How veterinarians can (and must) adapt to an increasingly mobile world

Posted by Mark Olcott, DVM on Dec 22, 2015 12:53:45 PM

Find me on:

iphone-500291_1280.jpgI just read a fantastic article entitled “The Mobile Mind Shift” by Forrester Research.  The article included a couple of key insights that were particularly relevant to private practitioners and I’ve summarized them here.  For more information, definitely click on the link and read more about their work in this exciting field.  


The first insight is that consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of inconvenience and interruption. and the 24/7 availability of not just news, but news that is catered to your particular viewpoint, are but a few examples of the on-demand nature of today’s society.

Regarding consumers, Forrester says:

“They want what they want when they want it.  Give it to them and you’re a hero - and will get their loyalty.  Fail to deliver, and they’ll move on.”  

So what can you do?  The article referenced above includes 5 ways to serve perpetually connected customers, but my favorite is “Get out of the customers way.”  In other words, make it easier for your client to get what they want, whether it’s an appointment, a refill, a copy of their records, a referral, etc..  A great example of this is how Bank of America allows customers to deposit checks merely by taking a picture of the inconvenient trips to the bank, no ATMs, no standing in line, etc..  They rethought what it means to do business with them and, in the process, simplified their customers’ lives and significantly increased the number and speed of deposits.  Bottom line?  Happier customers and more deposits.


Second, as we define and create these mobile moments we must remember that a client’s “frequency of interaction” also matters.  It’s not fair to compare a veterinary clinic (or an airline, insurance company, etc.) where there are comparatively infrequent interactions with a provider whose interactions occur several times per day or, at most, once a week.  Examples of these providers would be grocery retailers, banks, or a social media network.  Starbucks is probably the best example---they are the epitome of a high quality/high frequency provider.

Veterinary hospitals typically provide infrequent but high quality moments….or at least that’s the goal.  In that particular quadrant, how should veterinarians and practice managers think about mobile moments?  Forrester recommends a focus on getting clients to think of you more often through what they call “manufactured moments”.  In other words, how can you be relevant the OTHER 364 days a year when Fluffy isn’t in your exam room?  And I don’t mean by spamming them with self-serving newsletters, often from reminder providers, that nobody reads.  


I still see WAY too many veterinary hospitals sending bi-weekly updates to their clients about how important labwork is or perhaps emailing the latest coupon from their online store.  People are busy, their inboxes are loaded and they don’t have time for this just turns off connected clients and good luck getting them to turn you back on again.  Do SOME clients respond?  Sure, but what about the other 90% where you are damaging your relationship with them?  It can’t be all about you and your hospital’s needs...that just won’t fly anymore.  

One advantage of mobile communications is that they haven’t been spammed to death like email marketing has been over the years.  The average open rate for a mobile message is 98%; for email, it’s more like 20%.  The challenge is that while this channel gives you access to clients in a way that email did 20 years ago (back when it was new), these same client will shut you down in a heartbeat if you pester them.  You can’t just take the same messages you’re sending through email and push them out through an app and expect the same results.  Bottom line:  be very careful when choosing an app for your practice and make sure you’re offering your valuable clients real value, not just a nakedly self-serving marketing tool.