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Maintaining good client relations during lockdown

With practices altering the way they function, there are things you can do to communicate with your clients

01 May 2020, at 8:45am

The coronavirus outbreak has upended the veterinary industry for the time being, with all practices and staff having to change the ways in which they work in order to deal with the crisis.

Everything has changed so much in such a short time-span that we are all learning as we go along. The most pressing need is to protect your clinic team and your business from the damage that this virus is causing. We all want every team member and every business to still be here when all this is finally over. This means that it’s vital to “corona-proof” your business now, to ensure that you ride out the storm and emerge even stronger on the other side.

Be prepared

Alongside all the things that you can be doing to be helpful to your community, there are also other jobs you can undertake as part of your general business maintenance, so that you are ready and prepared for when the world inevitably recovers.

By being extra helpful in this extraordinary time, you can become the trusted voice for pet owners in your area, which will reap benefits later.

Communicate clearly and consistently

All practices will have plenty of rapidly changing information that you need to broadcast to keep your team and all your customers safe.

You should first update all your Facebook details such as opening hours and out of hours emergency provision. Pin a post to the top of your feed for customers who need to visit the practice and keep this regularly updated. At the same time, make sure your website is up to date, with the latest information easy to find as the main item on your homepage.

Expand avenues of dialogue

Lots of clinics are now using apps to allow for remote consultations, which is a fantastic way to add value for your clients and keep your practice team safe.

If you haven't already done so, you can also make Facebook Messenger chat available on your practice Facebook page. Remember to announce it in your posts and have your team ready to answer any questions as soon as they come in.

Clearly outline the ways in which you can help your clients

Make a series of Facebook posts or short videos outlining all the extra services you are providing for your clients, such as your social distancing measures, remote consultations or free local delivery on prescriptions and pet food.

Create a weekly content calendar for your team to follow, with a timeline outlining everything you are doing in the clinic to keep people and pets safe and information to put people's minds at ease.

Focus on providing value to your existing customers

Whilst you are not actively selling to your customers, you can use this time to provide great value to them instead and let them know you are still there. Some things you might share could include charity sponsorship, quizzes, giveaways, competitions, handy tips for games to play with your pets, pet care advice including diet and exercise tips and pet-themed challenges for kids.

Remember you’re not selling anything, just offering as much benefit as possible to your community, to help brighten up their quarantine. Do make sure that you include some nice lighthearted posts in your content too – perhaps not overly frivolous, but the occasional cute pet post will help lighten people's mood at this difficult time.

Plan for the future

If things are slow, use this time for building your business resilience, so that you’re better prepared should a downturn ever happen again.

Take a look at your online presence. Is your website up to date? Is your Google My Business page as good as it could be? There are plenty of guides online to help you improve how you appear in local searches.

Invest in improving your services and find efficiencies where you can. Allocate the time, or seek outside help to identify weak areas in your systems and marketing and decide how you can strengthen these and make them better. If you haven't ever written an annual strategic business plan for your practice, now is the moment to make one. By putting things in place to safeguard your business now, you'll be stronger and more resilient to make the most of new opportunities when the time comes.

Will Stirling is a freelance marketing consultant who has worked in small animal practice marketing for over a decade, consulting on marketing strategy. He now spends his time helping independent veterinary clinics to grow and thrive.

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