6 ways to show clients the value of your services
Confession time: This article was tough to write. I tried on several occasions to put fingers to keyboard and planned to send it well ahead of the deadline. The article was supposed to be about fees and trends based on Well-Managed Practice data, but the words wouldn't come. I finally realized the source of my writer's block. With the poor economy still rearing its ugly head, no one really wants to talk about fees—including me. So instead I decided to focus on a critical part of pricing your services: demonstrating the value of your fees.
All consumers are a little hypersensitive about spending money right now, and your clients are no exception. They have less cash, more information, and less tolerance for poor customer service. They're less loyal and more particular. But surprising studies show that most consumers will increase their purchases by 10 percent or more if they have a positive customer experience. So now more than ever it's time to create an exceptional atmosphere—one that's custom-built for clients and different from what they can get anywhere else. Let's examine six ways your practice can deliver that amazing client experience.
1. Hire the right peopleConsumers prefer to do business with people they like. So hire veterinary team members with good attitudes and personalities that fit your practice style. Look for people who are enthusiastic and genuinely enjoy helping others. Pay especially close attention to your front office team. They're critical to your efforts to reflect value. Watch how they handle clients over the phone and in person. Does their warmth, friendliness, and sincerity shine through?
If you identify areas to improve, offer education to help your team members grow. Your entire team will benefit. On a related note, don't put up with employees who hold a customer service philosophy that differs from what you want in your practice. It's your money and reputation on the line, after all.
Dr. Kevin Landorf of Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis., says his practice educates the team on customer service issues regularly. Team members attend local, state, and national veterinary conferences, and the practice uses training videos and customer service experiences during staff meetings. For example, Dr. Landorf encourages team members to share their own good and bad customer service experiences while grocery shopping, getting a haircut, or buying electronics. Then the team discusses what they can learn from the experiences and how they can improve.
2. Create an unbeatable client experience
Too many businesses make it difficult for consumers to spend money with them. We've all had experiences where we felt like we had to jump through hoops to buy a service or product. From the automated phone system with 10 options—none of which involve talking to a live person—to the employee with the "I'm doing you a favor" attitude, it's sometimes difficult to actually finalize a transaction. Don't let this happen at your practice. Make it easy to use your services, present an authentic, down-to-earth manner, and show your appreciation. Consider these simple gestures:
> Greet clients when they arrive.
> Check back with clients who have to wait in your lobby.
> Thank clients and tell them you hope to see them again.
> Don't forget to say goodbye.
Dr. Landorf's practice hires independent contractors to survey area veterinary practices and get an idea of the fees other practices charge in his area. They also call Dr. Landorf's practice to assess client service.
"It gives us an idea of how our receptionists are doing," he says. "Are they estimating appropriately? Are they offering to schedule an appointment and send a brochure? It's really eye-opening. Sometimes you think you're doing well, but you find out that even after all of the training you've done, you still have areas in which you can improve."
In terms of offering high-quality customer service, Dr. Landorf says he wants each of his team members to do three things for each client who walks in the door:
> Know the name of the client and the pet who is visiting. "This is the most important thing we can do," he says. "Clients need to feel like we know that they're coming and we know who they are. It sets the tone for the whole visit."
> Listen to the client's concerns. "We need to take a deep breath before we step into the exam room and make sure we're not hurried," Dr. Landorf says.
> At the end of the appointment, ask clients if you've addressed all of their concerns. "It's important for clients to know that they're important to us," he says.