In this session we will look at how successful organizations, with strong reputations for the service they deliver, have achieved that success.
What Type of Practice Are You?
When we ask this question of a veterinary practice, the most common answers describe the practice in “our” terms:
“A veterinary hospital” - “A well-equipped general practice” - “A mixed practice”
When we ask this question of our customers, the most common answers describe the practice in “their” terms:
“They care about my pet” - “They are kind and considerate” - “They are convenient to get to” - “They offer appointments at times to suit me”
Our customers’ answers describe the practice in terms of its values; not in terms of its facilities.
Your Practice’s Values?
Your practice is unique.
The services that you offer to your clients reflect the skills and expertise of all of the staff.
The standards of service that you provide will reflect the values of your Partner(s).
So, we need to be clear about what the “core values” of your practice actually are. Take the time to try to verbalise those that are important to you, such that you can share them with your staff and your clients.
Many businesses, including vet practices, will create a short phrase or sentence that sums up their values, as well as a more detailed description of just what is important to them.
What Can We Learn From the Best?
When we think of consistently high-quality customer experience, which organisations come to mind? We will all be able to quickly identify service providers we use or are aware of in our own lives that deliver high-quality client care with excellent service. What exactly do they do that sets them apart from the rest?
Delivering high-quality service requires three things:
- Effective leadership and management
- Effective business systems
- Effective individuals
The organisation has developed appropriate systems that support and enable its employees to deliver on its values every time that they interact with a client. Protocols and procedures are at the heart of everything that they do.
How Do You Wish To Be Perceived?
Your clinic’s Culture and Values should influence every part of your business, because otherwise we risk not delivering on our customer’s expectations, because we will have set expectations that we cannot consistently deliver. A useful way to look at this is using Normann’s model, which is a framework for all service business.
Culture and Values
The “core values” of the practice form your culture and values.
Which customer groups should your values appeal to? How many of those do you have? Which customer groups would you like to appeal to? There is an old saying that you get the clients you deserve so your values must appeal to your core client base.
Your image is the way that you look to your clients by what they say, and by what you communicate to them. This includes the design and decoration of your clinic, your website, all forms of communication, how your staff looks, and the appearance of your clinical areas. Clients will judge you by what they see, and what you do, much more than by what you say. So, we need to ensure that every aspect of the way we look and feel to our clients reinforces our values to them
Protocols and Procedures
Your protocols and procedures document the way you plan to deliver key services. They should set out the standard of work that is acceptable to you, and guide staff in your “best practice.” When developing them, you should be constantly checking that they will deliver on your values at all times.
In the veterinary profession we tend to focus on the needs of our patients; however, we must ensure that we also meet the physical, psychological and emotional needs of our clients.
This is the way in which we deliver our planned services day in, day out. It includes resource planning to meet our clients’ needs, and ensuring we have sufficient trained staff to deliver the services we have told our clients to expect. This means that we need to recognise that as small business teams we will sometimes be restricted by the resources available and we need to have a “Plan B” so that all staff understand how we want them to cope in these times.
It is also helpful to break our services down into subgroups so that we don’t forget the little but important details:
1. Core services – which will include providing emergency care, providing wellness programmes, consulting services, etc.
2. Supporting services - such as imaging, ultrasound, endoscopy, nurse clinics, etc.
3. Facilitating services – those things that provide convenience to clients such as home visits, home delivery, pharmacy, collection point, etc.
4. People – the human resources we need such as vets, nurses, receptionists, bereavement counsellor, etc.
5. Entertainment – how we will help clients to enjoy their visit, such as activities for children, magazines, waiting room, TV, etc.
We can only improve our practice if we:
- Make ourselves a commitment to improve our own performance
- Share problems with each other
- Are honest about our performance
- Talk about the problems in an open manner