Ford’s current slogan is “Built Ford Tough”, but before that it was “Quality is Job 1.” This was their attempt to speak particularly to those often referred to as the “Greatest Generation” (i.e. people who are old enough to remember WWII), for whom quality was extremely important. Ironically, Ford used this as their slogan during a time when they were getting their rear ends handed to them by the Japanese and Germans, but that is perhaps a topic for another post. If you SAY quality is important, you better mean it: consumers are less and less forgiving.
When it comes to the veterinary profession, quality matters immensely. There’s little question that the relationship with a veterinarian is the #1 driver of client loyalty. After all, few consumers would go to a doctor who they thought practiced low quality medicine. You can say what you want about low cost providers, but clients don’t go to these hospitals because they are seeking low quality care. I believe they go there because they think they’ll get the same quality of care at a lower price. Who would take their beloved pet/family member to a doctor thinking, “This veterinarian is terrible but he’s cheap”? Nobody.
But how do clients define quality?
After all, few of our clients know anything at all about medicine, surgery, dentistry, radiology, dermatology, or pharmacology. In fact, over the years it’s been my experience that human medical professionals (especially nurses) can be the worst veterinary clients because they think they know more than they really do. They know just enough to be dangerous. None of our clients went to veterinary school, so what factors DO they use to figure out how good you are? One is pretty obvious: if they bring a sick pet to you, does he/she get better after seeing you? Another one that’s even more important and often overlooked is whether or not you listen…really listen to them? Or are you just silently formulating your reply while they talk? If a patient isn’t responding to your treatment plan, do you offer referral? These are just some of the things that distinguish a high performing veterinarians on the edges of the bell-shaped curve.
Is that enough?
I don’t think it is. In our line of work, quality is necessary but not sufficient. If you’ve passed your national & state veterinary licensing exams and your hospital is licensed to provide veterinary services in your state, clients assume some basic level of competence when they walk in your door. But there are numerous additional factors that determine whether or not they come back. An even higher bar exists for whether you’re good enough for them to tell their friends about you.
Some factors include: How clean are your rooms? Do you have a modern website with appropriate links to social media? Is your check in/out process smooth and efficient so their time isn’t wasted? Do you have digital records, and can your clients access them if they need to in an emergency? Can they do business with you via email/text, or do you require that they use the telephone? These are merely a few of the criteria people use when deciding whether or not to become one of your clients. More still when deciding if they want to remain a client after visiting.
Here’s something you can try that will be both eye-opening and heartwarming: ask some of your best clients WHY they come to your hospital. It’s unlikely they’ll say ‘Because you have an ultrasound machine/dental X-Ray/laser or any other gadget/toy. Ask the question and let them talk. Write down their responses and discuss them at your next staff meeting. You’ll be amazed at where the conversation goes. Good luck!