Whether you’re a small-town veterinarian or an upscale restaurateur in New York City, it is no longer enough to greet a new customer at the door with a smile and chalk that up to “exceptional customer service.” Providing a good experience and mastering the art of customer retention has billowed out into countless channels that you, as a business owner, are responsible for becoming familiar with.
Today, it’s less about customer service and more about customer experience. From the moment that a customer’s eyes fall upon an ad for your company to the time of the purchase and beyond, every little interaction you have with a customer is a pivotal component between a one-time purchase and a loyal, returning customer. So, do everything in your power to maximize your ability to bring in those repeating customers.
This new paradigm of business can seem daunting to those who have been operating the same way for decades. While some techniques for customer loyalty will never change, there are a few new tricks you may need to adopt in order to stay up to par in our rapid-pace business world.
1. Train staff to be helpful and friendly.
Even in the face of omni-channel business models we see today, there is nothing quite like creating an inviting atmosphere in your office in order to build trust with a customer. This is especially true in places like doctor or vet offices, where anxiety and tension tend to be commonplace. In this situation, a nice greeting, a smile, and a little genuine concern can go a long way.
If you have a vet practice, encourage your staff to express love for the pets! It’s just another subtle gesture to show the owners the passion and care that your practice has for its cuddly patients. It might even make the animal calm and more manageable. But don’t expect any five-star Yelp reviews from our four-legged friends!
Taking the time to remember a few things about each of your clients goes a long way as well. Little facts like the pet’s birthday, what treats they enjoy, or the story about how the owner rescued their pet can mean a lot to a customer. Try to assign the same representatives to returning clients to develop a sense of trust and familiarity, thus creating more value for them and you. This is important to remember: although your accommodations of the pet and their owner should be well intentioned, you are still a business. Try to tie all practices back to value for you.
Lastly, people love free stuff. It doesn’t have to be much; it could be a treat on the way out the door, or perhaps a new metal name tag for the pet’s collar. These are tangible items that leave with the client that will help them attribute a good experience to your practice.
2. Use omni-channel communication.
This is where things might become a little more unfamiliar for industry veterans. As everyone is well aware of now, our world is incredibly connected. Advanced integrated softwares, social media, and the concept of cloud computing have permeated every pore of our existence, and your practice is no exception. The culmination of all of these technologies has ushered in a new level of what it means to have customer loyalty amongst your clients.
At this point, your practice has probably gotten a portion of omnichannel communication correct—you have more than likely created a website, one or more social media channels, set up a blog, and you may have even implemented a new cloud-based software system. However, all of these things alone do not make up an omnichannel communication system. In order for you to achieve this, you have to create a seamless user experience across all platforms, aligning your brand, messaging, objectives, and design uniformly across each.
The omnichannel experience is most commonly put into an example using an online or brick-and-mortar retailer, citing the journey of being able to track purchases across several platforms. Obviously for you as a veterinary service, not too many purchases will be going through an online portal. However, omnichannel communication is still very much a viable strategy that should be on your radar.
Take this example: A potential client asks her friends on Facebook for a recommendation for a vet for their dog. Fortunately, she has a common connection with a client of yours, and he links her to your Facebook page. From there, she is able to call or make an online appointment. The client comes in for her appointment, gives you her information, and has a smooth, inviting, and informative visit with her pet. She makes her payment, the receptionist makes note of the pet’s records, and another appointment for a checkup in six months is set up, all within your cloud-based software. Later, she checks her email and sees the receipt for the transaction, an appointment reminder, and an easy electronic survey through a review site about her experience, which is all sent automatically. Now, with integrated software like fetch, patients can receive educational information about their pet’s care from the trusted voice of authority–their veterinarian.sent with Voice of the Vet messages.
This is the ideal situation for an omnichannel experience for a client. Combined with your exceptional service, this seamless setup will ensure that this client brings her pet back to you time and time again.
3. Use your best player: the Veterinarian.
No matter how nice and accommodating the staff is, your clients are there for guidance and expertise about the health of their pets. And no one provides this level of assurance and education better than the veterinarian.
The veterinarian is the key position that your clients want to talk to during each and every visit. While the staff and technicians work is surely appreciated, it’s the opinion and course of action of the doctor that matters most to customers. Again, this all comes back to every part of the customer journey being fulfilled. If a client comes in, has to wait 45 minutes past his appointment time, and isn’t able to actually speak to the doctor during his visit, a nice, welcoming staff or a cute toy on the way out the door isn’t going to cut it.
4. Ask THEM for help
People like to know when they can be helpful, and it can actually play a huge role in their loyalty to your business. Ask them questions during their visit and validate their concerns. Invite them to participate in volunteer and service programs or research to bolster both the industry and their community. Ask them to fill out surveys in order to figure out how to best serve them in the future. In short, make sure they feel like they are heard!
While some of the basic things that make up the customer experience may never change, a lot is changing thanks to advancements in technology. It can be daunting and off-putting to embark on a quest to create a seamless customer journey, but armed with the right tools and knowledge to do the job, you’ll free up more time to focus on the part of your profession that really makes a difference.