THE primary aim of veterinary practices everywhere is to ensure the optimum health of the animals they treat.
Preventive healthcare means anticipating possible problems before they arise and to decrease the chance of them occurring. Vaccines, boosters, flea and worming treatment and regular check-ups to identify any other health issues are all measures recommended by the veterinary profession but are not always undertaken by clients.
As well as the obvious health benefits to pets, compliance has many benefits for the practice. Clients have increased confidence in their vet and are more likely to bond to the practice, meaning regular and repeat custom which is good for business.
Encouraging compliance is no easy task though, particularly now that general sales licensing allows pet shops and supermarkets to stock a range of flea and worming treatments and medicines are available from internet pharmacies.
Nevertheless, many vets have found new ways to improve compliance and so further bond clients to their practices.
Robert Thurlow of Bridge Vets in Scotland has an active client base of over 3,000 and is proud of his practice’s high rates of compliance. He believes that continuity of case management is key to encouraging compliance within a practice.
“I always see every animal myself as mine is a sole practice, but I believe that even in the case of larger multipersonnel practices, an animal with ongoing health issues should be seen by the same vet or practice nurse each time they visit whenever possible.
“As well as developing stability and customer confidence, it means the vet remains well-informed and has up to date knowledge about each animal. This means you’re better able to monitor care and encourage good compliance.”
Hazell Billam of Pegasus House Veterinary Centre in Cheltenham agrees with Robert on the value of continuity: “As a vet, you should always find time to make that extra phone call to report laboratory test results, follow up on treatment or simply ask how a patient is progressing. This attention to detail is a sure way of getting clients bonded to the practice, and once clients trust you, they are far more willing to take your advice.”
Bridge Vets provides a prescription service and only three of Robert Thurlow’s clients buy their medicines outside of the practice. “As an incentive for those who buy medicine through the practice, I offer a free follow-up check to ensure that medication is being administered properly and not causing any undue side effects. This has proved very popular with clients and as well as keeping medicine sales in-house, it has helped ensure that medicine is given in the correct dosage and at correct intervals.”
At Abbeyfields veterinary practice in Rocester on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border, Catrina Durose attributes the practice’s high compliance rates to excellent communication, well-trained and knowledgeable staff and competitive pricing plans.
Fifteen minute consultations
“As well as verbal instructions, we provide written guidelines for dosage instructions and issue postal reminders for booster injections. All clients are offered appointments of at least 15 minutes’ duration, so they do not feel rushed during consultations, and then these are followed up with a phone call to make sure that the customer has understood the issues and the course of action recommended,” explains Catrina.
Reasons for non-compliance may be complex but often the perceived costs of treatment play a part, and Catrina believes that competitive pricing structures and payment plans have also contributed to improved compliance at Abbeyfields.
“We recently treated a very thin nine-year-old collie that weighed just over 13kg and was not walking well. We correctly identified that he was lame in the right leg, but we were also concerned that he was too thin. Xrays were needed and so we recommended that the owners joined our PVA pet care plan as they’d save 10% on treatments and surgery immediately.
“The x-rays identified a mass in the spleen as the cause of weight loss, which was then removed and diagnosed as lymphoma. The dog has returned post-op and has already gained a kilo in weight within a week and will be returning for subsequent and regular check-ups, which we feel are far more likely to be attended because the owners have joined the pet care plan. They had also lapsed on the dog’s vaccinations but will now be following up on these as part of their plan.”
As comfortable as possible
Hazel Billam believes in making customers’ experiences as comfortable as possible to ensure they return for subsequent visits. “Even small touches can make a real difference. We are very generous with liver treats, which dogs love, and we make a real fuss of all the animals. If they are relaxed, it makes it easier for their owners who then don’t dread the next visit.”
“New clients are encouraged to bring their pets in for regular weight and worm checks and we have a very efficient reminder system for vaccines, flea and worm treatments and repeat prescriptions. We are pleased to be able to work with a dedicated customer care team, in the form of Premier Vet Alliance (PVA) which deals with this for us. Pet care plans are a very good way of improving customer compliance, not least because they will always get their routine flea and worm products from you.”
At PVA we offer a range of services that help vets to improve business practices and levels of pet care, combining advice from both clinical experts and business entrepreneurs. Our support includes a pet care plan, buying group and vaccination compliance programme, which all help to increase practice profitability whilst offering competitive pricing for clients.