How to achieve balance between new and existing clients
Recent research by Covetrus reveals that client acquisition and retention is described by many veterinary practice owners as ‘challenging’. This is understandable; gaining new clients and keeping existing ones isn’t easy – it’s an endeavor that requires planning, research, time, effort and financial investment.
New clients are vital to your practice’s health; they replace natural attrition caused by death, relocation or lack of motivation. New patients often also require more veterinary attention than those who attend regularly and who are already on an annual checkup schedule. And new customers with patients who require little immediate treatment also have a role to play as contributors to a steady and reliable client base.
It costs five times as much to obtain a new client
But, as important as it is to attract new clients, Veterinary Practice News reports it can cost up to five times as much than keeping an existing one. Not only that, the average business loses around 20% of its clients each year by failing to focus on existing client relationships.
With these thoughts in mind, it’s easy to see how veterinary practices that are not doing enough to retain existing clients or attract new ones can quickly stagnate and lose revenue.
The Covetrus research shows there is a discrepancy between what veterinarians think is happening within their practice and the reality. Practices who fail to monitor and respond to changes in their business and their operating environment run a high risk of being left behind or going out of business in an increasingly competitive environment.
Attracting new clients and retaining existing ones is not only about promoting services, although this is an important aspect of the marketing mix. It is also about identifying available capacity, understanding which types of clients grow the practice and maintaining the delicate balance between new and existing customers.
Traditional channels of communication aren’t enough
Research also shows repeatedly that reminders and recalls play an important role in veterinary practice success. In particular, they help with client retention and bringing patients back to your practice for additional appointments.
Data makes it clear that the effective management of recalls and reminders can deliver a very healthy return on investment. This is especially true when an automated reminder and recall system is used. But, how do staff in a busy veterinary clinic take care of this important, but time-consuming responsibility?
Veterinary practices are extremely busy and it’s not uncommon to hear staff talk about the struggles they have trying to manage all of their day-to-day tasks, let alone call up clients to remind them of routine appointments or print and post ‘hard copy’ reminders.
Despite the fact that we’re some way down the track of digital transformation in the veterinary industry, many practices continue to rely on traditional channels and manual methods to contact clients and schedule appointments.
It’s easy to forget (or ignore) that this effort takes the focus away from clients and patients in-office. With all the modern changes in technology and communication, most clients these days are used to instant, electronic messaging and they don’t respond well to just ‘old school’ methods of printed and posted communication any longer.
Three different communication methods are needed
In fact, Covetrus experience has shown that best practice for encouraging repeat visits is to communicate three times using three different methods immediately before and after the recall due date.
This is hard to achieve using manual methods, so top-performing practices build customer loyalty by engaging regularly using a fully-integrated and automated approach. This means using up-to-date and convenient communication methods such as SMS, email, and voicemail.
When this process is automated and integrated with a modern response tool, such as online appointment booking or confirmation, it provides an effective and efficient system that can dramatically improve practice performance.
Another example of an outdated practice is the scheduling of appointments over the phone. Arranging a single appointment this way takes between three to five minutes. Multiply this by the number of appointments made each day, and it’s easy to see how this ‘quick task’ can absorb precious time that could be used in more valuable face-to-face customer service instead.
Automation can increase compliance by 50%
Automated scheduling and confirmation can also increase reminder compliance and reduce no-shows by up to 50 percent. It’s important to cater to your clients’ communication preferences by making it easy for them to respond using automated scheduling and reminders.
A fully-integrated, automated solution that uses email, SMS and voicemail can streamline your practice operations significantly and give your clients a more painless user experience. Supporting this approach, veterinary communication consultant, Wendy S. Myers, says it’s reasonable to expect a 70% response rate once clients have received first, second, and third reminders.
And reporting from the North American Covetrus team indicates that those who send out more than 2,500 combined healthcare and appointment reminders per month are seeing improved patient care and increased compliance.
While it’s unrealistic to accomplish this volume of administration manually, advances in messaging technology mean it’s now possible to send personalized, repeat communications to each one of your clients, every time. For example, imagine how pleased they’ll be to receive reminder postcards in their mailbox, with a picture of their pet on it.
Or send a customized, friendly welcome message or one wishing your client’s furry companion a ‘Happy Birthday!’ This individualized communication is easy with automation, and it helps keep your practice top-of-mind and drives repeat business.
Covetrus’ Rapport helps you stay on top of this stream of automated communication via message activity windows that reveal the type of communications your clients have received, and when. It can also let you set up user-defined media sequences, which let you control what communications are sent to clients, the timing between them and when to stop.
Want to increase compliance and reduce the inefficiencies linked to manual reminder methods? Find out more about how to boost the standard of your client communications using Rapport’s customized messaging tools.