You’ve got both phone lines ringing—again—three people standing in front of you, and an unsupervised Pomeranian peeing on your leg. Pulling out all your incredible CSR skills, you ask both lines if they have an emergency, and place them on hold, while lassoing the Pomeranian with a slip lead to prevent more damage. Multitasking like only you can do, you grab heartworm prevention off the shelf for client No. 1, as you schedule an appointment for client No. 2, and secretly try to dredge up telepathic skills that would summon some backup. But, alone, you fulfill your clients’ needs, mop up your leg, and then turn back to the phone lines in a panic.
“Oh no! They must have hung up.” You check the blinking answering machine, only to hear two messages you must have missed earlier during the after-work rush.
You sigh, thinking about how overwhelmed you are with wrangling the reception desk, the phone lines, the practice’s app, and the hospital’s email account, along with trying to create clever posts and videos for social media. If only a specific team member could be in charge of all the online accounts! Then you could focus on your CSR responsibilities for clients in the hospital and on the phone. You simply can’t do it all anymore.
If you could put yourself in your CSR’s shoes, there’s a good chance this is their daily struggle. Although you likely have a talented team skilled at multitasking, stretching them too thin can lead to less-than-excellent customer service, dissatisfied clients, and potential errors.
One great way to provide exceptional client service and avoid overwhelming your team: designate a digital coordinator to manage your online presence and handle digital client communications.
What does a digital coordinator do?
Some of the tasks you can hand off to your digital coordinator include:
- Monitoring your practice’s online reputation — Put your digital coordinator in charge of monitoring your online reviews, whether they’re on Google, Facebook, Yelp, NextDoor, or other social media sites. While they can easily reply to positive reviews with a heartfelt “thank you,” potential negative reviews may require practice owner or manager involvement.
- Managing your social media accounts — A solid social media strategy consists of more than posting cute cat memes on Facebook. Your digital coordinator can devise creative, educational, or light-hearted content to post across your social media platforms to boost client engagement, and promote a call to action (e.g., “click here to schedule an appointment”). Ideally, your digital coordinator should create a content calendar, schedule posts, and reply to comments and messages across all your social media channels.
- Implementing your online advertising strategy — Whether you deploy ads through Facebook or another platform, your digital coordinator can create an ad strategy, design ad content, analyze the results, and plan future ads based on engagement results.
- Handling your email account — Your digital coordinator should be in charge of your practice’s email account to message clients who prefer this method of communication. They can also weed through spam and advertising messages, fulfill Vetsource requests, and attach outside laboratory results to patient files.
- Engaging with clients through your practice’s app — Your digital coordinator can manage client engagement through your hospital’s app. A few specific app-related tasks include:
- Responding to messages via 2-Way Chat, and informing the appropriate team member when further action is needed
- Sending post-op updates and appointment follow-up messages through 2-Way Chat
- Confirming appointment requests
- Sending appropriate push notifications (e.g., “Happy holidays! Our practice will be closing today at 3 p.m.”)
- Fulfilling medication refill requests
- Sending medical records when requested
Another way to help promote your practice through your app and social media pages is by scheduling coordinating posts and notifications. For example, your digital coordinator could post a blurb about dental disease on your Facebook page, and then send out a push notification encouraging clients to schedule a dental cleaning for their pets.
By handling these tasks, your digital coordinator can free up your phone lines and your CSRs’ time.
How to choose a digital coordinator for your practice
Think your professional life would be much easier with a digital coordinator? Now, it’s time to choose the best person for the job. But, how? What qualities should you look for in your digital coordinator? The ideal team member should:
- Be adept at writing and grammar — This person will be representing your practice digitally, so you don’t want messages, posts, and other content to be riddled with errors.
- Stay up-to-date on the latest social media and online trends — We all know someone who practically lives on social media, and you probably have several of these people who already work in your practice. Before you make your final selection(s), ensure they’re active and engaging on their personal profiles, and that they stay up-to-date on the latest online trends.
- Understand your practice’s voice and brand — Again, this person is representing your practice digitally, so it’s important that their messages and posts are consistent with your brand. If you’re unsure about this, or if the thought of someone else controlling your practice’s digital “voice” terrifies you, provide regular oversight in the beginning, and slowly back off as your digital coordinator gains your trust.
- Be tech-savvy — The person who doesn’t know the difference between an emoji and a gif is probably not the best option for a digital coordinator. But, if you have a team member who is also your go-to IT person, they might be the perfect fit.
- Have adequate veterinary experience — If you plan to have your digital coordinator triage cases and answer client questions via 2-Way Chat, you want to choose a team member who has adequate veterinary experience, and can provide reliable guidance.
When you’re ready to designate a digital coordinator, let your team know, and ask for volunteers. The level of interest might surprise you. By granting an additional role to a team member and empowering them to tackle new tasks, they feel more valued, which directly benefits your practice. A team member who feels more valued is more likely to approach their daily duties with zest and vigor, since they are responsible for a unique, stimulating project.
In a high-turnover field, increasing your team’s engagement and job satisfaction is critical. In addition, your practice reaps the benefits of an invested employee.
You want a digital coordinator—what’s next?
So, you’ve decided a digital coordinator is in your practice’s best interests and you’ve chosen the perfect team member(s) for the position. Now, how do you reimburse them for their time and efforts? How should you add their tasks to the schedule? Consider the following criteria when devising a digital-coordinator salary and schedule:
- Calculate the time investment — Calculate the amount of time that managing your digital communications should take, which is a struggle for many veterinary practices. You know people can spend hours watching funny cat videos on social media, but how does that transfer to scheduling a block of time for actual work? Forget all the time-wasting scenarios that inevitably draw people into an hours-long spiral of memes and pet pictures, and instead focus on the following tasks, and how much time they might require:
- Social media post creation and publishing/scheduling
- Responding to 2-Way Chat, email, and social media messages
- Creating and sending push notifications
- Sending post-op updates and appointment follow-up through 2-Way Chat
- Online review monitoring and response
- Online advertising development and analysis
Each hospital will vary greatly in the amount of time it takes to accomplish these tasks, depending largely on how active their client base is on social media and the hospital’s app. However, most practices should expect a digital coordinator’s tasks to take a minimum of 5 to 10 hours per week.
- Work out their schedule — Once you’ve chosen a digital coordinator, determining how to schedule a block of time for digital communications will involve trial and error. Until a good workflow is established, and your coordinator gets the hang of content creation, scheduling, and replying to comments, it may be best to err on the side of scheduling too much time, rather than not enough. You also may want to break up the time. For example, schedule one hour each day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, rather than all three hours in one day.
- Give them options — If possible, offer the digital coordinator the option to perform their tasks at home or in the hospital. If they opt to work in the practice, give the entire team their schedule so everyone knows they’re doing social media and online communication for the practice, and not being paid to play around on Facebook. If they want to work at home, be clear about your expectations. For example, be specific about the number of posts that must be published per week, that reviews must be responded to within 72 business hours, and Facebook messages must be handled within 24 business hours, and ensure they meet those objectives.
- Make their job easier — We all love tools that make our jobs easier, and allow us to be more efficient, and, for your digital coordinator, these tools include scheduling and monitoring softwares. Some current favorite tools include:
- Buffer — A social media scheduling tool, Buffer drives engagement with a variety of features.
- Hootsuite — Another social media scheduling tool, Hootsuite is a popular option to help plan, create, and schedule content.
- MeetEdgar — A social media automation and scheduling tool, MeetEdgar automates content for your social media platforms based on your guidelines.
- Cyfe — An all-in-one business dashboard, Cyfe allows you to generate reports without going into each platform.
Not sure which tool would be best for your practice? Empower your digital coordinator to research and choose one!
- Check their impact — Periodically evaluate the effect of your online presence, such as whether it’s drawing in new clients, building loyalty, or increasing revenue with strategic ads.
Implementing a digital coordinator into your practice is easier than you think, but some trial-and-error may be required in the beginning, as you work out the kinks of scheduling and payment.
How a digital coordinator can benefit your veterinary practice
As a busy practice manager or owner, you understand that finding the time to squeeze in responses to emails, chats, videos, online medication refill approvals, online reviews, and Facebook messages can be difficult. So, why not turn to a motivated, interested, skilled team member to handle these tasks? Let’s focus on the value of a digital coordinator handling your social media and online tasks:
- Saving time — A digital coordinator who plans their content calendar, scheduling advance postings in one block of time, will mean your social media is completed with maximum efficiency in the shortest amount of time. Of course, they will still need to check periodically for comments, reviews, and other online client engagements, but the bulk of the tasks will already be scheduled.
- Improving focus and efficiency — Having one person responsible for all your social media tasks allows that employee to focus completely on their digital responsibilities, which almost always results in better quality work and increased efficiency.
- Getting the most of your investment — Designate someone to be your digital coordinator, take them off the floor, and set them up in a private nook, or encourage them to work at home and track their hours. If you have a digital coordinator who isn’t pulled in a million directions, social media management may take only one hour instead of four—a much better return on investment, which is what every practice manager or owner wants.
Ready to designate a digital coordinator, but still unsure about where to start? Contact Vet2Pet’s dedicated support team of professional coaches at firstname.lastname@example.org to help determine the best way to implement this essential player into your practice. Don’t have the app? Visit vet2pet.com/demo to schedule a 30-minute demo to see if Vet2Pet could be the right fit for your practice.
Dr. Caitlin DeWilde
Dr. Caitlin DeWilde is a practicing veterinarian graduate from the University of Illinois and is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm devoted to helping veterinary professionals learn, manage and grow their social media and online reputation. She has taken on a new role as Social Media Coach at Vet2Pet, working to help Vet2Pet practices with their social media strategy and goals. She can be reached at email@example.com.