As Baby Boomers enter retirement age, Generations X and Y become the primary consumers of goods and services. Your role as a veterinarian changes and your way of doing business will radically shift, too. Those who study retail strategy place their hopes on Generation Y (people born between 1982-2000), which is the largest generation to date. People of Generation Y are just reaching the age where they are consuming services such as veterinary care. Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB of Animal Arts said at the Hospital Design Conference at CVC Kansas City this past August that you must appeal to Generation Y or you will be left in the dust. No one knows exactly how the pressures of relating to Gen Y will affect the design of veterinary hospitals. This being said, you must find ways to incorporate fresh design concepts into your project to make it relevant for years to come. Here are Lewis’ tips:
Medical spa. Make your hospital visually and physically appealing as a place of healing and wellness, not as a “hospital.” Use sustainable materials, natural light, and create an upbeat, affirming environment. The spa analogy is helpful because it incorporates the concept of choice of services and treatment protocols. This should be communicated in your design. Provide transparency into as many procedural spaces as appropriate so clients can see services in action.
Concierge. Replace your reception staff with concierge services. The concierge acts as the intermediary between the client and the doctor. He or she will communicate with clients, coordinate online consultation, follow up, coordinate future services, and assist clients with choices for the course of care for their pets. Because clients already have a close, communication-intensive relationship with the hospital, a small check-in station will suffice for a reception desk.
Wellness room. Exam rooms will transition into multipurpose wellness and minor treatment rooms where clients can be with their pets while procedures of their choice are being administered. As diagnostic imaging becomes more portable, these rooms may also incorporate imaging. Use technology such as digital display monitors in these rooms to engage and educate clients. General treatment areas will become smaller or may virtually disappear. The medical spaces of the hospital will be weighted toward special procedures, surgery prep, and surgery.
Community outreach. Here are some ideas to integrate the community connection into the physical design of your practice:
- Design for events. Create multipurpose meeting spaces in the public areas of your hospital to be used for events and internal meetings. Hosting non-private functions in front of your clients is also a great way to demonstrate your openness, honesty, and authenticity.
- Show your commitment to helping animals. A small shelter pet adoption display or a place to house a rehabilitating charity animal will be a positive message.
As the most educated generation to date, Gen Y will not accept communication boundaries. The best way to engage, educate, and create loyalty is to break down the physical boundaries as well, and come out from behind the back door. Dispense with the manifestations of bureaucracy in the front of your hospital such as imposing reception desks. Do treatments in the open and with the participation of your clients. Allow your clients to challenge you to design better animal environments that demonstrate your commitment to the welfare of pets. Involve, inform, and create advocates of your young clients and thrive in business.