On Friday afternoon, the practice's lobby bustles with clients eager to pick up their Fluffys and Spots before the weekend. Phones are ringing, dogs are barking, and Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith, and Ms. Brown arrive at a quarter after 5 to reunite with their furry companions.
Mr. Jones pays for Rover's neuter—and then decides he also needs pet food and a new collar. Sure, you'll draw up another bill for him. Mrs. Smith needs to know how to give Snowball her insulin injections; you find a technician to demonstrate the procedure on the tabby. Ms. Brown asks for help hoisting her Labrador—whose fractured leg is now on the mend—into her sport utility vehicle; you're alongside her in the parking lot, making sure Max doesn't try to leap into the backseat.
Without a plan, end-of-the-day visits from clients can wreak havoc on your carefully planned schedule. Use these six steps to smooth the pick-up process and prevent backups.
1. Try some teamwork
Good communication helps you avoid most missteps. When your team is on the same page, the day just runs more smoothly, says Carrie Gaffney, a veterinary assistant at Rock Road Animal Hospital in St. Louis. Don't be the receptionist who needs to call the manager to settle a payment discrepancy or the technician who doesn't know the payment protocol. One stumble may mean Mrs. Smith waits an extra 30 minutes for discharge instructions—that's a half-hour for her to contemplate taking Snowball, her pampered Persian, to the practice down the road.
Getting your whole team on board also means making sure everyone knows the diets and products you recommend. "Cross training keeps you from having to get someone else for every little thing," says Mandy Finnell, RVT, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a technician at Cherokee Animal Clinic in Overland Park, Kan. And empowered team members who can answer clients' questions free up the doctors' time.
To prepare to answer clients' sometimes tricky queries, the team at Cherokee Animal Clinic plans fun continuing education sessions. During regular lunch meetings, Finnell says team members talk about the week's good and bad experiences and how they can improve their practice. They also examine specific issues such as purebred dog predispositions and the importance of recommending blood work.
2. Prepare for the pickup
It's the Boy Scouts' motto, and it should be yours too: "Be prepared." "A little bit of planning goes a long way," says Pamela Stevenson, CVPM, a practice management consultant with Veterinary Results Management Inc. in Durham, N.C.
If you know Mr. Johnson plans to pick up Fido at 3 p.m., plan ahead and update the invoice, fill the prescriptions, collect and wash Fido's stuffed animal and blanket, and remove Fido's catheter. In fact, a receptionist at Cherokee Animal Clinic reviews the morning's files each afternoon—grooming appointments, surgeries, dental procedures—and prepares food, medication, exams, report cards, and charges before scheduling discharge times with clients. (Also see "Forecast: Schedule Disrupters on the Horizon," Pearls of Practice.)
Make sure the doctor's in