Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, Diplomate American College of Healthcare Executives
Promoting human-animal bond programs means being a patient advocate being a patient advocate means speaking for the pet which cannot speak for itself - when speaking for another living entity, we cannot compromise on quality of veterinary healthcare delivery - that is a client's choice, not a veterinary practice's. This Appendix sample shows a few internal programs and potential promotions for the companion animal practice which wants to educate clients and improve the quality of life of their patients.
Standards of Care
It is important to note, the practice must have a know wellness Standards of Care (SOC), if there are more than one doctor, the wellness SOC must be committed to writing. Before it can go from brain to print, it must come from heart to brain. Do not implement anything in this appendix unless your heart knows it is right for your patients and clients.
Once it is in writing, there is No Exception, even by the owner. It must be a consistency that will never confuse a client and never embarrass/frustrate a staff member.
Specific & Seasonal Target Marketing:
Jan-Feb Dental Season (teeth graded 1+, 2+, 3+, 4+ for target marketing of courtesy nursing consults)
Mar-Apr Heartworm Screening Clinics
Parasite & Zoonotic Prevention & Control
May-Jun National Pet Week Theme Expansion
Puppy & Kitten Programs
Traveling With Your Pet protection programs
Jul-Aug Multi-Pet "2-fur-1" Care Promotion
Six-month mid-year dental screening
Sep-Oct Golden Year Programs for Senior Pets
Winterize Your Horse
Fall Bathing Promotional
Nov-Dec Arthritis Program
Lead II ECG cardiac screening program
Internal Marketing Promotions (review the Blackwell Publishing text, Building The Successful Veterinary Practice: Programs & Procedures (Volume 2), for more details on the medical record documentation and internal promotion options:
Preferred Client = fully vaccinated plus HW or FeLV plus annual fecal
Pre-anesthetic laboratory screening (PCV, TP, and BUN minimum)
Sequential Weight w/body score & other Athletic programs
Pre-Anesthetic Acute Pain Killer Injection
Full laboratory testing (FeLV, FIP, FIV, Lyme, etc.)
Sequential laboratory testing to ensure wellness is restored
Eyes, ears, teeth, skin screening and diagrams in records
Waivers, Deferrals, and Actions recorded in medical records
Three Rs (recall, recheck, remind) on every client before departure
"Other Pets" screened with each visit
Proactive "Refer a Friend" effort by each staff member with each client
Technician nutrition/dental/parasite case follow-up
High Communication Desires!
Client handouts - a must to be kept current - but also look at streamlining them at end of this year.
Pre-inpatient technician telephone call (24 hours ahead) to discuss fast/water intake needs
Client calls by technician after anesthesia recovery -coordinate discharge time (with discharge instructions following phone call)
Client Thank You for referral by reception staff (with new client newsletter)
Outpatient nurse does new client "Thank You for picking us and are there any questions" 72 hours after visit
Telephone Receptionist does missed vaccination recall within 72 hours of expiration date, with doctor and I call, "Doctor and I missed you and Fluffy this week, is everything okay at your house?")
The New Quality Care Expectations"
It is the growth of the practice - not the habits of the past
It is the client coming thru the door - not the hospital policies
It is two "yes" alternatives - not a "no"
It is the patient advocacy - not the wallet size
Preferred clients set the tone for levels of care -not the bottom 25% percent
Preferred Clients are Ones Who Care as Much as the Practice Staff Does About the Wellness of the Animals
Semi-Annual Doctor's Consultation for Total Wellness Care
PCR testing as indicated for genetic predisposition screening
Current on Full Vaccination Program for Each Pet
Semi-Annual Internal Parasite Exam (more often in Giardia-prone areas)
Heartworm negative or FeLV negative
On year-round preventative (heartworm medicine or FeLV vaccination)
Year-round External Parasite Prevention program
Sample "Preferred Client" Pricing Schedule
Sample Vaccination Program (one community example):
Expired Protection Pet
K-9 Distemper Complex
Cat Distemper Complex
Preferred Client rates are set based upon "Media Sensitivity" awareness levels in the community, and published VPI/PetsBest wellness reimbursement rates, not the closest veterinarian (see sample insurance reimbursement schedule at end of Appendix M).
