In today’s environment we are surrounded by choices. Where to eat? Where to shop? What doctor to see? The same holds true for veterinary healthcare. Pet owners have a choice of where they will take their beloved pet for their medical care and other services such as grooming, boarding, and training. So what is it that attracts them to seek care from you and your practice? Not only do they make a choice based on quality of care, level of service, location, and price, but they become loyal clients when you are able to provide a great experience every time they interact with you and your practice.
Excellent client service involves meeting and exceeding expectations of our clients. This is an art and a science as “good” is in the mind of the client. You can influence their perceptions by strengthening your understanding of their journey when working with you. It is important that you listen, interpret your findings, and then develop an action plan to enhance their journey.
How Do You Think About Your Client Journey?
Think about your client journey at five points in time:
- How are they introduced to you and your practice? (Awareness/Inquiry)
- What do they consider in making their choice for a family veterinarian and who are they comparing you to? (Considerations/Comparisons)
- When they select you as their veterinarian, how do you welcome them to your practice? (Onboarding)
- What do you do to continue to support them in their daily life? How do they stay connected with you? (Retention/Support)
- How do you solicit their feedback? Do you know if they are an advocate for your practice? (Feedback/Advocacy)
When evaluating your client journey it is important to consider how you connect with them at each point and are there opportunities to improve or gaps to fill that can strengthen your relationship with your clients. Consider perspectives such as, how do you connect with clients on a personal or emotional level? Clients invest time and money for your services to care for their pets. Are you truly meeting their needs and providing them with a service that they feel is valuable? It’s also important to consider how your services fit within your local community, practicality and sustainability of what you offer. And, of course, are you profitable?
The better you can understand your clients and how they interact and perceive your services and team, the better equipped you will be to retain clients, strengthen their loyalty, and increase your overall profitability.
How Do You Listen and Interpret What Your Clients Are Saying?
Feedback is a gift. While sometimes it is not what we want to hear, remember, the definition of “good” is in the mind of our clients. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you have ways to listen to your clients and hear their thoughts about what is working well and what they believe needs to be improved. There are a variety of approaches to seeking feedback, including surveys, focus groups, building online communities, engaging a “secret shopper”, or simply observation.
While formal methods of soliciting feedback are important, don’t forget the value of listening to informal and unstructured feedback that can come in the form of social media comments, complaint calls, or even calls to schedule or cancel an appointment. For instance, do you know why an appointment was canceled or how a new client heard about you and chose to schedule a first appointment? There are great learnings and insights if you are able to ask one more question to understand what is motivating your client to make a certain choice.
Your ability to receive feedback from multiple sources and approaches will provide you a more holistic view and further enhance your understanding of your clients’ perceptions of what you offer them. When analyzing the feedback, you will want to evaluate which areas of your client journey are related, what’s working well, and where you can improve. From here you can create an action plan.
Build Your Action Plan
It is common that client feedback will help to identify gaps in the delivery of your client experience and help you to focus on where you can improve. For instance, do they feel comfortable while they sit in your lobby waiting area? Is your team client service focused and friendly? It can also help you identify areas of interest for your clients. For instance, do they prefer appointment reminders via text/email or do they miss their postcard reminder that you used to send in the mail? You may also find that clients share feedback expressing an interest in more products being sold in your practice. If there is enough interest you may want to consider expanding your offerings if it will meet their needs, but also be profitable for your practice. And finally, you may identify a new geographic area or place that you can promote your practice and grow your client base.
Create an Engaging Positive Client Experience
As a service provider, a key to success is to create an engaging, positive client experience that will result in increased client loyalty, strengthen your reputation in your local community, and support the ongoing growth, sustainability, and profitability of your practice. In order to continue to strengthen your experience you must first understand your client journey. Next, you must take the time to listen to your clients, interpret what they are telling you, and take action on their feedback. Continue doing what works well and work to fill in the gaps that you identify. Providing an excellent client experience will turn your clients into advocates for your care and services resulting in referrals, retention, and growth of your client base.