In this two-part series, author Adam Little, DVM and Co-Founder & CTO of FuturePet comments on the shifting veterinary client base and how we need to adjust our practice. This article expands on the contents of this video.

In this first installment of the two-part series, Adam describes shifting demographics and demands.

Today’s veterinary practices are under a unique set of pressures. Clients are coming in armed with more information, increased expectations, and a growing set of alternatives outside of traditional veterinary practice relationships. Pressure to be accountable is having an impact on the health and well-being of the profession and the practice. Often times practitioners are left with more questions than answers.

How do we keep up when we are already so busy?

How do we prioritize our time?

Can we escape the constant pressure of email and digital media?

While it may seem natural to jump to specific tools or technologies, the first step is to capitalize on the opportunities that come with a new generation of digitally connected clients.

Impact of Millennials

While there is no shortage of hyperbole around the destructive impact that millennials are having on brands across North America, it is fair to say that this generation is forcing industries to adapt to a new set of expectations and veterinary care is no different. Millennials are now the fastest growing and largest segment of pet owners. Millennials research extensively prior to visits, are more willing to spend money on their pet’s care, and pay more attention to the products and services recommended for their pets.

Today’s “pet parents” and their “fur-babies” represent a change in clients’ demands on clinics. While it is too simplistic to say these demands are unique to one generation of pet owners, they are certainly amplifying the need for practices to adapt.

Changing Expectations

Today’s customers want a connected, digital, and deep relationship with businesses. They want frictionless access to services and products, where past interactions shape a more personalized experience in future touchpoints. On top of that, they want to be in the driver’s seat. What does this mean for veterinarians? What used to be considered differentiators for businesses are now considered standard practices.

Here are just a few areas of practice that are likely to move from being a differentiator to a competitive advantage appealing to your clients:

  • Online booking: The ability to book when and how clients want and with the doctor they prefer
  • Online prescription/food refills and commerce: Proactively and automatically managing pets’ medication/nutrition and having the right products delivered to clients at the right time
  • Digital access to medical record information and the ability to share it with service providers and other veterinarians that need it
  • 24/7 chat support – Being able to access veterinary support when clients have questions or concerns

These tools provide a unified client experience. Practices will need to act as the glue to tie these different components together in both a care and business model that works for your clients.

You Can’t Do It All, But Outsourcing Can

As veterinarians, we are notorious at taking on additional responsibilities that often come at the expense of other duties. Often times this means compromising on the veterinary-specific work that we are uniquely qualified to perform.

If you are thinking to yourself there is no way that you could provide this level of frequent connectivity to clients, then you are right. However, your individual capacity or expertise shouldn’t preclude you from offering this experience to your clients. Your job isn’t to handle every touch point or every transaction, but rather to ensure a unified experience for your clients and patients through outsourcing.

Veterinarians are already quite good at this. We outsource tasks to other professionals every day. In some cases, we send off radiographs for interpretation or have an orthopedic specialist come in to complete a procedure. We recognize our limitations, seek out trusted partners, integrate them in our patients’ care, and deliver a unified experience to our clients.

You may also be thinking to yourself, “Our clinic already does a fantastic job managing our clients. Our clients aren’t asking for these services. Therefore these services aren’t needed.” It is easy for us to recall positive interactions with clients (and negative experiences) and extrapolate that to our entire client base.

Instead, we should think about these experiences like an iceberg. For every client you see, there are likely dozens of interactions that you aren’t a part of.

Some trouble signs are when clients are

  • bouncing off your website without contacting you
  • passing your practice over in search reviews, going to your competitors or
  • calling your practice directly to inquire about services only to not have an appointment offered (which according to the OVMA happens at an alarming rate).

Let’s keep patient care the priority of practitioners. With technology and new business processes we can be ready for the new generation of connected clients.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog which will provide examples of solution-driven tools and changes to practice.

Adam Little, DVM
Co-Founder & CTO | FuturePet
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Practice | Texas A&M University

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