Prosperity hinges on the veterinary client experience

Prosperity hinges on the veterinary client experience

With a growing number of veterinary provider options, sustaining relationships is more important than ever for retaining clients.
Jun 01, 2014

The concept that the consumer experience is as important as the product or service provided is becoming a front-and-center reality in healthcare. More and more consumers are seeking their own information about health issues and looking for alternatives to traditional delivery models. The emphasis on preventive healthcare spans the scope of medicine. As a profession we've received the same opportunity to prioritize client experience but we've been slow to accept the invitation. It is vital for us to realize that while we all want to provide for the well-being and health of our patients, until we can teach them to make an appointment and drive to our practice, the pet-owning consumer is the gatekeeper and the decision-maker for veterinary care. They vote with their feet every time they come to us or, more increasingly, every time they choose to explore other options.

In my January 2014 dvm360 column, we discussed the reality that while obtaining new clients is important, retaining existing clients is critical. We may choose to believe that the care we provide is what seals the deal with clients, but it's really the client experience that increases retention and compels adherence to the care we advocate for.

A recent Notebook inclusion in the American Animal Hospital Association's Trends (February 2014) focused on "4 steps to creating lifelong loyal clients." As veterinarians we tend to stress the quality of our medical services; consumers assume we are providing excellent patient care and instead focus on how they feel and their interactions with staff. The article stresses the importance of cultivating relationship development, emphasizing follow up with clients and resolution of client issues, hiring for client service skills and demonstrating client appreciation through periodic communications.

Nothing new to the marketplace

An investment newsletter I subscribe to recently pointed out that it has been nearly a decade since the publication of the human healthcare report by William Blair and Company, "On the Brink of a Consumer Revolution in Health Care," which discussed the role of the consumer in his or her own personal healthcare. And while our profession tends to see the Internet flood of information and the growing number of provider options as having a negative influence on practices, this report instead saw their disruption as a solution, particularly to the impact of the "unsustainably high cost of care."

Even ten years ago, we had the perspective that increasing competition will ultimately lead to greater efficiency, lower cost and more options for consumers.

Increasingly the emphasis will be on preventive care, cost containment for consumers and greater value in general. The report predicted a decreased emphasis on expensive equipment and facilities and greater emphasis on providing education on staying healthy in the first place.