Why clients leave
Now you may be thinking, "This could never happen in our clinic." But don't be too hasty, says Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, a consultant with Gatto McFerson CPAs in Santa Monica, Calif. Stories like these happen in practices every week, she says, so keep an open mind and an open heart to learn from these clients in crisis. Then use the advice from Firstline Editorial Advisory Board members Dr. Felsted, Sheila Grosdidier, BS, RVT, and Sharon DeNayer to head off serious client service gaffes.
They were too busy for meAs Yogi Berra said, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." The doctors at the practice we left were excellent, but the front office staff members were overworked and rude. The practice was so successful it was difficult to get an appointment. And when we had an emergency, the front office was uncooperative.
How you can do it better
As your practice grows, you may need to develop new systems to maintain the homey feel that helped you achieve success, says Grosdidier, a partner with VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. Consider these strategies:
Hire a greeter. A greeter's full-time job is to welcome clients. They don't answer phones or sit behind the reception desk. They focus on hospitality, whether it's offering drinks or talking to clients about their pets, grandkids, and softball teams.
Use their names. Every team member should greet clients and pets by name and thank them for taking the time to visit the practice. One trick: Tell clients you want the pet's picture for the medical record, and take their picture with the pet. So when clients walk in the door, there's a good chance you can call them by name. This is a great tool for new team members, too—no matter who's at your front desk, your clients will receive the same warm greeting that becomes a trademark for your practice.
Encourage drop-offs. The client can leave the pet and the doctor can examine the pet when he or she has time. Then you can call the client when her pet's ready to go home.
Make sure you're staffed appropriately. Perhaps you need more veterinarians, or maybe you need more technicians and the doctors need to delegate more. If your next available appointment is two weeks away or more, decide whether you want to grow to accommodate more clients or close your practice to new patients. Click here for a sample inactive client letter.