The Top 8 Things Your Veterinary Practice Must Do To Thrive In The Future

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Written By: Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM

It’s a new world out there in veterinary medicine and the things that were enough to guarantee practice success twenty years ago aren’t the same now.  While there are many things practices need to focus on, the following are some of the most important.

1: Practice Good Quality Medicine

This one goes without saying but, unfortunately, it’s often not enough to insure practice success. Unless you amputate the wrong leg, clients can’t judge the quality of the medicine you practice. They judge veterinary hospitals by things they can understand-generally communication and client service. You can be the best doctor in the state, but if clients don’t feel they got value for the dollars spent in a way they understand, they won’t come back. 

2: Back to Basics

Wowing clients is great but it’s more important to make sure their basic needs are met.  If the owner of an itchy dog comes to a practice, is 45 minutes late being seen, doesn’t understand what the doctor is saying is the cause of the itching, and doesn’t get the promised call back the next day, sending the dog home with a cute bandana won’t make up for it.

3: Know What Your Clients Want

There’s lots of information out there about “what clients want.”  Much of it is very valid and applies to most clients of most practices.  But it’s critical that you regularly gather information about what YOUR clients want and how happy they are with your practice.    The best way to do this is to regularly ask clients about their experience with your practice via regular client surveys.  However, you can also gather this vital information by:  welcoming client complaints and making things right, reviewing record transfers and tracking client complaints to identify any patterns and whether or not changes in the practice are reducing the complaints.

4: Offer Payment Options

 The price of veterinary care continues to be an issue for many pet owners.  They want to provide the best care but are struggling with many demands on their money.  We know that payment options make a difference—multiple studies have shown that clients who have pet insurance or a third party veterinary credit card or are enrolled in a wellness plan visit the veterinary practice more frequently and spend more money on veterinary services.  Understanding the options yourself and educating clients makes a big difference in how pet owners take care of their pets and how well your practice does.

5: Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

 Look at your practice from the client’s perspective.  When you discourage a client from visiting their pet during its two night stay at your practice, how does the client feel?  The pet owner knows that when their human family members are in the hospital, it’s a different story—they can visit regularly.  They want to do the same with their furry family members—they want to be able to see that their pet is being well-taken care of and they want to reassure their pet that he/she hasn’t been abandoned.  What do you think my cousin thought when she picked up her cat following surgery and the technician said:  “We gave him some food this morning but he wouldn’t eat.  It might be because of the e-collar. Take that off when he gets home and see if that makes a difference?”  What she thought was:  “I just spent $3000 at this place and they’re starving my cat!”

6: Give Clients the Information They Want

A recent study looked at the top 5 health topics pet owners wanted to talk to their veterinarians about and the top 5 health topics veterinarians wanted to talk to pet owners about—only 1 topic was the same on both lists!  This doesn’t mean that the practice team should ignore the issues they think are important when talking with clients but it does mean they need to make sure client questions and concerns are addressed as well.  The simplest way to do this is to ASK: ·        

– Is there anything else going on with Fluffy that we haven’t covered?

– Is there anything else going on with Fluffy that we haven’t covered?

– Did you have any questions about what we have discussed?

– Do you have any other concerns?

– Are there any other questions you have?

– Can I do anything else for you?

7: Make Clear Recommendations

If you say:  “At some point you might want to get this dental done,”  the client’s not going to do it—a dental just doesn’t sound like something truly important to the health of the pet.  But if you say:  “Fluffy needs a to have her teeth cleaned and polished” or “I recommend that Fluffy have her teeth cleaned and polished” or “It is critical that Fluffy have her teeth cleaned and polished”, then the pet owner will pay attention.  The specific words are less important than the clarity of the statement you make.  According to one study, pet owners are 7 times more likely to follow their veterinarians’ recommendation when it is clear and unambiguous.

8: Get Help When You Need It

Veterinarians are great at practicing medicine; they are usually not great at preparing tax returns, writing legal documents or investing for retirement.  We advise our clients to see a specialist when it’s warranted; we should do the same.  There are many attorneys, CPAs, consultants, financial planners, lenders, architects, brokers and business appraisers who work exclusively with veterinary practices and veterinarians and can help you achieve the success you are looking for.

One Response to “The Top 8 Things Your Veterinary Practice Must Do To Thrive In The Future”

  1. My husband and I have three pets, but they need to be taken to the vet soon. I haven’t been to any vets in the area before, so I’m looking into my options. I like what you said about giving clients the information they want about their pets by asking questions. I would want a vet like that.

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