Give your veterinary practice a physical exam

Give your veterinary practice a physical exam

6 practice systems to poke, prod and palpate every week, month and year to make sure your veterinary practice is healthy.
Nov 01, 2013

You give pets physical exams every day, but now it's time to get up close and personal with your practice. What's the pulse of your income? Are there abnormalities in your client numbers? Let's look at some specific indicators and get an idea of how truly healthy or unhealthy your practice is.

No. 1—Bonding rate

One key indicator of your practice's health is how deeply your clients are bonded to your practice. A good way to benchmark this is the percentage of clients who've returned in the past 18 months. Most veterinary software programs have a criteria search-and-sort function that can provide you with this information. The average bonding rate for veterinary hospitals is 60 percent, which means you see six out of 10 clients return within 18 months. If your bonding rate is below 60 percent, it's time for some further investigation. How satisfied are your clients? Do you use client questionnaires to evaluate client satisfaction? Review the records of clients who haven't been back to see what the circumstances were or call them to ask why they haven't come back—and if there's anything you can do.

No. 2—New clients

How many new clients per full-time-equivalent (FTE) doctor do you have coming in a month? Benchmarks 2013: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, from Veterinary Economics and Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates, found an average of 18.5 new clients per month per FTE veterinarian. In addition to benchmarking your practice against high-functioning peers, compare your practice to how well you did 12 months ago. Are your new-client numbers up or down? If they're down, have you tried any initiatives to drive more new clients to your hospital? Were they successful? If you spent money on a new website or social media, did you get a return on that investment? If the number of new clients is low or dropping in your practice, don't just accept that—fight back! Start with the receptionist—does your front-desk team offer to send a hospital brochure and answer any questions for telephone shoppers? Phone shoppers respond well to attentive receptionists; they've already called other practices and yours will likely be the only one that offered to send information.

No. 3—Client satisfaction

If you want to know how well you're serving clients, consider using a mystery shopper (visit to get a sample mystery shopper form). One simple way to do this is to arrange with another veterinary practice (not local) for one of their employees to visit your practice as a client. That person then reports back and can help determine how good or bad your customer service is.

Another option for assessing client satisfaction is a survey. I've seen success at veterinary practices with a free survey app for iPads called QuickTapSurvey. You create a series of client questions then hand off the iPad to clients at the end of their visits to complete. It takes them just a minute or two, and results are automatically tabulated. It's a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your clients. For a sample client satisfaction survey, go to