5 ways to make your veterinary practice's door swing

5 ways to make your veterinary practice's door swing

The slower economy may have offered an unplanned vacation for your front entrance. Use these tips to get clients back on your appointment schedule—and into your hospital.
Oct 01, 2011

Perhaps fewer clients are beating a path to your door. Maybe the schedule's a little less full or your bottom line looks a little anemic. Small comfort, maybe, but you're not the only one. Although many veterinary practice owners are getting better at boosting their per-client transaction, with the slower economy and increased competition, they're seeing fewer visits. An average full-time veterinarian should generate about 3,200 professional transactions a year, but many of you are struggling to do so. If that's the case for your clinic, it's time to put those door hinges to work. Here are five strategies for getting more clients into your clinic.

1. Re-energize your reminder system

Start by evaluating your reminder system. It should be 80 to 85 percent effective, meaning that after you complete the entire reminder system protocol, you've generated an 80 to 85 percent response rate. If your response is lower, ask yourself these questions. Are you sending out e-mail reminders? How many reminders are you sending out? How long do you wait between reminders? In many practices, e-mail reminders or text message reminders can increase reminder effectiveness by as much as 17 percent.

There's no perfect reminder system, and you'll need to customize your system to your practice. But in general, sending three reminders 30 days apart offers the best results. For example, you might mail a basic postcard for the first reminder, a tri-fold letter for the second, and a pet health reminder postcard for the final reminder. I recommend sending an e-mail along with each of these reminders. You may also consider outsourcing reminders so you know they're getting done—and your team can focus on other projects.

If you look at the number of clients who've visited your clinic in the last year who aren't receiving any reminders from your practice, you may be shocked. Your veterinary software can generate a report to identify these clients. They may have brought their pets in for skin, eye, or ear problems or some other medical condition, but because no one ever asked about vaccination history, parasite prevention, wellness exam schedule, or nutrition regimen, your team never entered reminders into the computer. You'll never see these patients again, unless they're ill or need medical attention. This is unacceptable from a preventive care point of view. It's also an enormous opportunity for your practice.

Next, look for pets with expired reminders. Maybe you vaccinated them or input reminder information in the computer, but those reminders expired. Print a report listing these patients and send their owners a purging letter or contact them to see if they'd like to bring their pets up to date on their preventive procedures (to download a sample letter, click here).

2. Launch a practice outreach program

Have you ever called the owner of a local business, such as a pet shop, pet grooming salon, doggy daycare, or training facility, and introduced yourself? Animal-related businesses often share the same clients. Think about how many new clients you might attract if you could develop a relationship with a local facility that referred people to your hospital. Of course, you must be careful that the business you reach out to has a good reputation and offers high-quality care and service. And if you offer boarding or grooming, you probably don't want to approach other boarding or grooming facilities. But how about cat clubs, ferret clubs, dog training facilities, or pet shops in your area? Once you make the call, you'll probably find a receptive voice on the other side.

I know an associate who visited a local pet store and invited the owner to lunch. After lunch, they toured the veterinary practice. Next, the practice held an educational meeting for the pet store employees on first aid for animals and signs of an animal in distress. Finally, they then gave pet store employees a VIP tour of the practice. Since that time, the hospital has seen a 70 percent increase in new clients. Most of these new clients are referrals from the pet store. When customers ask pet store employees which veterinarian they recommend, they can tell pet owners about their positive experience—for example, "I took a tour a few months ago and spoke to the doctors at ABC Animal Clinic. It's an awesome place!"