The errand: How to make sure your veterinary practice doesn't get crowded out of clients' busy lives - DVM
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The errand: How to make sure your veterinary practice doesn't get crowded out of clients' busy lives

DVM360 MAGAZINE


Wednesday morning

Thomason Animal Clinic

Dr. Bill Thomason hung his coat in his office and walked to the front desk. He looked over the schedule for the day.

"Sarah, things look a little sparse today," he said. "That seems to have become a pattern."

"Yes, doctor," Sarah said. "You know you were at a meeting two weeks ago, and your wife wanted you to attend a function at the Chamber of Commerce last week. And of course yesterday it was Jimmy's unexpected death."

"Yes, but have you been able to reschedule all those appointments?"

"Well, yes and no," said Sarah. "A lot of them say they'll call back—some have but a lot haven't. I really didn't keep track."

Bill pursed his lips and started a small frown. "You know people just aren't loyal anymore," he said. "They want you to take all the time off you want—just don't do it when their pet is sick."

Sarah gave a sheepish smile. She had heard him say the same thing before. The practice had been slow for a while now.

There was a long period of silence.

"Maybe the phone will ring!" they both exclaimed at the same time.

Just then the phone rang, and Sarah raced to pick it up.

"Hello, Thomason Animal Clinic," Sarah replied. "Well, hello, Mrs. Whitely," Sarah said brightly. She listened.

Sarah covered the mouthpiece and whispered to Dr. Thomason: "She wants her records."

End of story.

Piercing the grand illusion

There aren't a lot of second chances in veterinary medicine. For most clients, taking their pet to the veterinarian is an errand. Certainly, many clients think of their pets as children, but a trip to the veterinary clinic is often sandwiched between trips to the grocery store and the soccer field. If pet drama is involved, it quickly evolves into the category of a chore or even a nightmare for some people.

Here's what clients expect: They can get whatever the pet needs in a short time at the veterinary clinic and move on to the next errand. Human nature being what it is, clients' frustration erupts if they encounter delays. Or if the veterinarian uncovers big health issues, but the client needs to drop off little Billy at the soccer field because it's the next errand in the rotation. At this point, your client is frustrated and not likely to hear and retain all your wonderfully crafted explanations of the pet's problems. Mix a frustrated client with an overworked solo practitioner, and the result is fewer veterinary visits.

Keep in mind, there is 50 percent less time for clients to see the veterinarian than there was 40 years ago. This is because most households have two working spouses (or a single head of the household working 100 percent of the time), and it usually falls to the woman in the house to run household errands.

If that woman is employed, 15 minutes is all she may have to give the veterinarian. And, let's be realistic, veterinary appointments are never 15 minutes. This is the grand illusion from both the doctor's side and the client's side.

What we really have are three to four appointments constantly overlapping each other to create the false impression for everyone that 15-minute appointments really work. Nothing works when you're truly busy. If you have this problem all day long, you need to be happy you have clients that want to see you every 15 minutes. Most don't.


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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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