Approaching veterinary client compliance is a multipronged process that includes determining who your client is, assessing your team, assessing the practice, and more. As a veterinary practice management consultant, I regularly meet veterinary professionals who struggle with client compliance. Why won’t they accept our recommendations? Why don’t they get it? How can I make them understand? They just don’t want to pay. These are all common problems I am asked to help solve.
Determine who your client is
Before you attempt to increase client compliance, you have to figure out who your clients are. What does your target audience look like? What demographic are you serving? How does that compare to the mission and goal of the practice? If there is a disconnect between the type of pet owner coming in to your practice and what your practice is trying to deliver, success is going to be harder to achieve.
Assess your team
The second part of increasing client compliance is having a team that is well trained in interpersonal skills, communication styles, and fostering relationships with clients, pets, and each other. Creating a supportive culture and fostering comradery are the first two steps to having team members who are going to show up happy and mindful. Increasing the team’s overall level of emotional intelligence is vital. An unhappy and unmotivated team is not going to put forth the energy necessary to best connect to the client. If that connection is absent, compliance will tank.
Assess the practice
Clients are busy with life and are likely to forget or postpone their pet care responsibilities. To offset that, the practice should take control and do the work for the client. There are countless protocols a practice can put in place to increase client compliance.
Use your reminder system to its fullest. Set up reminders for everything from exams and vaccines to dental work and administering/refilling heartworm/flea preventives as well as chronic condition meds. Use your practice management software. Contract with a third party such as Boomerang Vet (boomerangvet.com) to give your practice access to a fantastic platform for issuing and managing the reminders. Every practice I’ve seen switch to Boomerang has seen an increase in client response/compliance.
Simplify the process for the client
Give a single injection of a sustained-release medication to guarantee the pet will get the medication instead of asking the client to administer it at home every eight hours for 10 days. If you can take a given task away from them, they can’t forget or mess it up.
Forward-book patient appointments. No client should leave your practice without a future appointment. Make the appointment for the client and then remind them about it with appropriate advance notice. The client who already has an appointment is more likely to keep it or reschedule it than they are to come in if they have to initiate to process.
Be patient with clients. Veterinary medicine is common knowledge for you; however, it is probably scary and confusing for the client. Be cognizant of how the client behaves during the appointment and adapt your communication style for each client. For example, if the client won’t make eye contact, has their arms crossed, and you just keep talking, it’s ultimately a waste of everyone’s time and the pet isn’t going to get what it needs.
Communication is everything
Help clients to be more compliant by clearly relaying information that leads them toward your goal for them and their pets. Consider these two examples:
- “Dr. Jones wants to recheck Max in 10 days. Do you want to schedule that?”
- “Dr. Jones needs to follow up in 10 days to make sure that the ear infection has gone away completely. He will look deep in the ear again and even make sure the ear drum looks healthy. On that 10th day, I have appointments at 8 a.m. or 2 p.m. Which would you prefer?”
In these examples, I replaced the word wants with needs and recheck with follow up. I clarified what the doctor will be following up on in a way that the client cannot dispute. The client may say the ear looks fine after 10 days, but they cannot confirm if the ear drum is healthy. Only the doctor can do that. Additionally I switched from asking the client if they want to schedule necessary appointments (of course they don’t, that requires more time and money) to telling them when to schedule.
Use technology. Specifically, smartphone apps are now readily available for veterinary hospitals. Use yours to communicate via push notifications and texts. Apps are the most effective way to reach today’s consumers.
Another technology option is video. Establish a YouTube channel for your practice and use the videos you develop to educate clients. I learned this from my personal trainer. When I am working out with my trainer, he’s right there to coach me. But when I leave and have to do my homework on my own, I often don’t do things exactly right. My trainer uses my phone to video me doing the exercise with his commentary and then I have that resource to use on my own until we meet again. It’s genius! Our veterinary clients would greatly benefit from this type of tool, too. The more ways we teach them and the more tools we give them, the more likely they are to be compliant and successful.
Programs that promote loyalty and offer client rewards for “good habits” have proven to be very successful across many industries, including veterinary medicine. Creating this type of program for your veterinary practice will help increase client compliance. It is just that simple. There are a variety of programs available to your practice so do a little research to choose the one that is best for your clients.
Monitor client behavior
The final part of increasing client compliance is to monitor client behavior, which means being familiar with your practice data. A plethora of data is available to you—don’t be scared of it! There are easy ways to calculate factors such as forward booking rate, reminder response rate, etc. You can even have your team’s communication skills accessed via secret shoppers to make sure they are properly trained.
Knowing your data allows you to determine what parts of your practice are doing well and what areas need to be tweaked for growth. That growth comes from making sure that clients are successful in executing the advice that you give them.
Visit Marshall Liger, LVT, CVPM, of Liger Veterinary Consulting at ligerveterinaryconsulting.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional tips on improving client compliance and other ways to improve your practice.