Use a schedule to optimise client management with dates and times

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Use a schedule to optimise client management with dates and times

Lots of veterinary centre owners with years of experience behind them freely admit that the most irreplaceable person on their team is a good receptionist. In addition to being the face and voice of the company portrayed to clients, reception staff are responsible for efficiently managing the centre’s schedule, with the consequent impact on the internal organisation of work.

Managing a veterinary practice

Client management: are consultations by appointment or unscheduled?

There is an increasing trend towards the consolidation of scheduled appointments as a system for organising work in veterinary centres. The preference for this working method is based on the advantages it offers to both the client and the clinic.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE CLIENT

  • Shorter waiting time. A well-managed scheduled appointment system will help drastically reduce waiting times at the clinic.
  • Better patient and client care. Scheduled appointments mean the clinic has some advance knowledge of who is going to visit and for what reason. Thus, they can prepare the detailed information necessary to provide the best personal and medical care.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE CENTRE

  • More efficient internal organisation of work. Avoids the typical busy peaks of work followed by frustrating periods of inactivity. This will also guarantee that the centre’s staffing structure is sized correctly.
  • Adapting the service to different client profiles or medical situations. Maybe it would be a good idea to book the best time slots for our “VIP clients”? Or to reserve consultations of different lengths for different medical situations?
  • Promoting the veterinary surgeon’s professional image. Have you ever considered going to an architect’s, lawyer’s or notary’s office without booking an appointment? Most of us don’t do this because we think that these qualified professionals are busy people, whose time is valuable. Following the same reasoning, why do we educate our clients to do the opposite? Do we want them to perceive us as health professionals or as retail shops where people stop to make unplanned purchases?
  • Proactive client management. If the vet says to the clients, “come in a few days’ time”, “come back next year ” or “come again if Luna appears unwell”, can we really expect that the client will return to the centre? Why leave the responsibility of deciding when to visit the clinic in the hands of the client? Surely it would be better if the veterinary centre, as the pet’s health managers, establish the appointment schedule? Another great advantage of the scheduled appointment system is that clinics can make specific recommendations to clients about when they should return to the centre: “Mrs Rogers, the doctor told me that he would like to check Luna again next week. When would be better for you, Tuesday at 5:30, Wednesday morning at 9:30?”

Two practical ideas for the client management schedule

  • Start the daily schedule with an unusual time slot. It is better to make an appointment at 9:35 than 9:30; several studies show that client punctuality increases when appointments are made at times that are harder to remember because they pay more attention to the time.
  • Leave each vet a free slot of 45–60 minutes in the middle of the morning, and another one in the middle of the afternoon, this is used as a buffer, so they can catch up any accumulated delays or carry out administrative and management tasks.

Another key aspect of client management is post-visit follow-up

Veterinary centres often lose between 20 and 40% of their clients each year and most of them don’t come back simply because they forget.

We have already seen that follow-up calls after surgery have a major impact on clients. Another good way of avoiding such high rates of lost clients is to make reminder calls; clinics can also run mobile apps as a means of sending appointment reminders to clients.

EXAMPLE OF A TELEPHONE STRATEGY FOR REMINDER CALLS:

Good (morning/afternoon), Mr/Mrs. (CLIENT SURNAME), I am (NAME OF CALLER) and I am calling from ABC Veterinary Clinic. According to our patient files, we are aware that (PET’S NAME) has not visited the centre in the last 12 months, and so we are calling, first to confirm that (PET NAME) is OK, and secondly – in case you had forgotten – to remind you that (PET NAME’S) last vaccinations have now expired unless they have been done in the last 12 months...”.

Original text:
PERE MERCADER, DVM MBA

@pmercadervms

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