It makes sense to call clients when their pets are overdue for needed vaccinations, dental cleanings, senior wellness exams, and the like. The phone is an easy, cost-effective way of generating revenue from existing clients. My concern, however, is that some veterinary team members, often with the best of intentions, use high-pressure tactics when making these calls.
Some experts tout the merits of aggressive calling, but I believe that today’s smarter, more cynical clients have less tolerance for the hard sell—and more opportunities to go elsewhere. And when push comes to shove, that’s what many of them do.
The following are examples of what clients in our surveys have perceived as high-pressure tactics when receiving calls from veterinary hospitals to schedule appointments.
> Overstressing the consequences of further delay using scare tactics. For example, a team member might explain the consequences of chronic inflammatory periodontal disease, pressuring the client into making an appointment out of fear. Team members should educate clients in person, not over the phone.
> Being pushy when clients show no interest in making an appointment. Clients who decline appointments may grow to resent the practice if chided further by overbearing team members. Incentive plans are often the culprit in such instances, since they can cause team members to put their own interests ahead of clients’.
> Being too persistent with follow-up calls. A better approach: Ask clients if they would like to be called again in 30 or 60 days. If they reply, “I’ll call you,” as they often do, don’t press the issue. Simply say, “That will be fine.” Remember, client education and compliance are issues that should be addressed in person, not over the phone. Follow-up calls are meant to serve as reminders for clients who understand the need to make the appointment.
To test the effectiveness of your team members’ telephone techniques, don’t just count the number of appointments scheduled. Track the appointments that are actually kept. A high percentage of no-shows suggests the person calling may be using more pressure than he or she realized and clients are agreeing to an appointment just to get off the phone.