Have You Heard?....

This month we’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of word of mouth. Family members have experienced some great examples of exemplary service recently, and they were keen to spread the word. An RAC breakdown call that was responded to quickly, professionally and with just the right levels of good humour to lighten the rubbish situation. An ambulance in rural North Yorkshire that arrived in just four minutes to whisk a poorly child off to hospital.

Unfortunately we also heard of a disappointing experience with the processing and communication of an insurance claim. But the point is, we heard about them. When so much of our life admin is automated and standardised by AI and chatbots, systems and processes, it’s the human interactions that stand out. That make us feel we’ve been looked after. Or not.

Building Trust
At Onswitch, we know that the best patient outcomes only happen when the practice team work closely with the people who care for them. It takes time and empathy to build relationships founded on trust and respect. If you think about the time our clients spend with their pets, horses and livestock, relative to the very small number of veterinary minutes they experience in any given year, the ratio is hugely in their favour. They know them inside out, after a fifteen-twenty minutes with the vet, it will be them who do the caring – checking wounds, administering medication, following treatment plans and observing progress.

We do a lot of research with clients, and one thing that always comes up is the importance of the vet / client / patient relationship. Many owners are evangelical about their practices, citing multiple examples of how the team greet their pets by name, understand their personalities and work with clients as equal and trusted partners. They tell us time and again how they found their practice through recommendation – often from family and friends, but also through breed forums, social media, google reviews and other animal services (catteries, tack shops, groomers, farriers etc.)

After convenience, word of mouth is the most important factor that owners consider when choosing and using a veterinary practice. And they’re not talking about your qualifications or equipment, it’s the team that matter. The most recent focus group we did, just this month, was with clients from one practice. Every single person told us how friendly the whole team are, how lovely the vets are, how kind everyone was when they had to make difficult decisions. Great customer care is about making positive memories – we remember how people made us feel, and we tell others about it.

Your people are your biggest asset
In this context, your practice wage bill is actually your most significant marketing spend. The Veterinary Business Model shows that 40%-45% of revenue at the ‘average’ practice is spent on employing the team, roughly half for your vets and the other half on everyone else.

Every single person who interacts with clients is a practical and emotional embodiment of your practice ethos. If your values are friendly and professional, the tone of your Facebook posts, the face of your receptionists and the behaviour of your nurses, vets and animal care assistants needs to be too. It’s not hard to get right when you employ people who get it, but it can very easily go wrong if the team aren’t all consistently doing it.

Word of mouth matters, but is it working for you?
Your suggested homework this month is to look at your customer service measures – review your online feedback, go through your social media pages for comments and feedback. Are there any common threads? What’s the general feel of your practice? We always recommend carrying out a client service review every six months and a Business Health Check annually.

Word of mouth matters. Pass it on!