Holding on to a potential new client - Veterinary Practice
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Holding on to a potential new client

Liz Watkins continues her new series of discussions of the ways in which excellent customer service can help a practice keep existing clients happy and also win new ones.

ONCE upon a time there was a lovely lady called Margaret who had a new dog. Margaret called her Dixie and she was the very apple of her eye.

So she wanted only the best for Dixie, and she phoned her three local veterinary practices to try to decide who she would like to care for her precious dog.

She knew it was naïve to call and say “How good are you?”, so instead she used a question she was comfortable with, one that would help her to get a basis for comparison. Because of this, she opened the conversation with, “How much are your dog vaccines, and when do I need to get them done?”

All the practices were friendly. All of them sounded competent. And yet it was easy for her to make her decision.

Because only one was really interested in Dixie. Only one asked about her, only one found out her name and empathised with her feelings of love toward her new dog.

This first phone call or visit to the practice is the one and only chance the practice has to engage the client and create the foundations of a loyal client for the future. Great marketing will help guide clients toward this contact. Great day-to-day customer service will help consolidate loyalty. The squeeze point through which all potential clients must pass is the initial contact.

The Golden Rules for this first conversation are:

1. Never, ever talk about money first.

This would give a strong impression that the practice cares about the money more than the pet.

2. Show a genuine interest in the client and his or her pet.

The true deal maker and breaker. Yes, staff find this difficult initially because it involves taking control of the conversation and changing the subject. More shy personalities will find this really hard.

The best technique is to have a stock question that is asked first: “What is his or her name?” (NEVER “What is its name?”!). The subject change is now achieved and it’s easy to continue the conversation, which will establish your interest in the owner and the pet.

There is another word in this heading that is crucial: the interest must be genuine. People are extremely sensitive to the nuances of tone and other behaviour and will soon spot an insincere question.

3. Make a free offer for the pet and owner.

A free offer helps establish rapport and trust. A car repair business may have a preliminary look at your car to discuss the problem, a restaurant may have peanuts and pretzels on the bar, and a vet may offer a tour of the practice, a free discussion of routine care, or a phone call with the vet to discuss a case prior to the appointment.

Of course, the purpose of all this is to guide the owner toward that first appointment. It would be wrong from both a business and ethical point of view to start giving veterinary advice at this point. Unless, of course, your free offer is an initial veterinary consultation.

4. If a quote was requested, explain what it includes.

Unless you are the cheapest practice in the area, stating a price without further information will encourage those who are phoning around to go elsewhere. Why should a more expensive quote be accepted without good reason?

5. Offer an appointment.

A call to action is necessary to jog those who are on the verge of making an appointment. Compare these two approaches. Which do you think is better?

A. “I have a slot on Friday at 2pm, if that would suit?”

B. “Would you like to make an appointment?”

In the first case, the client will feel the practice takes the client’s concern seriously, and wants to help. In the second, the client is asked to make the decision – it can give the impression that the practice doesn’t really mind one way or the other whether the pet is seen.

6. Capture client details.

The client may not wish to become a member of the practice right now. But with no detail capture, the person is lost forever. Given some details, especially an e-mail address together with permission to use it, the practice can continue to show its commitment via newsletters, or by sending an information pack.

7. Tell the client a little about the practice and what is special about it.

If the client is still open to conversation, explain why the practice is better than others. All staff should be very clear about the USPs (unique selling points). Is it a late night opening, a healthy pet club, hospital status, or what?

Not only do clients need to know what these are, but also how they will benefit the pet: “We are a veterinary hospital. This means that if Dixie is ill, we have a nurse on-site 24 hours a day for her.”

8. Keep any promises made!

Obvious, simple, essential.

Phone around your local practices pretending to be Margaret. Which one would you choose for Dixie? And why?

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