Retrain yourself to think veterinary client retention

Acquiring new clients is a necessity when growing your veterinary practice, but don't overlook the importance of keeping the clients you already have.
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Jan 01, 2014

So you've attracted a new client. Good for you! Clearly you're doing something right, because in this age of consumerism, competition for clients and a near glut of service providers makes attracting new customers to any business a challenge. Once you have that new client comes the real challenge—retaining the new customer and converting him or her to a loyal client.

Volumes have been written and countless presentations delivered on this subject. Clearly without new customers, no business can prosper. But sometimes in our pursuit of new clients we forget that client retention is even more crucial.

The costs of losing, replacing and bringing an employee or associate up to speed are well understood. But the real cost impact of losing a client is often unappreciated. The cost of developing a new client to the same level of profitability as a lost client is very high. It can be 10 times more costly to get a new client than it would be to retain an existing one. Increasing customer retention by a mere 5 percent increases profits by at least 25 percent. A 2 percent increase in customer retention can equate to decreasing costs by 10 percent.

Why customers leave

To understand how we can better retain clients, it's important to understand why any customer leaves. While it would seem obvious that providing quality medical care should be enough to attract and retain clients, to borrow from Porgy and Bess, "It ain't necessarily so."

In earlier conversations, we discussed the fact that most clients cannot evaluate medical care. After all, they're not trained in veterinary medicine and they assume a certain level of parity among veterinarians. However, they can easily judge their experience—how they were communicated with, how they were treated and how they felt about the overall experience. Provide good patient care and they will likely return to do business with you—until you disappoint them just once. Then people will tell them what a great experience they had at their vet, and they may well go elsewhere. Provide poor service and a poor client experience, and I can assure you the best medical care you can offer won't convert them to loyal clients. But provide an excellent customer experience and the assumed quality care, and they will certainly be back and refer other customers to you.

In a recent blog by David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of Search Rank, titled "When customers stick: Customer retention by the numbers," it was reported that 82 percent of consumers stopped doing business with a company because of a perception of poor service. The primary poor service experience reported was a rude staff member, followed by an unknowledgeable or poorly trained staff member. More than 75 percent of customers canceled a transaction because of a poor service experience, and 66 percent of customers left a business because they did not like the way they were treated. Remember: Clients leave for a reason and dissatisfied clients are far more likely to share their experience than satisfied ones.