Google. Apple. Uber. VitusVet: The evolution of telephone support.
How many of your clients come in daily to purchase refills, preventatives, food and other pet supplies? Chances are it is a good number...but it's declining. Competition from online providers, like Chewy and Amazon.com, has never been tougher. Some of these companies are so well-funded that they are willing to LOSE money in order to get your clients' online pharmacy business because they know that, once they get them away from you, they'll never buy medications/food from you again. We've even seen some online providers with retail prices that are less than the average veterinary practice pays wholesale!
Despite this trend, and while convenience and low price are important to the modern consumer (Are you really any different?), a significant number of clients would still prefer to buy these items directly from you. Why? Because they trust you.
When Banfield’s State of Pet Health 2015 was released, it shed light on some worrying statistics. Beyond reflecting the general decline in the use of veterinary services (dogs averaged 1.5 visits in 2006, down from a mean of 1.9 visits in 2001), it suggested that veterinarians and pet owners are increasingly operating on two totally different wavelengths, with our conversation topics and vocabulary diverging sharply from the common concerns of pet owners.
While the majority of veterinarians want to speak about vaccines, spay/neuter, & parasite control, pet owners are most concerned with their pet's diet, exercise, play, and emotional well-being. These differences are creating less schedule routine visits, more emergency situations, and more pet owners seeking Dr. Google.
There’s two ways we can apply this information. Either veterinary professionals must change their rhetoric to match the expectations of their clients, or we need to do a better job educating the public about why we advocate for preventative medicine like antiparasitics, dental cleanings, and vaccine protocols.
On the surface, Millennials’ expectations seem paradoxical - they seek out personalized, empathetic experiences, but also eschew human interactions in favor of self-service through websites and apps. To make sense of this, veterinarians need to know two things:
- Millennials only welcome the involvement of people where humans can be more efficient, or offer something more meaningful than an algorithm or device.
- Millennials are highly independent and resourceful, and value businesses that equip them to address their own problems, rather than forcing dependence on customer service representatives.
In the past few weeks, we’ve been speaking a whole lot about the momentous opportunity for veterinarians offered by Millennial pet ownership. But this isn’t to say that they’re the only sort of client that’s crucial to your practice’s success!
The treasure trove of research we’ve amassed about veterinary customer demographics has revealed three crucial pet owner profiles that amount to the bedrock of every robust client base.
And just like a healthy ecosystem, a healthy client base requires diversity to keep a practice stable in varying economic climates. Let’s take a look at three of the keystone species: