How to keep clients coming back to your practice with online appointments

by By Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

9 min read

How much time does your team spend responding to clients who have requested appointments through Facebook or email? Maybe your team asks them to call the practice to schedule, or they reply with a message that a 1:30 p.m. appointment time is available, just to have the client say they need a morning slot. You offer a morning option later in the week, only to have them tell you that day doesn’t work. Before you know it, hours have been spent discussing appointment times with that client and you still haven’t locked one in.

By making a few updates to your practice’s technology, your clients will be able to schedule (or at least request) their own appointments, without tying up your phone lines. Many pet owners are used to booking online for their own appointments and would prefer to book for their pets online as well.

Why allow pet owners to book online?

It saves veterinary teams time

The average appointment made over the phone takes eight minutes to schedule, compared to just one minute for online bookings. Save your team time and reduce incoming phone calls by implementing a solution that allows your clients to schedule or request appointments without calling your practice.

It’s more convenient and accessible for pet owners

When offering online bookings, a practice is available to take appointments 24/7, for a total of 168 hours a week. A typical practice that restricts appointment bookings to business hours is only available to schedule appointments 54 hours a week.

It’s what your clients want

Offering online appointment bookings — even if a real-time scheduling service is not available — is essential. Why?

  • Nearly 70% of millennial pet owners (the largest pet-owning population) prefer to book online.
  • About 50% of appointments are made after business hours.
  • 17% of appointments made with an online booking tool are from new clients.

Despite these advantages, it’s estimated that only 25–45% of practices offer online booking. If you’re ready to offer online booking to your clients, what are your options?

Real-time scheduling software

Real-time scheduling software is a handy tool for reducing phone calls and client conversations about scheduling appointments. Some practice management software like EzyVet include this service, while others integrate with an add-on option like Avimark’s Rapport or third-party tools like Vetstoria.

With these services, your clients can see the times available and schedule their own appointments, which then pop up in your practice management software. Your practice has the ability to confirm the appointment or reach out if changes need to be made.

While the initial setup and altering of your workflow can be a little stressful, it’s well worth the investment in time and energy after you customize the software so it works best for your practice.

Appointment requests

If you can’t offer your clients real-time booking, you should at a minimum allow them to request appointments online. This often-free, no-frills solution allows for clients who prefer not to call — or who are reminded about their pet’s need for an appointment after hours — a way to start the ball rolling toward their next appointment.

One way you can do this is to talk to your website provider to see if they can add a simple, free form on your website that collects the client’s name, pet’s name, and the reason for visit, and allows them to enter preferences for days and times.

If your website provider doesn’t offer this, use a free tool like Google Forms or Jotform to create a similar form that lives online and simply link a “Request Appointment” button on your website, social media post, or email signature. When a client completes the form, the request lands in your front desk’s (or remote employee’s) inbox. This allows your team to more efficiently and effectively process requests while meeting consumer preferences and facilitating more appointments.

Some veterinary practice apps give clients the ability to request appointments as well. Clients who have downloaded your app can request a preferred appointment time and choose the type of service they want for their pet, such as dentistry, blood work, or a wellness or sick exam. Plus, clients can add a description of the presenting problem, or request a reminder to pick up parasite prevention while in your hospital.

Once your client has chosen their preferred appointment time (e.g., early morning or late afternoon), you can respond through the app with an exact time (e.g., 2:30 p.m.). Your client can confirm or reject the time slot, and you can enter the appointment in your practice management software.

Make life easier for your team and your clients

Pet owners want the ability to schedule or request appointments without having to call your practice, and your team would appreciate fewer incoming calls. Improve client loyalty and team job satisfaction, increase visits, and grow revenue with this important update to the way you schedule appointments.

Vetsource’s Vet2Pet client engagement system is a great way to give your clients and team what they’re looking for. Reach out to discuss the benefits of a practice app with appointment request capabilities.

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM is a practicing veterinarian graduate from the University of Illinois and is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm devoted to helping veterinary professionals learn, manage and grow their social media and online reputation.

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