5 methods to make and keep new clients
Most of us think we provide excellent service to our clients. We know we're at least better than the hospital down the street. How? Our clients vote with their feet and beat a path again and again to our door. And sometimes we get new clients—disgruntled pet owners who are unhappy with other nearby clinics. We start to feel pretty sure of ourselves.
But our confidence is shaken in these financial times. For the past couple of years, many of us have seen fewer of our active clients. When we have seen them, they've spent less than they used to. Plus client turnover rates have risen. If we used to lose 20 percent of clients each year, we've now started losing up to 35 percent. Revenue has fallen. If we haven't made plans to react to these changes, our fall from grace has been dramatic.
If this describes you, take heart. You can maintain your current business level, or better yet increase it, by gaining market share. Does this mean you take clients from other clinics? Yes! You can bet other veterinarians aren't sitting back and letting their practices decline.To attract clients, you need to know what your practice does well and what you need to work on. You want happy clients who spread the good word about your practice and generate the best kind of marketing you can get—and the cheapest.
So how good is your customer service really? Here are five methods you can use to measure your practice client satisfaction on a regular basis. Along the way I've supplied some of my favorite client service tips.
1. FOCUS IN ON FOCUS GROUPS
A good way to gauge client satisfaction is to host a focus group with a small cross-section of your clientele. You'll gather your clients' honest feelings and impressions about their experiences at your clinic. Typically, the mix should include several top long-term clients, some typical annual or biannual clients, and some new clients.
In the past, I've hired a professional host to select and invite clients to the roundtable meeting. The host leads the discussion, usually without my team members or myself present. You want clients to speak freely about how they really feel about you and your team, which they might not do if you're in the room. You can hire a local management consultant to run a meeting for $250 to $1,000, depending on the moderator. Don't forget to budget for lunch or dinner.
2. SEEK SUCCESS IN SURVEYS
Surveying clients is much less involved and less costly than conducting focus groups. Whereas focus groups gather freeform responses from 10 to 12 participants once or twice a year, surveys are short, with just five to 10 questions, and you can conduct them much more frequently.
Surveys let clients provide feedback without a major time commitment. Clients also can remain anonymous. Consider asking clients to answer a short survey after each general visit. Offer separate surveys related to surgery, grooming, and boarding experiences. Clients can fill these out while at your practice or mail them back in pre-stamped envelopes. You can also send surveys via e-mail.
Surveys will uncover trends, for better or worse, in your client service. At my practices, we often discuss the responses at our team meetings.