Cracking Down on Client Communication
Dr. Amanda Donnelly has some tips for attracting more clientele and increasing customer compliance—it all comes down to client communication.
When a concerned animal owner calls your practice, what is their experience like? Do they book an appointment? In the exam room, are you building a trusting relationship with clients rather than merely telling them what to do? Do they follow through with your recommended treatment?
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you may want to examine the strength of your practice’s client communication skills. Clients nowadays have access to so much information online and so many options for veterinary care, they can easily find another practice that engages them in the way they’re looking for.
Luckily, Dr. Amanda Donnelly, an expert in veterinary client communication, talks to us in this Quick Cup of Knowledge about ways to attract and retain clients while increasing client compliance by adjusting how we communicate with them.
The Phone Call
How many times has an animal owner called your practice with a question about their animal? These calls may be irritating to many client service representatives because they seem like free consultations, but those people are also potential clients.
Dr. Donnelly says to avoid labeling those making those calls as “phone shoppers,” as that negative mindset usually doesn’t lead to converting those questions into an appointment. Rather, thinking of them as potential clients or cost inquiry calls makes it easier to make a connection with them. Making connections with pet owners is just as much of a goal as is booking an appointment.
Interestingly, Dr. Donnelly says that according to her database containing calls made in many practices across the country, 92% of client service representatives don’t engage the caller to make an appointment. Imagine the business opportunities they would have if they made that easy adjustment!
The Exam Room
Paying attention to your styles of communication in the exam room is essential to retaining loyal clients who trust you. Talking at clients isn’t as effective because clients are looking for a relationship rather than merely information they can find online. Dr. Donnelly says, “When people feel heard, they’re more likely to trust.”
Focusing on the benefits of a service rather than the features when talking to clients is proven to increase compliance and is an easy change to implement. When recommending a dental treatment plan, for example, emphasizing what the treatment will do for the patient is better than emphasizing all the steps the plan includes. People buy the benefits, not the features.
The demographics of animal owners are shifting to include more Millennials, and Millennials sometimes have different expectations for businesses than clientele in the past. In particular, clients today want businesses to be truthful and transparent—they want to know their options, not just what’s recommended.
They also want recommendations based on their specific animal, not what you “generally” do in “these kinds of cases.” Talking to them about their animal as an individual is part of a communication strategy that highlights something that doesn’t change from generation to generation—clients want a trusting relationship from their veterinary practice.
Digital and Social Media Communication
Because clients want instant access and a sense of community, digital communications are becoming the best, most effective way to establish that communication and distribute resources.
Digital communication tools and social media may seem intimidating, which is why Dr. Donnelly recommends choosing only one piece of technology or communication technique to improve on, working toward a specific goal (increase appointments, improve compliance, etc.). Do one thing at a time, implementing more over time.
If there’s only one form of digital communication that Dr. Donnelly recommends, it’s an app. With an app, you can send notifications, provide access to veterinary professionals, and have a loyalty program for clients. The more access you can give them through their phone, the more animal owners will rely on and trust you for their veterinary needs.
Using these tools and strategies, practices everywhere will have better client satisfaction and, ultimately, be better able to provide the care that patients need.
Stay in the Know!
Hear from Dr. Donnelly and learn more about client communications at the 92nd Annual Conference in 2020!