Finding the right channels to reach pet owners
By MWI Animal Health
Your veterinary practice wants to reach pet owners where they are, providing both services and communications that are compelling and relevant. But this might feel a little overwhelming. How can you determine what your clients need so you can provide them with the resources they'll appreciate the most? This guide will walk you through how to become more client-centered, focusing on your pet owners' specific, unique needs.
Use a variety of communication media to meet your clients' preferences
Your first step in reaching your clients involves determining what types of communication they prefer. Do they like emails, phone calls, texts, social media posts, or other methods of interaction?
For example, a client's generation may influence the medium and message style they prefer. Baby boomers like a range of communication forms, including postcards and emails. Gen X, on the other hand, easily adapts to new and old technology. They prefer simple, authentic, and caring messaging styles no matter the medium. For example, if they dropped their pet off for a curbside visit, they'll appreciate texts with photos of their pets throughout the visit.
Millennials enjoy telehealth and other messaging styles that are convenient to a generation that gets much of their news from streaming platforms and online videos. But they also like messaging that reflects their financial concerns. So if you provide websites that provide loyalty programs that give them discounts, along with patient portals that are transparent about pricing, they will appreciate that.
Gen Z is often drawn to cutting-edge online communication. They have a special affinity for online videos, which makes them a great demographic for telehealth appointments and video PSAs about pet health.
Overall, the younger your demographic skews, the more likely they are to want online communication options that involve chats, texts, and even 24/7 advice. For example, certain pet triage services allow veterinarians to provide 24/7 advice through an online analysis tool, along with remote monitoring for more serious cases. Younger generations will especially appreciate this type of care.
1. When phone calls are important
An anonymous survey by the American Pet Products Association found that for hospitalized pets, owners really appreciate getting personal phone calls with updates. In fact, if their pets are in the hospital for more than 24 hours, the majority prefer updates ranging from every 4 to 6 down to every 2 to 3 hours.
Interestingly, nearly half of millennials prefer phone calls following up on veterinarian appointments rather than text. This is an exception to their overall preference for less intrusive communication. A full 83 percent expect their veterinarian to either call or text within two days of a visit.
An online survey by Blue Research found that pet owners also enjoy being able to speak with their veterinarian on the phone to ask questions that don't require in-person visits.
The takeaway here is that when a situation is more urgent or personal, pet owners expect a personal touch. The more urgent the situation, the more they want a phone call.
2. When texts are important
Though phone calls are vital, many pet owners prefer less-intrusive text messages for routine communication. American Pet Products Association found that 52 percent of pet owners surveyed preferred getting appointment reminders via text. For millennials, it skews higher, with 86 percent wanting texts for appointment reminders, 58 percent wanting them for checkup reminders, and 48 percent wanting them for refill reminders.
The takeaway here is that text messages are better than phone calls when it comes to less-urgent scenarios, like appointment reminders or overdue bills. This is especially true the younger a demographic is.
3. When emails are important
Emails are another vital tool in your communication toolbox. According to the online survey by Blue Research of pet owners across the United States, most pet owners actually want to receive emails from their veterinarians. In fact, emails help them feel like their veterinarians are more accessible, which they truly appreciate.
They'd like to get emails about topics like prescription reminders, improving their pets' health, product discounts and recommendations, and general pet news. They'd be happy to get these messages monthly or even weekly.
Nearly everyone surveyed wanted to receive emails from their veterinarian, but only half currently do. And about 77 percent said they would take action on a promotional email if received.
This points to a rich, widely untapped communication channel. Your practice would be wise to consider adding a robust email marketing program. Look for a program that integrates with your client database, provides automated promotions for your online store, and can link to articles your clients will find valuable.
4. Social media is still important
Social media is still important for getting out general PSAs and updates about services you offer. Nearly 30 percent of millennials, for example, expect their veterinarian to make themselves available on social media.
As you can see, there's a time and place for all different forms of communication.
Show your clients you care by keeping favorable COVID-related changes
Though communication media are a clear way to meet your clients where they are, the services you offer can also signal that you care. A great place to start is by reviewing the COVID-related changes you put into place and keeping the ones that are most beneficial to meeting your clients' needs. Keeping these changes could have a positive effect on your clients' perception of your practice, tangibly demonstrating that what's important to them is also important to you.
According to the online survey by Blue Research, pet owners are especially appreciative of curbside services, virtual appointments, and scheduling appointments online because these services make their lives so much easier and more convenient.
When responding to the survey, one person wrote, "I really liked the curbside service because it was fast and there is usually a long wait when you go inside." Another respondent said they like not having to worry that their pet might get sick from interacting with other pets in the waiting rooms.
Others replied specifically about telehealth, referring to the option as being a "lifesaver" and perhaps the "biggest positive change" implemented since the pandemic.
Clients were also excited about the prospect of ordering products and medications from their veterinarian's online store and having everything delivered to their home. In fact, 92 percent surveyed want e-commerce options, including non-prescription products that their veterinarians have approved. And seven out of 10 would utilize autoship if available for prescriptions.
When answering the Blue Research survey, one respondent wrote, "I like that some aspects of veterinary care are becoming more digitized. It's easier to schedule appointments online, order pet care prescriptions and other supplies."
Based on the email statistics shown earlier in this guide, your practice would be smart to implement an online store that's connected to a robust email marketing program.
Being more client-driven can improve your practice's bottom line
If you're worried that client-focused communication practices are going to take up too much of your staff's time, you can rest assured that this isn't the case. In fact, using a communication system that can automate many of your messaging tasks can actually free up your staff's time and reduce stress. Instead of needing to personally send every appointment reminder or refill update, automation can free staff to focus on making personal calls for more urgent situations.On top of that, automating tasks like appointment reminders can actually increase practice revenue.
It's quite clear that reaching clients where they are is a boon not just for the pet owners and their pet's overall health, but for your practice's bottom line too.