easy access to refill options is critical to becoming the path of least resistance. Most practices rely predominantly on phone calls and walk-ins as the sole options for refills. Expanding these options to include a mobile app, a website form, and an online pharmacy partner are essential for today’s modern practices to compete in the refill space.

2: Improve the pick-up experience

Making the pick-up fast, fun, and friendly is going to be the strategy for this one. While promising same-day refills is less than ideal for the practice, it can be an opportunity to win the refill business. When taking the refill request, ask when the client needs to pick it up. This will allow the team to prioritize and fast-track the orders that need same-day pick-up, which keeps the client happy and the pet treated.

Many clients prefer to have their order brought to the car, so keeping a couple of “Pick Up” parking spots can be a great way to provide excellent customer service. Allow the client to check-in from the car by scanning a QR code that alerts your team through your client engagement system, or have them text/call when they arrive.

When possible, charge the client at the time of the order, because it will speed up the pick-up process. I like to create a grab-and-go system. Clients pay when they place the order (if using Vet2Pet, they can pay directly through the app, or you can work with your merchant provider to get a text-to-pay link), and the medication is refilled and placed in a white pharmacy bag with the receipt stapled to the outside of the bag. Medications can be stored at the front desk, organized alphabetically for quick hand-off when the client arrives.

Don’t forget to throw in a treat for Fido or Fluffy. A small Milk-Bone or a furry toy mouse will be noticed and appreciated. These things can be purchased on Amazon in bulk, so the cost is minimal. 

3: Refill proactively

Most practices are what I call “reactive refillers,” but the real win is to transition to become a “proactive refiller.” By getting in front of the refill, chances are you will be more successful and more strategic about the pharmacy. There are several ways to be a proactive refiller:

  • Make a plan for the refill at the time of prescribing in the exam room — Ask the client how they would like refills to be handled—reminder call, text message, or home delivery? Talking about this now will prevent them from seeking alternate solutions (i.e., your online competitors) when the refill is due.
  • Leverage your practice management software — Add the refill to the health service reminder table where you put vaccination and wellness exam reminders. This will allow your digital reminder system to automatically message the client prior to the next refill due date, prompting them to take action sooner than later.
  • Create a page on your website dedicated to refills — Many practices have a link to their online pharmacy partner on their website, but a comprehensive web page provides you with a URL to link to in your client communications to keep them informed of their pharmacy refill options. On the webpage, list all the ways to get a refill with your practice, such as your mobile app, your online pharmacy partner, your webform, texting, or calling. This is also a great place to mention any pharmacy promotions you’re offering (but remember to keep it up-to-date!).
  • Use QR-code stickers —  It’s easy to make your own QR code using goqr.me or another QR code-generating website. Your QR code should direct the client to your mobile app or your pharmacy webpage. Print the stickers to fit on your pill vial lids and parasiticide boxes, so when the client is ready for the refill, they know exactly where to go.
  • Have a dedicated strategy around the refill due dates —  Ten days prior to the refill due date, start reaching out to the clients via email, text, or phone call. Let them know they’re due to run out soon, and ask if they would like to place their refill order. This is a great task to delegate to your remote receptionist or a part-time employee. Another option is to hire a call service, like Concierge Elite, which charges $600 for every 100 calls. It doesn’t take much to deliver a great return on your investment.

4: Reward your clients for good behavior

One of the biggest and most powerful ways to motivate your clients to choose your pharmacy is to incentivize them with a loyalty program. A strategic loyalty program will help grow your pharmacy, and it will also strengthen the bond with your high-value clients. Using the most basic concept, clients can unlock rewards by spending money at your practice. Usually a reward is a service that drives another visit, thereby strengthening the bond between you and your client. A popular trend is to give additional loyalty points for purchasing 12 months of parasiticides, which is the most at-risk part of the pharmacy.

If you don’t yet have a loyalty program in your practice, consider offering a complimentary heartworm test with every purchase of 12 months of parasiticides. By doing this, clients will see the unique benefit of purchasing their medication with your practice rather than an online competitor.

5: Always be friendly

This may sound like a no-brainer, but as someone who has practiced for more than 20 years, I know how frustrating it can be when a client openly states they want to use someone else for their pharmacy needs. It’s important to play the long game when it comes to these stressful situations. Blocking or denying the request from the online provider will ultimately cast you in a negative light.

Tread lightly when trying to convey that your pharmacy is better than others. Focus on the positives about your pharmacy, rather than the negatives about other pharmacies.

Keep in mind: The client is saying they want to use another pharmacy, not another vet. It’s important that you don’t blow up the whole relationship over this situation. Perhaps you’ll come across a vendor coupon or a special offer that you can provide to the client before the next refill and win their business back.

Finally, make sure the whole team knows how to show appreciation to clients who choose your pharmacy. Clients know they have a choice, so be sure to show your appreciation with every order they pick up by saying something like, “We know you have a choice when it comes to providing care and medicine for your pets, and we really appreciate you choosing us as your provider!” These little things can go a long way.

The Vet2Pet all-in-one client engagement system can help to simplify the refill process for your clients and your team. Learn more about it here.

Stacee Santi, DVM

Stacee Santi, DVM

Dr. Stacee Santi founded Vet2Pet, the only customizable, all-in-one client engagement system for veterinary practices, which was acquired by Vetsource in 2022. Since earning her DVM from Colorado State University in 1996, Dr. Santi has accumulated more than 20 years of clinical experience in small animal and emergency practice, has spent significant time serving on various industry advisory boards, and served as 2020 president of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. Considered a key opinion leader on mobile applications and veterinary reward programs, and selected as 2021 Continuing Educator of the Year—Practice Management by Viticus Group, Dr. Santi is passionate about helping veterinary practices better connect with their clients so pets get the best care and veterinary professionals enjoy more fulfilling, balanced careers.

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