It takes a lot more work for veterinarians to get a new customer than it does to keep one, making client retention critical to maintaining a healthy practice. Not only do loyal clients spend more over time, but they're also willing to pay a little extra each visit if they know they're getting good service. Keeping patients is a process that starts when a client makes their first call and continues long after their visit.
Consider the following to develop a loyal veterinary customer base:
Think About Practices That Retain Clients
Do you know that the typical veterinary clinic has a 10- to 15-percent client turnover rate during any given year? This aspect can cause annual revenue to decline as much as $40,000 dollars. And, roughly 40 percent of customers make up their minds after their first visit.
Common issues impacting customer retention include:
- Short, less-than-thorough appointments
- Inattentive veterinarians and staff
- Feeling rushed
- High care costs
- Discrepancies in care or information provided
Instead, factors that encourage repeat customers include:
- Visits in which you provide customers with detailed information about caring for their pets.
- A welcoming, less-hurried environment with limited wait time at the start of the appointment.
- Longer, more involved appointments and thorough examinations.
- Routine communication.
- Treating all pets beyond basic care.
- Continuously training staff and maintaining equipment and facilities.
Without these relationships - and that immediate impression that brings first-time customers back - you lose out on long-term and word-of-mouth business.
Know Your Customers and Their Pets
While it's easy to forget details when you deal with several animals each day, the one visit the client had a few months ago is still fresh in their minds. When you make records for patients, go beyond standard medical information: Anything from small abnormalities that could lead to health problems later to noting specific behaviors that can make an animal hard to manage. This will make future visits run smoothly, and show clients that you care.
Give Your Clients the Full Picture
While your clients don't benefit from years of studying animal health, you should approach care as a partnership of equals, working with them instead of simply doling out advice and prescriptions. By taking the time to explain to the client what's going on with their pet and how the treatment works, you'll let them feel empowered and help them become more proactive about addressing health issues.
Put a Face on Your Practice
What makes a client choose your practice? They may have trouble understanding the care different providers offer, but by creating an image for your clinic, you can stand out and leave a memorable impression. From advertising to hosting events, your goal should be to emphasize what makes your practice unique, whether that means highlighting specific services or the people who make up your staff.
Create a Vet Loyalty Program
How do you reward your long-time customers? Develop a loyalty program for your veterinary practice that:
- Provides discounts for routine services, including checkups, dental cleanings and imaging.
- Provides pet supplies after a certain number of visits.
- Lowers the cost of regular or seasonal treatments, including shots and flea and tick medicine.
Let Owners Showcase Their Pets
Create a social media hashtag for customers to post photos or videos of their pets, and share their content on your account. Or, take a more traditional approach: Hang up or create a bulletin board featuring pictures of your clients' pets in your practice.
Educate Pet Owners
There's always more to learn as a pet owner. So, build your reputation as a source of information by hosting educational events in person or online. Consider both new and long-time pet owners with classes covering:
- Pet activity and weight loss
- Which household and wild substances to avoid
- Pet CPR and first aid
- Socialization and behavior techniques
Stay In Contact
With months between visits, even the best experience at your clinic isn't enough to keep your practice in the minds of your clients. That's where we come in. Since 2008, Positive Impressions has been helping veterinary clinics and hospitals build relationships with their clients through customizable products. We can help you keep in touch with clients and keep your clinic's information in their hands, so you'll be their first contact when they need help with their pets. Here are just a few ways you can keep the connection going:
Reminder cards that give clients a physical reminder to come in for appointments and schedule checkups
Prescription and tote bags for medicine and other goods so clients can tell at a glance where to get more supplies.
Calendars that keep your business' contact information at hand throughout the year
Occasion cards for birthdays, holidays and to express sympathy to show you care about your clients and their pets
While business and appointment cards are a starting spot, additionally provide your customers with a magnet displaying your contact information. This way, they can easily call or email when they have questions - or to set up an emergency appointment.
At the same time, get in the habit of sending multiple reminders, including via email and text message, ahead of appointments.