Shocked. That's how our client's friend felt. She just couldn't believe how awake her dog was after a dental cleaning. Or
that we performed the preanesthetic lab work the morning of the procedure. Or that we could e-mail a video on toothbrushing
from a device in the exam room right to the client's inbox. That friend of a client, of course, became a client.
Puppy love: Dr. Fred Metzger encourages clients to call him "Dr. Fred," and greets them warmly as soon as he enters the exam
room. Clients in the exam rooms also enjoy the touchscreen devices (above left) that e-mail information to them about pet
health topics. Photo by Vista Pro Studios.
Those are the clients I want. They like the high-quality medicine my team and I practice, and I can charge them appropriately.
That way I can afford to buy advanced technology, invest in the staff, and donate to the community.
To charge what my services are worth, my team and I knock my clients' socks off with high levels of service and medical care.
If you want to wow your clients, try making these changes in front-office manners, technology, doctors' attitudes, diagnostic
explanations, and client communication.
IMPRESS CLIENTS BEFORE THEY SHOW UP
If prospective clients aren't thrilled early, they won't make a second appointment, especially if your practice is the higher-quality,
higher-priced one in the area. You need to set your hospital apart to earn the loyalty of these all-important new clients.
They're your future. Failure to attract and retain clients will damage your income, morale, and practice value.
The encounters with clients before they ever set foot in your clinic begin with word-of-mouth referrals from existing clients
or from advertising outlets such as your signage, Web site, or phone book ad. After hearing warm words from current clients
or eyeing your ad or sign, potential clients call or e-mail your practice. That's when the work really begins.
Think about this: Do your receptionists smile when they talk on the phone? Or do they sound rushed and irritated? People can
tell, you know. My practice, like everyone else's, experiences chaotic, stressful days when smiling on the phone is tough.
Well, too bad! If clients aren't treated graciously on the phone and made to feel like a priority, they'll go somewhere else.
Rude receptionists will cost your practice more clients than rude doctors—and, what's worse, you'll never even know it. At
least clients frustrated with a doctor tend to call and complain, which is an opportunity to smooth things over.
Receptionists deliver new clients to your practice by being friendly and knowledgeable, and making appointments a snap. Your
front office team is your most important tool for marketing and exceptional client service.
TANTALIZE WITH TECHNOLOGY
At Metzger Animal Hospital we use an interactive video device to welcome clients in the exam room. Clients enter information
about their pets using a touchscreen, then view customized videos featuring illustrations of their pet's anatomy, parasite
life cycles, and other subjects. Clients can even e-mail instructional videos to themselves on how to trim their pets' nails,
give pills, and more. After clients spend a few minutes watching these videos, one of our technicians enters the exam room
to greet the client and obtain the pet's history. The technician also assesses the pet's vaccination risk and reviews flea,
tick, and heartworm prevention. To save money, you could place your monitor or device in the waiting area.
Our practice went paperless in April 2008, so our exam rooms have computers, which clients think is cool. Technicians and
doctors enter patient information into electronic records and display digital radiographs and other images such as cytologic
and dental exam findings. Few clients see such modern technology in their own physicians' and dentists' offices.
IMPROVE YOUR BEDSIDE MANNER
To showcase your credentials and compassion before you enter the exam room, hang your diplomas, specialty certificates, and
personal touches such as family photos. Be sure your Web site and brochures include your photo, tell your story, and list
your interests. Clients gain insight into who you are from these small touches. For example, I'm a drummer, and many clients
find it interesting and think it's cool that their veterinarian is in a local band.
Bedside manner starts with the first meeting. When you walk into the exam room, be sure to say hi to the client, then immediately
greet your patient. Use everybody's names. I'm comfortable telling clients, "I'm Dr. Metzger, but call me Fred." This lets
them know I'm accessible.
I also take time to talk to clients about their pets and their lives. That's why many of them ask so many good questions and
make so many good observations—they feel like Dr. Fred is their new friend. And I am! I find clients fascinating. They make
my workday more interesting and help my practice grow. You see, I want to be impressed, too.