The power of data: How it can help your veterinary practice thrive
By Courtney Carter
Create a framework for growth in acquisition, retention, and client compliance
The key to beating e-retailer giants is having clean, accurate data — not necessarily more of it, but the data that your competition does not.
Consider this: You have more valuable data about your customers in your practice information management system (PIMS) than online retailers have about those same customers. How can you use it to your advantage to better understand the customer journey? Every piece of data you gain about your pet owners is a relationship-building tactic.
What potential is hidden within your practice's data? Your practice data can hold the keys to unlocking three unique areas of your business — acquisition, retention, and client compliance.
What touchpoints does a pet owner have with your practice before they book an appointment? Where and when did any virtual interactions occur and how are you ensuring that this data is streamlining into your practice management software? Assessing your current tactics for onboarding and interacting with your pet owners is critical, and you should make seamlessly gathering this data your top priority if you don’t already do so. Strategic analysis can help your practice better understand the market, win against the competition, and ultimately, gain more customers.
Finding the right set of tools for efficiently generating value is key. Do you have the right tools for measurement?
Align your new client acquisition goals against the corresponding data points. Do you want to increase revenue? Then measure your current practice tactics in each goal category. Do you want to improve your communication strategy? Then evaluate the messages you’re currently sending. Do you want to grow in a particular category of treatment? Then look at current revenue and see if growth is feasible with your current tool kit.
Every piece of data you get about your customer or potential customer is another piece of information you can use to craft an effective marketing and practice growth strategy.
Retention starts before a pet owner even leaves the practice. You should view the client experience from both a clinical and an administrative lens. Clients expect a high quality of care for their pets; that’s table stakes. However, their experiences with the front of the house also impact their loyalty. Ask yourself:
- What is the average wait time?
- Is the front office staff professional in their interactions?
- What does a client see and hear when they walk into the practice?
A positive, customer-focused experience on all counts will encourage repeat visits.
The data in your client communication software powers retention. A thorough, intelligent system will include protocols that automate pet owners' appointment reminders. Of course, those messages are only valuable if they reach their target. Did you know clients who don't receive intended phone calls and reminders due to bad data is one of the largest challenges an animal hospital faces? Thirty-six percent of patient records have bad or missing emails and 30 percent are missing mobile phone numbers.1
Incorrect or missing data equals potential revenue left on the table. What if staff were proactively alerted to missing emails or blank phone numbers at client check-in? They could then gather that information from pet owners when they are waiting to see the veterinarian, improving the odds of client retention in one easy step.
Pet parents miss recommended schedules for vaccines, annual exams, and other services all the time. Is your system notifying you of additional pets in households that are missing critical services? For one out of every four appointments, there is the opportunity to schedule another visit with a different pet in the same household.2
Forward booking and reminder automation are powerful data-based tools that lead to repeat visits. A retention calendar makes it simple for hospitals to notify clients automatically when their pet is coming due or lapsing on visits and encourages multi-pet homes to schedule all at once.
Kerry Leuker, CVT and hospital manager at Crest Hill Cat and Dog Clinic in Joliet, Illinois, utilizes AllyDVM's retention calendar software and says, “The retention calendar is a huge selling point for us because it is so helpful to show us the other pets in the household that are due for exams. I do not know how many times we have had clients get mad at us for not letting them know their other pets were due to be seen too.”
With a retention calendar, staff will receive reminders to book the next visit well before a client and their pet leaves your practice. If the pet is a sick patient, they are automatically booked out in alignment with your specific protocol for re-exam. A programmable client
communication system that has integrated with your retention calendar lets your veterinary practice set the cadence for reminder texts and emails.
Remember, it’s imperative that your practice's pet owner communications stand out. It’s easy for messages to get lost in the shuffle; think of the number of emails you personally receive in a day. Use your data smartly to segment the audience and break through the noise. It is counterproductive to send an email about senior bloodwork testing to your entire database when it only applies to a small segment of your practice. It also has the potential to annoy your clients, who may then ignore future correspondence from your clinic because previous emails were irrelevant to their pet.
Lastly in your toolkit of retention tactics, know that today’s pet owners crave convenience in communications. The old routine of calling a clinic, getting placed on hold, and then trying to sync schedules based on availability does not fit anymore. A patient portal where they can self-schedule appointments, update contact details, access their pet’s health records, track loyalty program points, and more helps keep them engaged. And an engaged client is more likely to become a return client.
Close to 60 percent of pets have at least one past-due reminder, and 28.4 percent of pets don't have a rabies vaccine reminder in their records.3 Sending highly specific, service-related communications directly to clients who are lapsing on critical services will boost their compliance rate.
Is your veterinary practice reaching pet owners on their preferred medium? The more likely they are to listen, the greater compliance they will demonstrate. Two-way texting and direct messages are one solution for mending the communication gap, especially for younger generations. Clients crave instant communication with a quick turnaround of information. Reaching them where they are bonds them to the practice. Pattie Christie, CVT, CVPM and practice manager at Minnehaha Animal Hospital and Pet Doctors Animal Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says, “A client can send us a request and we can get right back to them. Clients really appreciate that they have the ability to connect with us without having to make a call.”
With the right technology, your practice can seamlessly manage appointment reminders as well as follow-up messages after visits and procedures. These messages can remind pet owners of the services performed and offer recommendations that impact comprehension and compliance.
Understandably, when these potential communication gaps exist at an annual checkup, clients are more likely to underutilize necessary preventive care veterinary services. A study conducted by Partners for Healthy Pets confirms that in many cases, dog and cat owners fail to recognize what actually happens during a physical exam for their pets and the importance of those services performed.4
Another recurring trend indicates that practice staff believe most preventive healthcare services are more important than their clients perceive. Moreover, there is some confusion on the part of clients about which services staff actually perform during their pets' exams.
Proper follow-up communications and more frequent patient touchpoints increase education and compliance. Yet, poor data makes such strategies impossible. Ask clients to validate and/or update their contact information through your online portal, as they check in at the front desk, or in the exam room while speaking with your veterinary team.
Does your client communications platform offer sophisticated filtering to get the right message to the right client at the right time? Is it easy to track ROI with robust analytics and reporting? Is it flexible to meet the specific needs of your veterinary practice? Remember, data is what powers client communications. Choose a platform that makes recognizing and correcting missing information simple for your staff. Then you can unlock the true potential of your practice.
1. Data on file with AllyDVM.
2. Four reasons why technology helps practices keep veterinary clients. MWI Animal Health. 23 Feb 2022. Accessed 20 Jan 2023. Available at: https://www.allydvm.com/insights/four-reasons-why-technology-helps-practices-keep-veterinary-clients
3. AllyDVM – Study conducted in hundreds of practices for the American Animal Hospital Association’s Veterinary Management School.
4. The Opportunity. American Animal Hospital Association-American Veterinary Medical Association. 2018. Accessed 20 Jan 2023. Available at: https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/04-practice-resources/The-Opportunit