Google. Apple. Uber. VitusVet: The evolution of telephone support.
Mark D. Olcott, DVM, MBA
What do all the above companies have in common? None of them have telephone support lines.
As I wrote in a blog post in 2016 entitled “The telephone is dying. Is your veterinary practice ready?” our worldview is that the telephone is actually a pretty bad way for people to communicate. According to Ian Bogost in his August 2015 article in The Atlantic entitled “Don’t hate the phone call; hate the phone”
Well, we finally did something about it. As part of our continued effort to evolve and serve our partner practices (and their pet owner clients) even better, we recently made the decision to fundamentally simplify the way they can interact with us. Why, you may ask, would you do away with a telephone support line?
Here are a few reasons, adapted from the blog post I referenced above, which are as relevant today as they were then:
- People are really busy and simplicity rules the day. We want to hear from our users….the good news and the bad news….and believe that if you make something simpler, you get more of it. Between chat boxes and ready email access, we’ve removed barriers to communication.
- 40% of the US population are introverts and don’t like to talk on the phone. We realized that picking up the telephone was actually a barrier for our partner practices to tell us what was on their mind. As busy as they are, jotting down a text or comment on the chat box is a much easier way to make first contact.
- Digital communication can be logged and tracked. When practice managers or veterinarians or pet owners reach out to us, we can automate the response algorithm so that we can ensure short response time.
- There’s a reason that super innovative companies, like Apple, force their customers to reach out to them digitally: telephone support has a LOT of holes. The proof is in the pudding: in the two weeks since we made this change, our average response time has dropped by 50% and the feedback has been universally positive!
We should also stress here that we still have a team of helpful humans on our support team here in Maryland, and they talk to people on the phone all the time. The only thing we’ve changed is the way we manage inbound communication.
Communication preferences are changing, and business owners need to adapt. Whether it’s Amazon.com or Main Street Veterinary Clinic, people expect to be able to do business with you online or via IM/text.
Bottom line: forget you know anything about veterinary practice and simply ask yourself, “As a consumer myself, how do I like to make first contact with service providers?”