7 tips to elevate your veterinary service
Big business got wise to the veterinary industry and now everyone's cutting the line to be the first to give Fido a pat and Felix a scratch. If veterinary teams don't take a more aggressive approach to preparing for what the future may hold, we may end up being as relevant as a stand-alone fruit cart. We call these preparations for the future "strategic planning," and here are a couple of areas you can consider when preparing for the inevitable future.
1 Reach out. Fifteen years ago client care representatives picked up a phone and faxed stuff. Today we find them drowning in text messages, pet portals, emails, social media posts and multiple contact numbers. And the bad news is, it's only going to get more complicated. Training team members on communication solutions should be the first step in getting your practice ahead of the curve to reach clients with a personal touch.
2 Catch their eye. If your identity and mission are written on a brochure, you better fold it into an airplane and throw it at the person you want to read it. We find out about each other and our world using social media, YouTube and other online content. These stories are told in pictures, not words. Get a camera and someone who knows how to use it. Work towards a library of images and videos that describes your mission in visual language.3 Don't fight the price war—you'll lose. The future of your practice's success will be built on value and relationships, not low-cost pricing. Sell brand-name products exclusive to the veterinary industry and emphasize your service. Build a business based on how you serve, not what you serve.
4 Forge ties. General practices begin each day with a looming question mark: What chaos will the phone lines ring in today? Emergencies, euthanasias, routine surgeries, boarders, new puppies and difficult clients come in any order, at any time, preventing your organization from getting into a groove of teamwork. Reach out to referral practices to take these curve-ball cases, because the general practice pricing structure literally makes them more trouble than they're worth. Typically, referral practices abound in management, marketing, human resources and training resources. By exchanging your most complicated cases for training on how to market and offer preventive care extremely well, everyone wins.
5 Urge professional organizations to evolve. Our professional organizations used to be the only resource of continuing education, but nowadays our very best doctors stream online training free of charge, and we can view it at any time at our own convenience. By shifting the focus of our professional organizations from educators to ambassadors to the pet-owning public, they will loudly attest to our commitment to care, underline our marketing and push us to the forefront of online searches.
6 Dial it in. The world is looking for more time at home, so think outside the box and outsource some of your practice's most irksome chores: scheduling, marketing, phone calls, payroll, financial oversight and so forth. Video conferencing, real time file exchanges, instant communication—all are easy to use, cost nothing and make working from home a real possibility. By outsourcing work not directly related to patient and client care, you can give your team a laser-like focus.
7 Use case-based management training. Our practice managers are often client care representatives and technicians with seniority and higher pay. Success with traditional business-school-like management training has been spotty. By adding case-based management training to our regular training, we provide real help in real time on real issues. Look to experienced managers—who may be members of your professional associations or attendees or speakers at continuing education venues—to provide coaching via video or phone chats. And remember, help is often only an Internet search away.
Ensuring your practice's success in the face of so many hurdles is about much more than money. It's holding our ground as the superior solution to veterinary medicine for employees, clients and patients. Fighting for viability and future success may be one of the most demonstrative commitments to animal well-being that you will ever make.
Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and co-owner of Halow Tassava Consulting.