Practice Management News and Views from around the World – April 2010

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Investing in the future

by Jeremy Johnson

I’ve just been posting on an online forum banging my gong again about the importance of medicines revenues to veterinary practice. I learn a lot from online forums – not just in the veterinary sector – and both contributing to them and reading materials on them is becoming a steadily increasing part of my CPD. If you correctly allocate the costs of running a practice to the various revenue streams as an accountant would, you generally find that the medicines revenues are a large proportion of the profit.

Revenues from medicines have paid for many of those fancy bits of kits that practices tell themselves they need these days…and paid for Practice Standards. And the burgeoning CPD industry would probably have withered on the vine without those revenues being available to pay for all that kit and the professional time of those vets striving for post-grad qualifications.

Yet I’ve mixed feelings about bashing this gong. Just because I tend to look at the numbers it doesn’t mean that everyone else wants to. You need to be able to go in to work on Monday morning without dreading it. And if the vets in your practice say to themselves, “..oh God, I’ve got to flog twenty per cent more product X this week” without seeing a challenge in asking people what their concerns are and enjoying providing a solution to that…well it could be hard to change their view on the importance of medicines and become more interested.

In fact, if you count the number of posts on online forums to do with medicines, apart from the obvious areas concerning the cascade or off-label use that will always be the stamping ground of the veterinary surgeon…there doesn’t actually appear to be much interest relative to the other areas. I suspect then that this is likely to remain a “minority CPD” interest area for all those Nobby-No-Mates of the veterinary world like yours truly.

Yet if your practice is full of those vets who enjoy fixing dogs’ legs, taking great digital X-Rays or pushing forward the frontiers of surgery…who think “vets are for vetting”… there’s one area of CPD you should probably all take a greater interest in: Insurance. Because a large chunk of practice “added value” that wasn’t paid for by medicines revenues was paid for by veterinary insurance. And it’s a market that could either collapse or grow, depending upon what practices do about it. Although I’ve spent years in marketing, relative to medicines it’s an area that I don’t know that much about. Yet it’s more than five years now since a senior manager from the veterinary insurance industry expressed concerns to me about this area and said that even simple difficulties like understanding the different procedures made it hard for actuaries to quantify the risks. Who knows, maybe there’s even a PhD in it for an enthusiastic veterinary graduate!

In a way though it’s not that different from medicines. The practices that will probably take most share in the medicines market are probably going to be those that both provide choice and take the greatest interest in the needs of whichever group of clients they are most interested in serving. And in a niche area like veterinary insurance it’s hard to see how this can happen without the people who understand the procedures and the risks…veterinary practices… doing the same thing for veterinary insurance and driving this area forward. It probably needs an honest broker with face-to-face contact with clients…who else is going to be able to explain what the risks are, what’s covered and what’s not. It’s good then to see a pioneering group of practices getting involved — Village Vet Group in partnership with Total Vet Insurance Services.

I’ve no idea who will win out in the Veterinary Insurance Market. One thing I think though is that this bit of “CPD” would probably benefit more animals than many of those lectures you see covering those conditions that you might come across once in twenty years in practice. So if you’re interested in investing in your future then I’ve just had something hit my desk to say TVIS are at stand 606 at BSAVA Congress.

And I wish them luck!

You can click here to visit the Total Vet Insurance website

You can click here to visit Jeremy Johnsons website

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How Small Business Is Using Social Media

by Jim Nash CVPM, Hospital Administrator at Community Pet Hospital

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business looked at the relationship between social media and small businesses and found that the technology adoption rates in the U.S. have doubled in the past year from 12% to 24%.

The data comes straight from the university’s third installment to its Small Business Success Index report and is based on a December 2009 telephone survey of 500 small business owners. Adoption rate calculations are compared against a baseline report conducted in December 2008.

The study concludes that one nearly one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes — Facebook and LinkedIn were the most popular sites. In fact, 45% of surveyed respondents even believe their social media initiatives will pay off financially in 12 months or less.

As the graphic below details, the small business owners who are using social media are primarily engaging in social media through company pages (75%) and status updates (69%) on Facebook or LinkedIn. What’s especially intriguing is that a much smaller percentage of respondents — just 16% — are using Twitter as a customer service channel.

Another interesting notion is that small business owners now believe social media can help them on the lead generation front, and that is the primary motivating factor for engaging in these new customer service channels. So while half of surveyed respondents found the time it takes to use social media sites more daunting than expected, 61% are still putting in the hours and making active efforts to identify new customers.

Clearly social media has become a valuable tool for small businesses, but we’re especially curious to see how Twitter adoption rates fluctuate over the time. While we expect more small businesses to use Twitter as a customer service channel in the year ahead, as it stands, Facebook and LinkedIn have become the predominant platforms for small business owners.

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You can click here to visit the Linked-In website

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK – 1

Selected data from the Fort Dodge Index (FDI) Report to December 2009

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Seven Critical Seconds! That’s how long you’ve got …..

by Diederik Gelderman

Research shows that we make up our minds about others within the first SEVEN seconds of meeting them. Politicians, actors and PR people are routinely coached on how to be great greeters. But in our industry are we great greeters — and if you can say that you (personally), are — well, what about your staff — are they great greeters too?

The pointers to becoming a great greeter include;

  • Practice a firm, warm handshake
  • A big smile
  • An interested facial expression and most importantly
  • Remembering names (– specifically that of the pet and client currently walking in the door).

The objective of a great greeter is to have the other person believe that s/he is the most important person in the room — or even in the world. With this in mind — doesn’t it make sense to put some more thought, effort and training into the way that we greet our clients — both when they walk into the Hospital or Clinic and when you and/or your Team walk into the consultation room?

Why not systematise and standardise the ‘greeting’ procedure. In other words “This is the way we greet our clients at ABC Veterinary Hospital”.

