Recently a study was conducted by AAHA and IDEXX Laboratories that gathered data from both veterinary hospitals that showed a greater than 10% year-on-year revenue growth, and hospitals that saw a decline during the same time period, in order to try and suss out what the difference was in performance. From 2011 to 2012, average veterinary hospital growth was 5.6%, but 25% of veterinary hospitals blew that number out of the water with over 10% of growth during that same time period, even in the midst of economic challenges and declining pet visits. Tellingly, the hospitals that registered growth focused on clients, instead of just medical services or obsessing about the state of the overall economy. These hospitals focused their energies on their client reputation, creating more effective client communications, and increasing referrals and positive reviews.
Now, good medical services are always important and they are a critical factor in providing what your patients and clients need, but what many veterinarians lose sight of is that their relationships with their clients are just as critical as the medical care given them. No matter how good a practitioner you are, if you aren’t building relationships with your clients, you are going to miss the boat. It shouldn’t be a surprise that higher client interaction breeds more client loyalty and therefore higher revenues. Clients are people, and people buy from those that they like, those that they trust, and those with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Your hospital is not just doctors and techs and other support staff. Your hospital is also your patients and your clients.
So what does this mean in a practical sense?
Client communication must be a priority. Consistent social media use, client newsletters, reminders, email and phone calls to check up on patients, asking for referrals (and implementation of a client referral program), and asking for online reviews should all be part of your arsenal. Client communication (ie, client retention) should be an essential part of your marketing efforts. Yellow pages ads, a big sign outside your clinic, and an occasional coupon are not going to cut it. You have to communicate regularly, provide information and education that is valued by your clients, and make yourself and your hospital an integral partner in their pet’s health, behavior, and life.
But you say you and your staff don’t have time to commit to this? You have a business to run? Keep in mind that it costs 5 times more to gain a new client, than to keep an existing one. The economic value alone is a good enough to reason to put the time and effort into effective client communications.The hard truth is that if you can’t embrace making your hospital client-centric, you won’t have a business to run anymore. You probably have someone on your staff that is familiar with social media and how it works. Make social media updates part of their job. Divide up articles for client newsletters and hospital website blog postings among your staff so no one person has to carry the load. Train your front office personnel to forward book appointments, and be aggressive about reminders. Make your hospital more personable with client of the month postings on your Facebook page. Educate your clients on health concerns and the importance of preventative care, and check in with them regularly.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, you’re certainly not alone. Veterinarians were trained to be doctors, not marketers. There are resources that can help. DVM Success Rx is one of them. If you’re interested in what you can do to improve your client retention, take a look at my services page, or give me a call at 303-947-7880.