9 ways to keep clients coming back

9 ways to keep clients coming back

Within three minutes of arriving at your practice, a client has formed an opinion about the quality of the care she and her pet will receive. What messages are you sending?
Dec 01, 2005

When we talk about client bonding, we're referring to the percent of clients that return within 18 months of their last visit. And this bonding rate is especially significant when you look at new clients. These first-time visitors represent the future of your practice, and the impression you make with them determines your ultimate success.

When I assess veterinary practices, I usually find the average bonding rate of new clients is around 60 percent. That means that for every 10 new clients, you can expect to retain six. The other four will choose a different practice.

Of course, you can't expect to be everything to everyone. It's really not even healthy to try. However, some practices achieve bonding rates of 80 percent and 90 percent. What are these practices doing to achieve these results? I've listed 9 strategies below. Perhaps some of these ideas could work for you.

1. Hone that first impression.

It may not seem fair, but clients judge the quality and value your practice offers during the first three minutes of contact—before you explain your high-quality personal care and the services included in a procedure. So if a client steps out of her car into a pile of feces, that experience could affect her compliance with your recommendations or response to the bill. And it's not a minor issue if your reception area is dingy or smells or if the magazines you make available include a 1988 National Geographic.

Have you "visited" your reception area or exam rooms lately? Do they accurately reflect the high level of care and service your practice team offers? Take a look at your practice through clients' eyes, and keep the three-minute-judgment syndrome in mind. You must be aware of the impression you're making if you want to improve your new-client bonding rate.

2. Give new clients a tour.

Giving client tours of your hospital is by far the most effective way to bond clients to your practice. Most clients have never seen past your exam room doors. And showing off your radiology department, surgery suite, and laboratory will leave them much more impressed with your practice. Tours also let you show off your team members' true care, concern, and professionalism.

I know one specialty hospital that has an average per client transaction of more than $1,500. Healthcare team members have told me that if they give a client a tour of the facility on the first visit, they almost never receive a complaint about fees—the clients understand the level of care and expertise the team offers. When team members don't give tours, they sometimes get complaints.

3. Understand your niche.

Every practice serves a specific client segment. One way to explain this concept is to look at hair stylists. My wife goes to a fancy hair salon where she gets her hair styled for $60. Now I don't have much hair, so I go to the nearby Cost Cutters and get a trim for $10. These businesses serve very different clientele. Can you be a fancy salon and charge Cost Cutters' rates? No. And you can't be a Cost Cutters and charge fancy hair salon rates. My wife wouldn't pay $60 if her hair looked like mine in the end. (She might sue). And I wouldn't expect to get a $10 trim at her hair salon. You need to understand and be true to your niche.

When a high-end practice offers low-cost spays and neuters or holds a rabies clinic once a month, what message do clients receive? Think of how this looks to a client; she spent $180 for an ovariohysterectomy last week, and today it would've cost her $95.

True, you can boost new-client numbers by offering a deal. But these price-conscious clients are coming for the cheap service. Once they discover that your practice isn't cheap, they'll go somewhere that is.

4. Emphasize great service.

I think every front office team prides itself on the high-quality of medicine and surgery the practice offers. And not many practice teams focus on service in the same way. But the service end of the equation is just as critical to the success of the practice.