The doctor's consultation ($48.75) may be added to the above upon the preferred client's request.
Phone Narrative to make it happen: Quality Care Animal Hospital - this is Gloria - how may we help you today?
Vaccinations? I am glad you asked! Is your pet an established patient of ours?
The doctor has looked at our good clients and noticed that we see them every 3 to 4 months - it seemed silly to us to do another "annual doctor's consultation" that close together, so we have changed our program for our "Preferred Clients - we now offer our Preferred Patients a fast-in, fast-out, vaccination appointment with one of our nurses, Kathy or Karyn, for prices that are competitive even with the humane society!...... on the other hand, if you have not seen doc in the past few months, or you have concerns you want to discuss with a doctor, then we need to schedule you for a full consultation....... but we no longer make that decision for you about your pet care......... which would you want to schedule today?
Price for a full consultation?..........it is over twice the length, with the doctor and the nursing staff instead of the nursing staff only, so it is just over twice the price, about $60 instead of just over $20....... which would you want to schedule today?
The New Client Fee Schedule needs to be based on the economic levels of the practices in the community and must be within 10% of the top of the market survey.
Once a new client gets all services, a "big deal" is made of their automatically qualifying for the Preferred Client Program.
If a client accesses a limited access "vaccination clinic", please ensure the staff lets the client know that "only a parasite exam and heartworm (or FeLV) test and preventive" will qualify them for the Preferred Client rates.
Above all else, remember, at a Quality Care Veterinary Hospital, the staff sells only peace of mind, and the client is allowed to buy all else, usually from two "yes" options.
Most of us were taught when we were young that to say "thank you" was important. McDonald's has built a world-wide empire by saying "thanks" in many languages. Saying "thank you" is supposed to be one of the most powerful tools we have to recognize and motivate our practice staff members. In the human-animal bond activities, it sets the stage and reinforces the mood. We need to find new ways to say thank you to our clients.
The First Impression
The smile on the phone, followed by the phone upon a new client's arrival; this goes a long way to start the bond. Then in many practices, they are given a form that says "Client Registration" - this is slightly ahead of the form that says "New Client Form"; we have done many surveys, and all new clients know who they are, they just don't know who you are. The form we recommend is provided on the form diskette in the Signature Series Monograph on Systems & Schedules (at web site: www.drtomcat.com), but the top looks like the following example:
Welcome to Our Practice!!!
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to care for your pet. Please help us meet your needs better by taking a moment to share some important information we will need as we support your pet's needs today and in the future. Please Print in All Spaces.
Client's Name ____________________________ Spouse/Other___________
Value Added Thank You's
We need to say "thank you" to the new client for selecting our practice; the initial form is followed by a phone call, to the effect:
Hi, Mrs. Brown. This is Kacie at Acme Veterinary Hospital, and the doctor and I wanted to say thank you for selecting us to care for Spike. We want to ensure you have not had any more questions since your visit, and confirm that we are looking forward to seeing Spike again in two weeks. Do you have any questions at this time?
At some practices we even remember to say thank you to the person who sent us the new client (instead of minimal and arbitrary in-house discounts, we recommend a thank you card, an extra newsletter or brochure for the next referral, and after the first referral, movie or zoo tickets as a "thank you" gesture - these are all tax deductible, and discounts are not).
Most practices seldom use the "thank you" effort as a method to reinforce the quality of the human-animal bond, or the caring of the practice. This should include highlighting your community commitment, specialization or board certification. Attached is a hospital stationary sample that shows an alternative that could be used in this effort.
