National Report -- Veterinary practitioners must learn to adapt to current trends and changes that are reshaping American society if they expect to remain successful, a leading practice consultant warns.
"How will the future be different? It will be limited only by your imagination and desire," says Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM. "But one thing's for sure: To paraphrase a quote from Will Rogers, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Veterinary practices, like all businesses, must re-invent themselves from time to time in response to changing consumer expectations, and there are trends ocurring now that provide some ideas on just how to do that, Gavzer says.
"One of the best ways to think about change, about what's out there that potentially could help or hurt our practices, is to put ourselves in pet-owner mode. Try to think the way our clients probably think about various things that are on the horizon."
Five major, relatively new societal trends, Gavzer believes, already have an influence on the practice of veterinary medicine and will continue to exert an even greater one. Those trends, which Gavzer described for attendees at the recent Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas are:
1. Immigration. "The United States is the only major advanced country gaining population. Already a third of the nation is multi-ethnic. If you see the ethnic makeup of your neighborhood changing, look into getting someone on staff who is bilingual or at least familiar with the culture. Clients like to do business with people they feel comfortable with, who are like them," Gavzer says.
2. Innovation. "Sometimes the best-in-class, the leader, in a market has the greatest tendency to grow complacent, but the wisest ones look at what they do best and capitalize on that. They re-invent themselves. So if there's something we do especially well in our practice, we should exploit that."
3. Mass customization. "Our clients are becoming less satisfied with off-the-shelf medicine," Gavzer says. "Just as they like to choose from several ring tones for their phones, they want us to help shape their choices for their pets. They see themselves as special and their pets the same way. So as much as possible, we need to give them breed-specific information on anything we recommend. Tailor all of it to specific clients and pets."
4. Globalization. "We're seeing lots of trends in medicine -- avian flu, for example -- that have worldwide implications. We must learn to play well in the sandbox with everyone...to take note of what's happening with pet care worldwide. What becomes fashionable in another part of the world will become fashionable here and we must be ready for it."
5. Saturation. "There's too much 'noise' in the system for everyone to process everything that's important. It's hard to break through it at times," Gavzer says. "It's hard to believe, but some people never even became aware of last year's pet-food crisis; it passed right over them. Studies show that pet owners often don't know what's available to them, what we can provide. So we must find a way to tell them and personalize the message. They'll listen, but they're less likely to respond to canned messages."
Besides those five major trends, Gavzer cites other changes and/or influences on society that veterinarians should be aware of and respond to. They include: