Curbside care has been in our lives for more than 6 months now, and as we enter the dreaded flu season, a return to normalcy is nowhere in sight. Curbside care has become second nature to veterinary teams, but let’s admit it, there are still a number of wrinkles to iron out that are having a big impact on the client experience. I recently experienced curbside care for the first time, and I was quickly faced with a negative situation that could have been avoided with just a few changes.
My dog Gryphon had developed a strange, wet, phlegm-filled cough that would present itself only when he barked. He was otherwise eating, drinking, and breathing like normal, so I knew it didn’t warrant an emergency visit. Instead, I called my veterinarian on a Monday morning, but the earliest they could see him was Thursday. It was the last appointment of the day, and the only time slot they had available, so I had no choice but to take it.
Prior to Gryphon’s appointment, I tried several ways to send a video of his coughing to my veterinarian. I knew that, come the day of his visit, Gryphon would not exhibit his coughing to the veterinary team. But, the video file was too large, and I ended up having to show the technician who came to collect Gryphon from my car on the day of his appointment.
In the end, Gryphon was OK, and whatever had caused the strange coughing was magically cured. I left the animal hospital happy that my dog was healthy, but also embarrassed and a little worried. With appointment availability non-existent, I felt like I had taken that time slot away from someone who might have needed it more. On top of that, I waited four days to see my veterinarian, and in that time span, whatever had first caused his coughing was gone. The whole experience left me feeling that the coughing could return, and if it did, I had already wasted time and money on an appointment that would just need to be repeated.
Client experiences don’t have to be this way—even during COVID. Read on for some suggestions to improve your clients’ experiences now and in the future.
How to improve your clients’ experiences during COVID
Not every one of your clients will be flexible or willing to wait four days to see you. They may be forced to seek care from another veterinary hospital down the street when they have a sick pet and can’t be seen right away by you. Consider these tips to step up your customer service game during COVID:
- Set time aside in your practice schedule for sick pet exams. It could be committing to one or two wellness visits an hour, and leaving the rest of the time open for the ADR cases. Or, perhaps you reserve just a few appointment slots each day for sick pets. Either way, your clients will be less likely to visit a different hospital if they feel like they can still rely on you for those same-day appointments.
- Use digital communication to teletriage.Use your practice app or two-way messaging service to encourage clients to send a message when they have a pet health concern so your team can decide if the pet needs to come in right away or not at all. You can request pictures or videos to help you determine the severity of the case, and with Vet2Pet’s 2-Way Chat feature, you can quickly turn it into a telemedicine consultation, and request and process payment without ever leaving the chat.
- Take your scheduling to the next level. If the thought of using digital communication to teletriage terrifies you, consider designating an employee to be a digital coordinator. This person will be responsible for answering incoming chats, messages, and requests, which will free up your staff to see more patients, and will mean that clients will receive better service faster. It’s a win-win!
- Allow clients to drop their pets off. Many clients aren’t fans of curbside care, and part of the reason it can be unpopular is because people often don’t like sitting in their cars, waiting for the veterinary team to do what they need to do. If your space allows, give clients the choice between a typical curbside appointment, where they wait in the car, and a drop-off appointment. Drop-off appointments allow clients to be productive and do other things while their pet is in your care, and they can be more convenient for your team, too, allowing them to care for dropped-off pets as they are able.
As someone who previously worked in practice, and who continues to work in the veterinary industry, I understand how challenging this year has been for veterinary practices. As a pet owner, though, I saw several areas of service that could have been improved upon with just a few simple changes from my veterinary hospital. Embrace technology and think creatively to improve your clients’ experiences during COVID and beyond.
Find out how Vet2Pet’s all-in-one client engagement and communication platform can help you improve your client experiences—sign up for a demo today.
Krystina Boozer, MBA
Krystina has been working in the veterinary industry since 2014, with experience in private practice, emergency, and shelter medicine. In 2016, she earned her MBA and worked as the marketing manager at a private mixed-animal practice. In her marketing operations role at Vet2Pet, Krystina is responsible for managing and enhancing client communications.