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Improving productivity and customer experience in veterinary practice

Mastering both of these business aspects will help your practice gain a competitive edge

29 April 2021, at 9:00am

A busy veterinary business is often bombarded with unexpected appointments. Daily improvisation to get through the day is largely adopted by many vet practices. Yet, the effectiveness of veterinary clinics depends on appropriate systems and workflows. Reliance on disorganised and unstructured processes can place unnecessary stress on your workforce. Moreover, this can also take its toll on your customer experience.

Here are some practical tips to improve your productivity and, in the end, the relationship with your clients.

Refine your workflow

Consider how long it takes veterinarians to support each case they see. Creating standard protocols for your staff can improve efficiency. It also helps to maintain the consistency of your daily workflow. Here’s a practical example of how you can refine your processes:

Before the appointment

On a client's first phone call, your receptionists should collect all relevant details. They should also provide customers with information on screening and treatment options.

At the appointment

The veterinarian in charge should already have access to a complete history of the client (if any). He performs the necessary tests according to medical standards.

After the appointment

The veterinarian informs the client of the proposed treatment after receiving test results, before preparing a quote for the client. The veterinarian passes over instructions to the clinic’s technician if the client accepts the treatment. The technician can then start the treatment plan.

Keep in mind that you can customize the above workflow according to your clinic’s specific needs. Streamlining your daily workflow can ultimately allow you to take in more appointments each day.

Identify and eliminate communication bottlenecks

With so much information passed from vets to staff to clients and vice versa, the minutes lost quickly add up. In some scenarios, communication issues can even have a critical impact on your overall business image such as an employee forgetting to pass over some critical information, which leads to dire consequences for an animal under your care.

Let’s hope that this will never happen to your veterinary practice, but eliminating communication bottlenecks is crucial for your business operations.

Feeling unsure whether your vet clinic may have some communication bottlenecks? Here are some clues that point you in the right direction:

  • Work is piling on your staff desk
  • Some of your employees are missing their deadlines
  • There are people waiting for others to clear their tasks
  • Forecasts and estimates are not accurate

If you can relate to any of these situations, then it is very likely there are some communication gaps here and there. Identify where you are losing valuable time and resources due to communication bottlenecks. Bonus points if you involve your staff to find remedial actions.

Businesses often use multiple channels to communicate. Consider centralising most of it to one or two channels only. That way, your workforce already knows which channel they should monitor closely.

A customer-first approach

Create the best possible first impression for any client you receive. Your reception area should be welcoming and warm. It is also important to maintain friendly body language, especially when greeting your client and their animal.

To keep a consistent quality of service, set down clear guidelines for everyone. Training your staff to follow a standard set of procedures is a quick win. Sometimes, small details, such as maintaining eye contact in a conversation, can make a difference.

Moreover, transparency is an essential component of a healthy veterinary practice. First-time pet owners may feel shocked when they see veterinary treatment costs. The cost of treatment often increases as the animal ages. A recent study published by Statista reveals that on average, dog owners spend 37 percent of their monthly pet care budget on vet bills and medications (Bedford, 2020).

Your customers need to understand why their pet's treatment contributed to the final cost. If you are not clear about the costs, some may assume you are trying to scam them and they will look elsewhere for another veterinarian. Always encourage client education and provide all the information, details and costs you share with your clients. This can make them feel they are getting the maximum value for their money.

Boost your efficiency with technology

Having the right technology in place could save your veterinary practice a lot of time and money. Health regulators have been increasingly encouraging UK GPs to adopt the technology. For instance, since 2015, all GP practices in England have been contractually obliged to offer patients the choice of booking appointments and ordering prescriptions online (The Commonwealth Fund, 2020).

This trend may well be on its way to break through to veterinary practice as well. Electronic medical records (EMR) for pets allow your employees to quickly get an overview of a pet's complete medical history before they even reach the consultation room.

Moreover, technology can also be used internally to enhance your workforce management. For example, software to schedule and manage employee rotas can help you maintain ideal coverage and handle last-minute changes with ease and in a less stressful way.

Implementing such technologies to your day-to-day business management can help you achieve optimal staffing levels while cutting down on useless administrative hours. Also, scheduling apps normally come with a number of built-in useful features for your human resources department, such as automatically tracking the number of hours worked, overtime and absenteeism.

Depending on what your objectives are, investing in the right technology can definitely help boost your productivity, while helping you cut down on unnecessary costs. When implemented correctly, technology can also help your staff up their game, while making their life easier. This in turn may improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Off you go

The success of your veterinary practice is highly dependent on your level of productivity and customer experience. Mastering both of these business aspects will help your practice gain a competitive edge. Ultimately, your main objective should be to make your business sustainable and to aim for the long term, without sacrificing the quality of your service.