The secret is to make the "thank you" a special occurrence in the life of the client. How to add something of value to the letter that makes the sender special is the task at hand. To use a client brochure is only one example, if the brochure has been made to be client friendly and not the traditional "rule book" of client compliance. A brochure is enclosed with a request to share it with another friend. On a second thank you to the same client, I often recommend using a pair of discount movie tickets since it meets the multiple-marketing impact: gee whiz when they open the envelop, gee whiz when they go to the show (or send the kids), and a gee whiz when someone mentions the movie and the client says, "My veterinarian sent me tickets so we went for free!"
Some "lower income client" practices prefer to offer a discount on the next visit, but this is not tax deductible, nor are discount seekers often great clients. Sending a discount coupon to be used at the practice is often counter-productive with upper middle class clients, since it makes the practice appear to need the return traffic of that specific client for the sake of gimmick sales rather than a sincere "thank you" for accessing the quality and needed healthcare.
The value-added target is to elevate the impression of the practice and staff in the mind of the client. The method chosen must fit the practice philosophy and the values of the practice team. Do it with the end result in mind and not the process of the thank you as the driving force.
Expand on That Thought
How many times do people get thanked for community or personal accomplishments? Answer: not enough!
People accomplish many things that go unnoticed by the majority. If you want the practice and yourself to stand out in their memory, send a note to acknowledge their accomplishment. Have the receptionist team screen the local newspapers for clients they remember who have made the news and let them pen the note for your signature. Be very specific and concise about the accomplishment. Do not market the practice in this note. The fact that you took the time will make the difference in the receiver's thought process.
Try to differentiate your practice by being the community advocate, saying thanks whenever someone does that "good turn" for the community or a member of the community. Again, have your staff watch the local newspaper for reasons to send congratulation thank you notes for the commendable community effort. Let your staff pen the note for your signature that acknowledges their "giving" to others.
Unlike the personal accomplishment note that is usually restricted to clients, the community effort "thank you notes" can go to anyone in town. They can even go to anyone in the State. If you get the staff to think about recognizing others, do not hamper their zeal. The excitement will be conveyed to the clients. Again, do not market the practice in these notes. Rather, just be a concerned citizen.
The Final Thank You
As clients depart your practice, they are usually quickly forgotten, especially if they change practices. This is one of the worst mistakes a practice can make. That client has changed practices for a reason. You may or may not know the real reason. If they are transferred by their company, they might just be crossing tracks with a pet owner who is coming to town to take their position. You want the referral! A courteous departure, with a "thank you for letting us care for your pet" note that follows to their new home, will differentiate your practice. This is especially important if they followed the "reduced price ads" to a high volume, low touch practice.
As before, penning the note by the receptionist staff should be automatic. The signature of the veterinarian can be expanded to be from the entire staff. Regardless, let the client know that you care and that you are available for questions from the next veterinarian.
Your concern and attention to this matter is appreciated. Thank you!
Dear Mrs. Jones:
This note is just to say thank you for referring someone to this practice.
- or -
This letter is to say thank you for sharing your confidence in our practice with a friend.
Thank you for referring Mrs. _________ and Fluffy to ____________ Animal Hospital. We did our very best to provide responsive quality care and not disappoint them or embarrass your confidence in our practice.
- then -
Your referral came in this week, so we thought you might like to know a little more about the quality of care we believe in and the services we offer to our community. We have enclosed a copy of our hospital brochure (an issue of our new client newsletter) to share with another friend or neighbor who may wish to try a new veterinary healthcare facility.
- or -
Something about the national organization we voluntarily subscribe to, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). We belong to the AAHA so that we can have their practice consultants perform independent, recurring, on-site evaluations of the quality of our veterinary healthcare and the quality of our facility. We want to provide the very best quality, and this is one way. We have enclosed a brochure to tell you more about the standards that we must continue to meet to remain a member of the AAHA (less than 20 percent of the veterinary hospitals in the USA are willing to undergo this level of professional evaluation).
- then a caring closure -
We hope this information will remind you of how much we care about you and your pet. Again, we thank you for your referral, and hope that your confidence in this practice's quality care will increase with every visit.
Ima Friend, DVM