Technology plays a major role in nearly every part of your veterinary practice. From taking digital radiographs to performing
dental procedures, cutting-edge equipment helps you offer the best care for your patients.
But while these tools help you diagnose and treat pets, who's looking out for the business side of your practice? There's
always room for increased efficiency and profitability, and technology is standing by, ready to help. These days, tools like
websites, social media platforms, and electronic medical records function as allies in your fight to run a successful practice.
And if you haven't learned by now that these gizmos are more than just a series of circuits and switches, it's time to change
your views. They're actually crucial to enhancing clients' perceptions of the value your practice offers. So let's look at
how you can lean on your electronic assistants—and become a better veterinarian in the process.
In a December 2010 article published by the Harvard Business Review, researchers uncovered some of the ways that technology has changed consumer behavior. One of author David C. Edleman's findings?
Consumers today can compare their current service providers to competitors more easily and more frequently. This means the
idea of clients "belonging" to your veterinary practice may be a thing of the past. Pet owners are now evaluating every aspect
of the service you provide, from their interaction with staff members and doctors to the appearance of your facility. And
they're not just scrutinizing these things—they're posting their observations online for everyone else to see.
Kelly Baltzell, president of veterinary marketing firm Beyond Indigo Pets, says that the Internet has changed people's psychological
patterns dramatically. "We now expect to find information immediately, wherever we're located. Knowledge is at our fingertips
via computers and mobile devices," Baltzell says. "With the advent of the Internet, we also expect others to treat us as equals.
Through the Internet and my social media networks, I am empowered as a consumer. When I purchase a service, I expect to be
listened to and heard."
To keep clients coming back, you have to bond them to your practice. The tighter the relationship, the more likely people
will use hospital services and pay more per visit—and that's especially true for women, Baltzell says. If clients aren't satisfied
with your services and don't encourage others to visit your practice, you haven't truly engaged them. And the Internet is
simply another way to engage existing and new clients, starting with your website.
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In Benchmarks 2011, associates and staff members ranked a business's website as the top resource they would use to find information
on that business and decide whether to visit. What's more, Well-Managed Practices say their practice website is the No. 1
most effective marketing and promotional resource they use. So what does your website say about you?
First of all, it's important to realize that your practice's website isn't a build-it-and-forget-it investment. People make
decisions in one-twentieth of a second when they look at your site. Your clients are smart enough to know a good site when
they see one, and it will reflect positively on your business if yours is modern and up to date.
"Clients expect a certain level of website in today's world, and I can't imagine not having a presence online. It helps start
the more important personal relationship with the client because a virtual, preliminary introduction has already been made,"
says Dr. Thomas Burns, hospital director at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Mass. "Clients are doing
more homework on every important decision in the present economy, and a good website allows you to showcase your services."
Dr. Burns says the part of his practice's website his clients appreciate most is a section that helps them deal with the loss
of a pet. "It's especially useful for helping children cope," he says. "I recommend that clients consult our pet loss section
even before they lose a pet. You just can't give them that depth of information during painful discussions."
Dr. Burns says he also appreciates the ability to post new-client forms on the website, because clients can download and complete
them before their first visit. This prevents delays on site, and the forms are often completed more thoroughly.
Managing your website can be a tedious, time-consuming process—and an investment that returns huge dividends when done well.
You could delegate website maintenance to a staff member who has an interest and the technological know-how. Or consider outsourcing
this responsibility. Whichever option you choose, plan on monthly or at least quarterly updates.
For guidance on how to get started, see the management tools included in Benchmarks 2011. (Information on ordering the study
can be found by visiting
http://dvm360.com/benchmarks2011. One sample tool, a guide to making your website sing your practice's praises, has been posted at