It's 5:45 on Monday evening at Goodvet Animal Hospital. All the day's patients have been discharged, and all the overnight
patients have received their medications. The head technician is going through the hospital's closing procedures when she
sees three piles of patient charts that were set aside for callbacks. She sifts through the stacks, pulling out the calls
that need to be done that evening. Even with the entire staff helping, there's no way anyone will be walking out the door
on time. What's more, there's a heap of callbacks already in line for the next day.
Calling to check in is one way veterinary team members strive to go above and beyond clients' expectations. You phone to follow
up on patients' at-home recoveries, let owners know how their pets' surgeries went, gather additional history on patients,
and update estimates for drop-off patients. But this fabulous client service comes with a price.
The time you spend making calls affects the hospital's bottom line—and, often, your personal life. Think about it. It takes
a while to look at a patient's chart and figure out why the owner needs to be contacted. Then it takes even more time to make
the call. And time equals money. Of course, financial costs aren't the only concern. Hours spent on the phone add up to overworked,
stressed-out employees, which contributes to low staff morale and high turnover. This ends up causing poor client service
and, worst yet, poor patient care.
But there is a solution: Technology. By taking advantage of e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, and so on, you can
streamline the way your practice communicates with clients. Whether you work for one of the most progressive clinics or are
just looking for a few innovative tips, these six steps will get you started—and home in time to relax.
Step 1 Acknowledge the naysayers
Some team members might not like the idea of switching to electronic communication. You might be one of them. Working with
technology often creates a fear of the unknown. After all, most veterinary team members aren't experts in computers or software.
And sure, lots of people send e-mail messages, but e-mailing in a professional capacity is a different deal.
Then there's the issue of how clients will react. I'll admit that when the practice owner and I presented this topic during
a staff training meeting, some team members were concerned that our clients would reject the change. We work in a rural area
that's home to a large number of retired people, so they worried these pet owners wouldn't be electronically savvy. They were
also concerned that clients would dislike the impersonal nature of any computer-generated communication.
But half of our staff thought switching callbacks from the phone to e-mail, for instance, was the way to go. They even thought
clients might appreciate the move. After much discussion—and too much overtime spent making loads of callbacks—we took the
leap. In the end, our team and our clients responded favorably. If you're wary of electronic communication, try starting small.
But try. To virtually guarantee success, begin by converting clients who you know will be receptive (see Step 3).