You need a Client Communication Coordinator

You need a Client Communication Coordinator

Who has time to send smartphone texts, send and receive medical records, manage online appointments and send patient updates and cute pics to information-hungry pet owners? Here's why I think everyone needs this new client-facing team member in their veterinary practice.
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Feb 14, 2017

Look! It's Kellye Meyer, my Client Communication Coordinator. (Shutterstock.com)One new change at our practice that is 100 percent client-centric is the addition of a Client Communication Coordinator. If you're like us, you've noticed an explosion of requests for electronic communication, especially for medical record records from clients, referral practices, veterinarians who share a "mutual client" and, of course, taking in all of those records coming back into your practice from those other locations. But before we officially set up this new position, we talked through about some steps that needed to happen first:

You need to get rid of all those paper records—and do it now. On top of all of the other reasons electronic records are superior (storage, access, security, long-term protection), they are also a lot easier to send and receive.

You need a consistent email address—or several. And, remember, while it's nice to have email addresses associated with your website address—office@progressiveanimalclinic.com—it works just as well to get a simple Gmail account. It takes about 45 seconds and it's free. I cringe whenever I ask for a clinic's email address only to hear they don't have one. Really? Give your doctors their own emails so they can communicate with clients—that is, IF you want to employ doctors under the age of 40.

Get rid of your fax machine. Replace it with an eFax account and encourage anyone who wants to fax you something to send it by email instead. When someone sends a fax to your eFax account, they don't need to know you don't have a real fax machine. What they send is converted into an email for you. You'll take back counter space from your old machine, stop spending money on print cartridges, eliminate the need for a dedicated phone line, and, best of all, if you're keeping electronic records, the faxed messages are already electronic.

1. Clients want to send pictures of something for their veterinarian to look at—a hot spot, hair loss or a video of odd behavior. Your Client Communication Coordinator routes those photos to the appropriate doctor.

2. Many practices, including mine, use third-party systems to set up online appointment requests and electronic communication of appointment reminders and confirmations. It's an amazing system, but it sometimes requires some human interaction ... by your Client Communication Coordinator.

3. Would some of your clients love it if they could get text messages when a pet was cleared to begin an anesthetized procedure, when a procedure started and ended, when a pet went to recovery, and when a pet was awake and upright? That's an incredible service to provide, but it takes a Client Communication Coordinator to manage.

4. If you board pets at your facility, how much would clients love to get a photo emailed or texted of their beloved family member while they're away? Clients who receive them from our Client Communication Coordinator are very thankful.

5. Who manages your practice's social media presence? Don’t HAVE a presence? Start writing your practice’s obituary ... or hire or promote your own Client Communication Coordinator. These days it’s vital to follow clients' favorite ways of communicating, and social media is king. You’ll get feedback about your practice, you’ll be able to share things clients want to know about your practice, and you’ll be able to use social messaging as one more way to avoid the telephone, which will one day be completely replaced as the primary form of communication with your clients.

The writing's on the wall—or, rather, the smartphone—that clients want to communicate with you in much different ways then they did 10 years ago. Now the ball is in your court to give them what they want.

Find the right person on your team (or hire, if you need to). You're looking for an expert on navigating email, posting on social media, and scanning and managing paperwork equipment. Then make this person your inaugural Client Communication Coordinator.

It's money well spent.

Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Ore.

Good services but additional payroll may not be the fix

Rapport from Henry Schein is one example of an integrated system for not only texting and emailing clients but for having these communications initiate from and remain stored in the client's medical record. With the integration also comes automated headers and addresses from just a right click inside the patient record. Having to ask someone else to do this would actually add work in this example.

I agree 100% on eliminating the old fax machine. When one of our clients moves to another town and they call for records, we only offer to email them. We paid the money, trained the staff, and fully invested in our paperless practice. Transferring a vaccine history via email can be done in under 20 seconds. Having to print it, then feed it through a fax machine is time and money we will no longer spend. We also choose not to pay for an eFax service, or phone book listings, or local newspaper ads, or any of the other dead communication tools. If a hospital doesn't have an email address we offer to drop them into the old mail box when we run reminder cards. So far the hospitals that started out with 'we don't have an email address' were all able to come up with one.