Why every impression really matters. The high stakes to not providing good customer service

by By Katie McClean

11 min read

First impressions are everything. They certainly matter when the stakes are high, like a job interview or a first date, and they matter even when the stakes are low, like being introduced to a friend of a friend (because who knows what the future holds).

How about when a first impression influences whether a customer decides to return or go elsewhere? Or when it affects your bottom line because your business receives a negative review? I’d say those are pretty significant, business-altering first impression scenarios. First impressions, and ongoing impressions clients have when dealing with your practice, all contribute to how they rank your customer service.

What elements contribute to a positive client experience?

These are situations we think about quite a bit at VetSuccess. Our clients are everything to us. We take client frustrations very seriously, and we celebrate successes. We take everything to heart and learn from the feedback we receive. Our team regularly discusses how we can make our clients’ experience with us easier and more positive. This not only includes first impressions but every interaction they have with us ongoing. Are our chat messages welcoming and helpful? How responsive are we via email? We know our phone system needs a revamp—how do we execute? How can our website be better and our forms simpler? How long are our support cases open and are we communicating our progress to our clients? You get the idea. And you can probably relate.

There is so much to consider relative to our clients that we continue to hire members of our team to focus solely on them. Our ongoing goal is to make our customer service exceptional, and there are so many ways to continually improve. We want our clients to love what we do for them and who we are. Bonding them to us is important because we truly desire and value a long-term relationship with our clients.

Survey shows the impact of customer service on business results

I was reminded of this very recently. Zendesk sent out a great email about the value of customer service. It was about a report they had sponsored, based on an online survey of 1,044 US consumers who had received customer service either online or by phone. According to the report’s Introduction, “The research goal was to better understand present customer expectations and to quantify the impact of customer service on business results.”

I took the time to read the report and found the concrete results to be fascinating. I immediately sent out a Slack message to our entire team, encouraging them to read (or at the very least skim) the report, highlighting a few pieces of information I found most valuable when thinking about the way we treat our clients:

  • Good customer service impacts buying choices, directly impacting long-term revenue
  • Customers remember bad experiences longer than good ones
  • Preferences for service channels range greatly (including phone, email, and chat as the top)

Good (and bad) customer service changes future buying behaviors

A couple of specific stats that struck me include the following:

  • Among survey participants reporting a good customer service experience, 87% reveal that their experience actually changed future buying behavior, from recommending products or services to other people (67%), to purchasing or using more products and services from that company (54%), to considering purchasing or using more from that company (39%).
  • Consumer behavior changes after a poor interaction with customer service. Of those reporting a bad customer experience, almost all of them (97%) changed their future buying decisions.
    • More specifically, 58% stopped buying from the company, 52% switched to a different company for that product or service, 52% told others not to buy that product or service, and 48% were unlikely to consider that company when making future purchases.

These results are pretty significant, and they are applicable across all businesses and industries. Outstanding client service can differentiate a small business. Excellent service leads to happier clients—those who will refer your services, promote your business, and contribute to your success.

How creating a good first impression can lead to a lifelong veterinary client

A veterinary practice that focuses on their clients will set themselves apart from a competitor down the road. Your clients will refer friends and family, those friends and family will refer their friends and family, and so on. This isn’t a novel concept, but it is a crucial one. The moment a new pet and its parent walk in the door is pretty important. That first impression takes on a whole new meaning because everything referenced above comes into play. Your clients consider how friendly and welcoming the staff is, the cleanliness and warmth of the waiting area, how they are treated by vet techs and veterinarians, and if their questions or concerns are taken seriously.

I still vividly remember the first time we took my first (very own!) dog to the vet. I remember the smell, the person at reception, and the doctor who saw my Maggie. She was “my” Maggie, and she was the runt of the litter, but she was perfect to me. I was 12 years old. Though I’ve moved away from my hometown and my hometown vet, my parents wouldn’t think of taking our family pets anywhere else, to any other veterinarian or vet practice. That remains true for them today, 25 years later. And all of our neighbors share this sentiment. That’s saying something, and I know that most VetSuccess clients are practices with pet parents who feel the exact same way.

Kudos to you.

Some customers aren’t easy or happy or friendly, but if we work to provide the best customer service, are genuine and responsive and attentive to their needs, the compliments, referrals, reviews, and “thank yous” mean even more. And they matter in a pretty big way.

Katie McClean is the COO for VetSuccess. She manages general processes for VetSuccess and oversees the client services team. She also works closely with veterinary practice groups, implementing the VetSuccess Dashboard as a dynamic and customized data offering for owners and executives.

Katie McClean

Katie McClean

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