Tools for Effective Communication with Pet Owners

By First Financial Bank
A few tips to help you and your staff leverage technology to better communicate with your client base.

There is a growing interest in examining how veterinary practices can better communicate with their clients to deliver the best animal healthcare possible. A recent study found a need to increase both the knowledge and utilization of technology among veterinarians to provide better care.

Below we’ve included a few tips to help you and your staff leverage technology to better communicate with your client base and provide the pets in your care with a satisfying experience.

Keep your website updated

Most veterinary practices have a website advertising their services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meeting the high standards of today’s digitally savvy clients:

  • Is your website easy to navigate?
  • Does it offer useful answers to frequently asked questions, or does it overwhelm visitors with detailed jargon?
  • Are your links active instead of broken?
  • Is it set up the way you want it or how your clients need it?
  • Depending on your client-base, does it support their language needs (for example, use Google Translate)?
  • Is it built to be accessible for those challenged by vision, hearing or motion restrictions?
  • Is it “responsive” (optimized to work properly on a smartphone or tablet)?

If you’re new to digital marketing, there are many online resources offering tips to improve your business’ website. Some basics include easy-to-find contact information, a clear description of your business and its services, plus customer reviews that highlight the benefits of your veterinary practice.

Another tool that pet parents have come to expect are the opportunity to book and manage their pet’s appointments online. If not part of your current site, check out some options that could provide the functionality for you.

Consider your website as an opportunity to make a good first impression on the pet parents who will hopefully become long-term satisfied customers. The site should be useful and usable by them. Review it and think about whether or not your current format is representing your business the way you want it to, or if it could use a few touch ups.

Improve your social media presence

While social media strategies can be useful for brand management and promotion, they’re also important tools for responding to customer comments and questions. According to findings in the journal Business Research, brands that interact with customers on social media are generally more profitable (Twitter published similar results about its users). Review social media demographics to determine where and how you invest your resources to reach your clients through their preferred platforms.

Not every business owner has the bandwidth to manage a robust social media presence, so make sure you consider the tools and resources needed to institute a proper social media strategy. For example, it may be useful to have one employee responsible for content creation and account moderation, as opposed to spending the resources outsourcing to a third-party company.

Check out some additional tips on how to leverage social media communication at your veterinary practice.

Use a Pet Portal

Pet portals are secure, private pet health websites that allow clients direct access to their pet’s veterinary team. The ultimate goal of a pet portal is to offer clients a tool to manage their pet’s healthcare. A pet portal can be accessed via your business’s website or a portal login, making it accessible to more clients, yet still be secure. According to Pew Research, about 85% of American adults own a smartphone while 93% use the internet, so having it be “responsive” or mobile-friendly is key.

Pet portals are useful for accessing an animal’s medical records, messaging veterinarians, refilling prescriptions, and scheduling appointments. They create a one-stop-shop for your clients to interact with your business and reach out to you or your staff with questions, comments and concerns.

Use appointment reminders

Veterinary appointment scheduling should be a well-oiled machine that helps maximize the number of clients in your office while reducing long wait times, empty appointment slots, and no-shows. An easy way to help get in touch with clients ahead of their scheduled visit is to use appointment reminders.

Appointment reminders–whether via text, an automated phone call, or a personal phone call–provide your staff with an opportunity to communicate important information that your clients need to have a successful visit. There are a variety of applications created for this purpose. The reminders can include timing, location, pre-visit pet care advice, and more. It can also offer pet parents the opportunity to ask questions before they walk through your door.

There are tradeoffs for automated vs personal phone call reminders. Research shows that 98% of adults in the U.S. have access to a mobile phone with text messaging services, and 58% of consumers express a more positive outlook toward a business if it offers SMS capabilities. However, direct calls from your staff provide them the opportunity to develop personal relationships with clients that can help you retain their business.

Whatever method you choose will likely depend on your resources and staff bandwidth, but appointment reminders are an easy way to establish communication with your clients and improve your bottom line.

Putting it all together

As a small business owner, you can’t always do everything you want at once. Instead, work with your marketing/communications advisors to identify where you need to invest time and resources first, then second … and so forth. Communication is the key to most good relationships and finding ways to enhance your capabilities with tools that allow you to scale is good for business.

Need some other ways to get the word out about your business? Check out this article for more ideas on marketing your practice/clinic. Want to chat about your expansion plans? Contact us.

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