March 8, 2021
March 8, 2021
Choosing a vet is an important decision for every pet owner. Of course, they want the very best for their animals, so how can you demonstrate that your practice is the right choice for them?
Whether it’s moving to a new area, their changing needs or the arrival of a new pet, there are always owners seeking to build a new relationship. And, no matter how well bonded your client base is, there will always be clients who will move on.
To ensure this attrition doesn’t impact your bottom line, you need to be attractive and open to new clients. From the practice’s point of view, that’s pretty straightforward! But here’s the question – what are prospective clients actually looking for?
We’ve worked with many practices, and have done extensive research on the subject, and here’s our experience on the five things you can do to appeal to owners who are seeking a new practice…
Increasingly, pet owners – like the rest of society – want authenticity. You need to be able to tell them who you are, and what you stand for. Many owners love the idea of “independence from big corporations” (Response, 2019 VetHelpDirect Communications Survey), and a few would actively opt out of a practice seen as too “corporate”. However, more commonly, they just want to know that you care for their animals, and for them. They want a caring professional, not a technician.
Despite the “good old days” of the mixed practitioner James Herriot being constantly on our television screens, clients increasingly want species-specific care for their animals. This is clear with the profusion of breed-specific services and products now available. All owners rightly believe their pets are special, but increasingly they’re looking for vets who have additional expertise in the species or health area that they need.
Is your VetHelpDirect directory listing up-to-date? Clients can now search by species. It’s important, because when a client with a poorly gecko or a sick parakeet needs a vet, they want the reassurance that you’ve seen it before and know exactly what to do.
How do you communicate with your clients? Postal newsletters are definitely going out of fashion – in our 2019 Survey, 45% of clients wanted a good professional website where they could find out everything they needed (up from 36% in 2015). That said, don’t neglect traditional communication channels – interest in practice leaflets and telephone communications have remained steady at around 14% and 27% for the last 5 years.
Increasingly, clients want to be able to ask and answer basic health problems online, Cost and convenience are probably the main drivers of this, but with apps like Babylon in the news and in the NHS, expect more and more clients to want the same.
So why not install an automated Symptom Guide and triage system onto your website? Designed to be safe above all, it will triage visitors, advising them to make an emergency call, an urgent appointment, a routine appointment, or to try home care. Of course, clients increasingly want to book appointments online too – is this something you offer yet?
So what will happen over the next few years? Everything’s up in the air right now, of course! But perhaps the biggest impact that the pandemic has had on how practices work is the rise in remote consulting. In our 2020 Video Survey, we found that 68% of respondents wanted video consultations to be available after the end of the pandemic. However, the fears that clients would expect it instead of face to face appointments seem overblown. The consensus among the respondents was that “It would be OK for minor issues, but if I were really worried I would prefer my dog to be seen in the surgery.”
At the end of the day, this is the most important factor to most animal owners. In 2019, 66% of respondents said that they would want the opinions of friends about a vets that they were looking at – and 54% said they would check out online reviews. If you want to attract new clients – make sure that you can show them that other animal owners have been happy with the care you gave their pets.
Dr Charlotte Hussey BSC. (Hons) BMV&S MRCVS, Vet at Skylark Vets explains how the video platform has helped the practice and how she will continue to offer the service in the future after Coronavirus.
Susie Samuel MA VetMB MRCVS
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Susie Samuel MA VetMB MRCVS