June 20, 2018
In this second installment of a two-part series, author Adam Little, DVM and co-Founder & CTO of FuturePet comments on the tools and practices we must adopt to improve our business. This article expands on the contents of this video.
In my prior article, I described the shifting demographics and the demand for a 24/7 unified client experience. In this article, I propose tools and practices.
The following tools can create that unified client experience. Here are just a few of the ones to consider.
- Online Booking: Vetstoria
- Texting Clients: ZipWhip
- After-Hours Support: GuardianVets or WhiskerDocs
- Medical Record Management: VitusVet or PawPrint
Adoption of these tools calls for changes to your practice. You must audit, engage your team and make incremental changes to the practice.
Audit Your Existing Practices
Understanding the “current” state is vital if you want to fix the problem. It may sound simple, but the best place to start is to select a process or area that your practice is weak in and evaluate how it operates. What are the steps that each of your team members goes through? Who is responsible for each step? How do you know team members are completing those tasks? What tools are they using to support the tasks?
Tool “bloat” is a concept where instead of properly implementing the processes to support a new technology or tool, you adopt it and hope it fixes problems by itself. It rarely does and as a consequence, you end up seeking more tools because the problem hasn’t been solved. The end result isn’t pretty. Your team is fatigued or annoyed, you have multiple solutions that are often competing to solve the same problem, and the problem isn’t getting solved. In one clinic audit, we found that clients received eight different appointment confirmation emails and messages, all from different systems. This isn’t a good client experience.
Engage Your Team
If you are exclusively relying on your veterinarians to bring new ideas to your team, you are missing important perspectives. Often technicians, assistants, and receptionists are as close or closer to the challenges the practice is facing, especially when it comes to client communication.
One way to gather ideas from staff is to use public-dot voting as a mechanism to curate ideas within your team or challenges that need to be addressed. Have a look at this visual.
To start, choose a wall or bulletin board at the clinic where team members can display Post-it Notes (sticky notes). Team members can publicly post ideas/suggestions to improve the clinic or you can choose an overarching theme of the month. Other team members can dot vote the suggestions that they find most compelling. The result is a curated list of ideas that have been generated by your team, with group buy-in.
Public-dot voting will ensure that your meetings are less of a dumping group of complaints and more of a vibrant conversation that is focused on things that matter to your team.
The most common feedback we hear about new technologies is that veterinarians are nervous or anxious about the impact that new technology will have on their clients. What if clients don’t like it? What if they are upset?
Consider making small incremental changes to the practice. It is very possible to roll-out and test new concepts with small groups of customers, learn from their feedback, and determine whether or not it is worth scaling to your entire clinic base.
Here is an example. Let’s say that your clinic is considering texting clients the day after a wellness appointment to check up on the animal. At this point, your clinic is in a stalemate. One practitioner may be vehemently against the concept using the argument that “our clinic has always called after a visit, our clients expect it, and it deepens the relationship”. On the flip side, newer staff members may be responding that “owners never pick up their phones and it takes too much time.” Arriving at a compromise in this situation, may be incredibly difficult and time consuming.
Here is another approach. Over a two-week period, get your front line staff to ask the owners their contact preferences. Use this data to determine what your clients actually want instead of being prescriptive.
Have your veterinarians do a simple exercise to determine the length of time per call-back. This will provide your team with the data on how much effort is actually required.
For a short period of time, run both methods and record the response rates, publicly at the back of the clinic. How many people answered the phone versus how many calls went directly to voicemail? How many people responded to the text message versus how many ignored them?
At the end of the trial period, compare the data and decide on the contact method that works for your clinic.
These are just a few suggestions on how new tools and practices can benefit your practice. However, it’s critical to understand that this is not a technology-first solution. Practice teams with a strong, cohesive culture that possess the ability to respond to changing needs of their patients and clients and are aligned in their efforts will continue to thrive.