Believe it or not, a handful of great practices are struggling with the same issues your practice may be struggling with. One of the main issues is how to get clients back in the door. My vet tech friend recently explained their situation perfectly. New clients are very excited and engaged, and their older, most loyal clients always return. It’s the clients that fall in the middle they’re struggling to reach.
So, what exactly is preventing these clients from walking back into your practice? We’ve identified five issues that could be deterring clients from returning.
1. They only hear from you once a year.
Once a client has walked out of your practice, do you have any presence in front of them until their next appointment? No? I thought so. You’re not alone. Most practices lack any type of engagement with clients until close to a year, when annual wellness exams need to be scheduled. At that time, you send them postcards. And more postcards. But by then they're not paying attention.
Engagement is extremely important. The more you stay in front of clients, the more they'll feel connected to you. Plus, it's your job to tell clients why their pet's health is a priority, how to manage it since they’re not visiting you every day, and what signs to watch for in case they have an underlying health issue that is not noticeable on a daily basis.
The solution? Find a company that provides you the technology to reach them aside from the phone. Digital communication is extremely important and could significantly help you build a better relationship with your clients who are not walking through your door every month.
2. They had a poor experience.
Client experience is everything! That’s why reviews are so popular. I’m not talking about your own surveys and reviews either, I’m talking about Yelp and Google ones. From the moment a client decides to make an appointment to the moment they return, you are in control of their client experience. Did they have to sit on hold to make an appointment? Did they get lost trying to find your location? Did your staff greet them with a smile and make eye contact when they signed-in? All of these are extremely important pieces of your client experience. And they may not ever tell you why they don’t return, but you can assume something happened during the “client experience” which deterred them from returning.
The best way to control your client experience is by ensuring your phone holding times are limited, if they exist at all. Find other ways for clients to book appointments, request refills and request medical records, such as an app or through your website. Digital transactions can easily lower how many phone calls your front desk receives, that way they can focus on clients who are visiting the practice and greet them accordingly. If they do have to sit on the phone, it’ll be for something important, such as a patient calling about symptoms they’re seeing and asking if they need to bring their pet in for a visit.
3. They feel you’re trying to get more business asking them to have expensive procedures done.
I know, I know. You can’t help that the prices of certain procedures are expensive. But think about it this way. If you go see your doctor for an annual wellness visit (and maybe it’s been a few years since you visited) and they tell you that your teeth need cleaning and maybe a few pulled out, would you immediately go back? Would you get a second opinion?
You may think about it for awhile and eventually have it done, but if a client finally comes in after a long period of time, even if they really need the dental cleaning, they’re probably not going to listen to you immediately. Most likely, they don’t understand the importance of wellness exams and dental health, so it’s your job to educate them.
Instead of pushing for them to schedule another visit, make the suggestion and then ask them if they’d like to see an estimate for the visit. If they say no, provide them educational material on the importance of dental health and how it can ultimately affect your pet’s overall wellness. Give them an idea of what would happen if they choose not to get this done and let them at least leave feeling knowledgeable about the decision they’re making. After they leave, make a note within the pets account so they can view it in their client app.
4. You communicate with them incorrectly
This is a big one and we briefly discussed it above. If you read our other blogs, we’ve touched on it several times before, but that’s because it’s so important. It's not just staying in touch with your clients, it's also how you stay in touch with clients. If you’re only sending out a postcard and leaving a voice message as your way of communicating, you’re setting yourself up for failure. People don’t want to talk on the phone anymore and unless they have you saved as a contact, they may not even pick up for an “unknown number”.
Adopt modern technology into your practice. Use push notifications, emails and text reminders for communication. People don’t have the time to answer the phone, but they do have five seconds to look at a text message or push notification because they don’t have to respond to it immediately. We also suggest creating a social media account and get your clients to follow or like you. People love social media so communicating with them through a channel they use on a daily basis is key.
5. You’re not educating your clients
This is another important reason clients don’t come in as often as they should. We know pets are good at hiding illnesses and diseases, but pet parents don’t. They oftentimes have the mindset of “my dogs not sick, why do I need to take him in?”.
Staying engaged and educating your clients is your job. Whether it’s through email campaigns, social networks or even an instagram post. Clients only look up symptoms of illness when things are bad; they don’t know any better. Make a conscious effort to provide them educational material when they’re in office and when they leave. Send them an email and post on facebook of signs and symptoms if Dog Flu cases are in your area. Let them know that it’s flea and tick season and explain how fleas and ticks can be a threat to their pets, then offer a discount on preventatives.
There will always be some clients who don’t return and other clients who only come in when their pet is sick. After all, that’s how some people take care of their own health. But by digging into the five issues above, you may realize you’re not doing a good enough job at one, two or all of them and can work towards improving. Don’t expect changes overnight, but you will definitely see an impact over time.