Let me offer you a few more suggestion and thoughts;

  • I know practices that have moved all their phones away from the reception counter so that the only task the receptionist has is to say “Hello” and greet clients and say “Goodbye” and farewell departing clients. These two periods of time are some of the critical ‘Moments of Truth’ (as Jan Carlson from Scandinavian Airlines fame would have put it).
  • I also know practices who have employed a dedicated ‘Client Greeter’ — whose only job is to greet and farewell clients.

So — go on. Examine your SEVEN CRITICAL SECONDS — do you measure up to your clients’ expectations?

You can click here to visit Diederik Geldermans website

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK – 2

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to January 2010

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Change is good (really)

by Peter Weinstein DVM

Whether adding staff or services, veterinary hospitals commonly have a hard time accepting change.

The book, “Who Moved My Cheese” (Spencer Johnson, Ph.D.), should be required reading of all veterinary hospitals, doctors and staff.

John Cotter in “Leading Change,” comments that “more organizations fail from failure to change rather than making the wrong change.”

What can we do to make change less scary? Let’s take a look at the changes needed to introduce a new service.

Ask for help!! Select the service and seek the team’s input: Identify the service you have in mind and discuss it with the team. When starting a new service you can tell your team what they will do or you can ask them what they think. Seeking the input of your para-professionals will enhance the buy-in and, more importantly, make the team active participants.

So, if you want to introduce senior care programs, discuss the hoped-for outcome with your team and get their input.

Cheerleader: Find a champion on your team for the program or service. Then, have them lead your team in the development of the program.

Introducing a new service is a multiple-step process. Having identified the outcome, it is time to define the process to get there. What does the service entail and do you have the needed resources? What pet population are you trying to contact? Do you need equipment? Marketing pieces for internal use? How are you going to price it? In a senior program, you might need handouts, a well defined lab profile, a specific client release handout, scripts for use on the phone and in the exam room.

Training, Training and More Training. Before your clients learn about your new service, your staff has to have a complete and thorough understanding of what the program is. Staff meetings specifically dedicated to the service and led by para-professionals will further enhance buy-in. Role playing telephone calls, client interactions and exam room discussions are mandatory. Trouble-shooting and anticipating questions and problems is done at this point.

Out of the Box. You have team buy-in. You have a well- defined program. You have troubleshot all the pros and cons. You have a goal for the team to shoot for and reward for attaining such goal. What next? Let the cat out of the bag. Use the marketing pieces you developed, focus on your existing client base, and more specifically, focus on your top clients. Using the mail, e-mail, faxes, or phone calls, bombard your clients with information about the service that you are now providing and how much their pet needs this service. Posters in the exam rooms, notes on the bottom of invoices, newsletter articles, and other educational pieces are a must. Telephone scripts for every call, exam room scripts for each visit, and in-house flyers for each walk-in are used.

Review and Revamp. No program introduction is perfect. What worked? What didn’t work? What needs to be changed? Did you achieve the goal? Was it easily attainable? Programs or services must be reviewed on a regular basis for their success.

The success in introducing a new service or program comes from the same teamwork that makes any practice successful. Communication among the team and between the team and the clients is imperative. Knowing your desired outcomes will provide vision. But to really make it work requires every team member become an actor. They must believe in the service. They must believe in the pet’s need for the service. They must be an actor when presenting the service to the client by making the service theirs and the outcome Academy Award-winning.

You can click here to visit Peter Weinsteins website

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Calm Customers in 6 Quick Steps

from an article published in the Business Know-How online website

You’ll work nine times harder attracting new business than you will retaining your current client list. That means you can’t afford to anger even one customer. Here’s how you can defuse tense situations and dissolve your customers’ frustrations.

1. Keep Your Cool

Customer service agents must listen without interruption to customer complaints. When you acknowledge problems and empathize with your customer’s situation, you immediately drop his frustration level.

Your goal: Remain calm and concerned — even if the customer speaks harshly at first. Your mature approach will work wonders on his attitude.

2. Lock-In Customer Loyalty

Now that your customer is calmer, ensure him that you are happy to help him and that you appreciate his business. By emphasizing his loyalty to your company, you provide a subtle reminder that you’ll resolve his problem — just as you have in the past.

Your goal: Impress upon your customer that you will resolve his issue. Depending on the problem, you may want to offer a reward for his patience, such as extra frequent-flier miles or a service coupon.

3. Remain Professional

No matter how customers approach the service encounter, you must keep your composure.

Your goal: Keep your speech and expressions polite and tactful. If a customer gets under your skin or if you are afraid that you’ll involve your personal feelings, step away from your desk or ask the customer to hold while you take a few deep breaths.

4. Acknowledge Your Chronic Complainers

No matter how hard you try, there will always be customers whom you can’t please. These customers call frequently to berate and threaten service agents.

Your goal: Elevate these callers to your lead agent or supervisor. Your leaders can then decide how to nip complainers in the bud — whether that’s through finessed service or by referring them elsewhere.

5. Only Make Mistakes Once

Your customers shouldn’t have to call more than once about the same issue. Identifying customer problems can improve your business
, but not if you make the same mistakes over and over again.

Your goal: Learn from your mistakes the first time — and then don’t repeat them. If you spot repeat problems, be sure to alert your supervisor before customers
catch on.

6. Grow Thicker Skin

You’ll eventually have to deal with an irate customer who attacks you personally rather than focusing on the actual problem. You must learn to roll with these punches without beating yourself up.

Your goal: Never respond to customers emotionally or give in to outrageous demands. You should also avoid crying, exhibiting anger or speaking with sarcasm. Instead, simply transfer the customer to someone more skilled at dodging personal bullets.

You can click here to visit the Business Know-How website

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