When it comes to veterinary phone shoppers, there are two areas that many practices are not actively evaluating—where their phone shoppers are coming from and how effectively their team handles them. These questions can be tough to tackle for two different reasons, which I’ll get into below. But more importantly, why is it important to track your sources for phone shoppers? Is it worthy of spending your valuable time on? And with so many other things to focus on with staff, is evaluating their success with phone shoppers a priority? Based on my personal experience, let me tell you this—if you’re looking to grow your practice and gain new clients, answering these two questions is definitely a very good use of your time on an ongoing basis.
Evaluating advertising ROI isn’t easy
First, it’s often difficult to fully evaluate the return on investment of many advertising and marketing initiatives. For example, if you invest in a Google Adwords campaign, it can be tough to determine how many new clients were generated directly from your investment. Yes, you can measure how many people clicked on a given ad and whether they made it to your website, but it’s far more difficult to link those ad clicks to specific new clients walking into your lobby and the money they spend at checkout. In a perfect world, you would be able to track new clients from the time they clicked on one of your ads (or when they found you organically on Google) all the way until they walked in for their first appointment.
How is your staff handling veterinary phone shoppers?
Second, when it comes to evaluating how effectively your team is handling phone shoppers, things can be even tougher. Traditional solutions to this challenge range from you listening to calls over their shoulder or asking them to fill out a phone shopper call log, to reviewing recorded calls to hiring consultants. I think there are drawbacks to all of these solutions.
Listening to live calls is extremely time-consuming, especially when you account for how few of your total incoming calls will be from veterinary phone shoppers. The same is true for reviewing recorded calls. To put this in perspective, we received 49,301 incoming calls at my practice over the past 12 months. Based on our new client numbers and our phone shopper conversion rate, I know that out of that total call volume, there are around 2,000 phone shopper calls buried in the pile. That means that I’d need to review about 25 calls to find a single phone shopper call. Who has time for that?
While phone shopper call logs can be useful, it’s likely that human-error and self-interest will ensure that plenty of calls never get written down. What staff member wants you tracking a call that they know they didn’t handle according to protocol?
Customer service consultants can be great resources for elevating your team’s phone skills. That said, the consultant’s value comes from the coaching and training they provide, not the laborious process of someone on the consultant’s staff making fake phone shopper calls to your practice:
Hello, I just moved to the area and have a kitten that needs to be neutered, an old dog that’s limping, and a parrot that’s acting strangely…
If you were able to provide your consultant with plenty of recorded calls from real phone shoppers, the consultant would be able to focus all of their attention (and your money) on what matters most—coaching and training your team.
Call tracking to the rescue
Now for the good news. There’s a better way to overcome the advertising ROI conundrum and staff evaluation challenges surrounding veterinary phone shoppers—it’s call tracking!
Call tracking usually takes the form of attaching unique and dedicated phone numbers to each of your new client sources (ex. each Google Adword campaign uses its own unique phone number). When these special numbers, often referred to as direct inward dialing numbers (“DIDs”), are dialed, the call is seamlessly routed through to your main number. Prospective clients (and your staff) will be none the wiser—the caller experience will be the same either way.
So how does this help? For one, using your phone system’s back-end reporting, you’ll be able to calculate how many incoming calls you’re receiving on each of your DID numbers. This will provide a rough estimate of how well each of your new client sources is performing. Additionally, when it comes to helping your team improve their phone skills, you’ll dramatically reduce the number of call recordings you need to listen to find phone shopper calls. Because you’re able to match each DID to a specific new client source, you can focus on listening to call recordings associated with your most effective advertising—he sources generating the most phone shoppers. In my experience, one out of every two or three incoming calls from a Google Adwords campaign will be a call from a prospective client (the balance being made up of existing clients that searched for your number online and accidentally clicked on one of your ads).
[bctt tweet=”Evaluating the return on investment in advertising and marketing dollars is a big challenge for veterinary practices. Call tracking is a game changer when it comes to being able to track where your new clients are coming from!”]
How to get started with call tracking
If you’d like to try out call tracking at your practice, here are a couple of routes you can take.
The first option:
If you have a newer phone system that provides access to reports and call recording, tackle call tracking on your own. If you take this route, the critical step will be sourcing DID numbers from whatever company handles your phone service. They will gladly provide you with a block of DID numbers, usually for a nominal monthly charge. Once the DIDs are associated with your account, and you’ve tested to make sure they ring through to your main number, you can start associating them with your existing and future advertising and marketing initiatives.
The second option:
If you don’t have access to reporting and call recording or if you’d prefer to have help with getting everything set up—work with a third-party call tracking platform. Two that I actively recommend are CallRail (www.callrail.com) and CallBox (www.callbox.com). You may also want to check with your current website provider—some of them have started offering call tracking as an add-on service. Another advantage to working with a call tracking platform is having access to dynamic number insertion (“DNI”). A full explanation of how DNI works is outside the scope of this article, but trust me, it’s a game changer when it comes to being able to track prospective clients from their first interaction with your ads to the point when they become a new client. At my practice, DNI allows me to directly associate dollars spent in the practice to specific ad campaigns.
Making the most of your call tracking data
Once your call tracking system is up and running, it’s time to take advantage of all of the data you now have available. On a monthly basis at a minimum, I suggest you review the reporting available from your phone system or call tracking platform. Use the reports to evaluate the performance of your advertising and marketing programs. For initiatives that are performing well, consider investing additional resources. For initiatives that appear to be underperforming, try tweaking things (make changes to messaging, placement, targeting, the offer, etc.) and see if you can improve them. If you determine they can’t be improved, cancel them and invest the associated resources elsewhere.
On the staff coaching and training side of things, I suggest you establish a recurring block of time in your weekly schedule to review and evaluate your team’s calls. And yes, I know you’re really busy—trust me, I feel your pain. We’re all in the same boat. That said, this is one of those things that you can’t afford not to do. Elevating your team’s performance with veterinary phone shoppers can have an enormous impact on your new client numbers. If this isn’t something that you’re already actively monitoring, you really have a tremendous opportunity on your hands. In my experience, your investment of time and energy will yield disproportionate returns for your practice.
Ben Spinks, MBA, CVPM, SPHR is the Hospital Administrator at Tipp City Veterinary Hospital, Co-Founder at Veteos, and a veterinary practice consultant. He can be reached at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.