How to Build a Loyal Client In Your Veterinary Practice
How to Build a Loyal Client Database. There are a few of the reasons why client loyalty is important in the veterinary field. These include:
- Clients always have a choice. They will happily travel some distance to
find a better experience for their pet.
- A better experience makes everyone’s job easier. Customer satisfaction
leads to happier, more accommodating patients. This can make it easier
to deliver bad news, while mix-ups and errors are easier to understand.
Overall, the practice benefits from a smooth client experience.
- A client who is confident in the treatment your practice provides to their pet
is going to talk about their experience. This leads to more word-of-mouth
referrals, which means more patients and a higher profile.
Providing a Better Client Experience
Given the benefits of a loyal clientele, how can practices work to provide a better client experience? Ensure you and your team can empathize with your clients as well as your patients. Make sure they feel comfortable and respected. Keep waiting times to a minimum. While sometimes we have to react to an emergency, or there are strains on staff levels, always remember that for clients in the waiting room who are worried about their pets’ health, any delay can seem like forever. Make sure your reception staff are empowered to come out from behind their desk and keep clients updated, and are comfortable chatting to clients. Get social. Most of your clients will be using social media on a regular basis. Post regularly on social media, and encourage your clients to engage with your practice profile. Your posts can show your personal side, which can help you to get to know your clients and their pets better. Encourage your team to get involved on a personal level.
You should bear in mind, however, that social media is a two-edged sword. You should think about whether:
- you or your employees are breaching client confidentiality
- all your employees understand that they are expected to follow any equal opportunities, anti-bullying, or diversity policies your practice has.
Remember, if any employee of your business posts something that breaches client confidentiality, or contravenes equal opportunities legislation, you as their employer can be held liable.
I would recommend having a social media policy, which explicitly lays out what is expected from employees who use social media. The policy applies even when somebody is using social media outside of work, and using their own device.
Provide more information to your clients. Information and transparency can make any client interaction more pleasant. If a client feels like they aren’t being kept fully informed, they can become more distrustful.
If they feel confused by what they’ve been told, they may leave feeling neglected, or worse still they may not follow recommendations properly. While clients may not understand the technical or biological complexities of their pets’ health, they are still invested in knowing what’s going on with their pets’ conditions.
Make it personal. Look your clients in the eye when talking to them, listen to what they have to say, and make sure your team knows about the importance of these personal touches, which can make a positive difference to your clients.
The most important thing for most clients is that they know you care about them and their pets.
How are you gaining new clients?
When a new client registers, ask where they heard about your practice. It can be very illuminating to analyze how you are gaining new clients.
The most typical referral sources can include:
• existing clients/word of mouth;
• social media;
• advertising; and
• other professionals/networking.
That a typical practice can typically win over 50% of new clients through
word of mouth should come as no surprise.
What about networking?
We all know the importance of attending veterinary events throughout the year. They are a chance to catch up on the latest innovations, to reconnect about business networking? Love it or hate it, networking is a useful tool in building up your profile and embedding your practice in the local business community.
Networking can help you build long-term relationships. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s unrealistic to think you can walk into a room, hand out your business card and then sit back and wait for clients to knock at your door. Trusted relationships take months to build.
It’s a truism that people buy from people they like. This is equally, if not more, true with veterinary clients. Networking contacts are also far more likely to refer your practice to friends and colleagues if they know and trust you on a personal level.
Networking can also be fun! From informal drinks to a day at the races or a dinner, it’s not all shop talk. Once you’re in the swing of things, you can help other people connect with each other too. This will definitely make you a popular person to connect with!
Of course, there are some cons to take into account with business networking. It can prove expensive, especially if you have to pay membership fees. This is another reason to keep track of how new clients found out about your practice: so you can see if these costs are outweighed by the new business you win.
Breakfast or evening meetings may not fit in with surgery times or indeed family life. You will have to find meetings that can work around your other commitments.
Not everyone enjoys networking. If you’re introverted or shy, it can be a real slog. You could consider asking a more gregarious colleague to get involved, or you might find that if you persevere, it becomes easier as you get to know your fellow networkers.
There are a lot of networking groups available. Test out some groups and find the ones that work for you. It’s better to regularly attend meetings of a few groups than join loads and then rarely turn up.
In summary, a growing client database is built on relationships. Your team, your network, your online community are all going to help grow your business.