Practice Management News and Views from around the World – March 2008

N&V header March 2008

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This months important statistic from OnSwitch

The data this month is derived from Big Chat – a collection of conversations with nearly 200 veterinary nurses at the Annual BVNA Conference.The question highlighted this month was – How often do you treat your own cats/dogs for fleas?

Onswitch image - March 2008
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Six ways to learn from your clients

by Karyn Gavzer and Louise Dunn

Presented during the Western Veterinary Conference, Las Vegas 2008 and published online by DVM NewsMagazine

Use the thoughts, opinions and impressions of the people most important to your practice – clients – to identify strengths, areas for improvement and ways to continuously promote your business, experts say.

Quick-hit surveys, group interaction and using the Internet are among the new ways veterinarians can learn from their clients, says Karyn Gavzer, MBA, KG Marketing & Training, Springboro, Ohio, and Louise Dunn, Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting, Greensboro, N.C., at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas.

Gavzer and Dunn recommend these six strategies to gain client insight.

The quick question. Clinic staff record clients’ responses to one question – a fast and useful tool for decision-making. For reliable results, collect about 60 client responses, Gavzer says. “But don’t abuse it by asking too many questions or multi-part questions. Only ask one question”

Secret shopper. Secret shoppers help practices see a clinic through their clients’ eyes, Gavzer says. But preserve your team’s trust, telling them about the program and what they will be evaluated on. “The point is not to catch people doing something wrong. It is to reinforce what you are doing right,” she says. When the evaluation is complete, review the results with the team, reinforce positive feedback, identify areas for improvement and give any personal feedback in private.

The ultimate question. Also called the Net Promoter Score (NPS), this tactic lets practices gauge their clients’ responses on a 1-to-10 scale. By asking, “How likely are you to refer our practice to someone else?” DVMs can identify promoters (9-10) that will back the clinic, passives (7-8) that will do nothing and detractors (1-6) that will speak negatively against the clinic. Aiming for a NPS of 40 – determined by subtracting detractors from promoters – the method is quick, easy and predictive, but offers no suggestions for improvement.

Client advisory board. Made up of top clients, those who could be better clients and non-client pet owners, an eight-person advisory board can analyze practice questions and issues for resolution. A yearly commitment should include up to four two-hour meetings. The hospital staff should talk before meetings to identify topics and afterward to be updated on feedback and results.

Survey Monkey. An on-line tool, the Survey Monkey Web site helps clinics design a personalized site, collect survey responses and analyze data. It can be used to gather information from client and team surveys and from job applicants.

click here to visit the Survey Monkey website

New-client kits and postcards. The client welcome process should be focused on getting to know an owner and his or her pet and how to serve them best, Dunn says. After a first appointment, use a feedback postcard — with a minimal question list — that is personalized with a picture of the pet, a method that has shown a better return rate, she says.

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SPVS Congress 2008 to tell delegates how to be happy

Like the vast majority of people you probably haven’t stopped today to ponder the meaning of happiness or to ask if you’re content with life…But, perhaps you should. As the profession suffers from ever-increasing episodes of depression, addiction and suicide, the theme of ‘happiness’ and how to achieve it has never seemed quite so important.

This year’s SPVS Congress, which will be held at the serene and stunning Slieve Donard Hotel at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland from 23rd-25th May, will seek to reveal how to overcome the stresses and strains of modern life. Special guest speakers including Dr Jo Griffin and Dr Desmond Rice will suggest ways to improve your relationships with others and get the best from your team as well as provide tips on how to get things done more effectively and how to take responsibility for your own emotional state, among other topics.

SPVS President John Hill who runs a mixed practice in Northern Ireland, explained: “Being a vet can be extremely stressful. You are treating the animal but also have to communicate with the owner who often sees their pet as an integral part of the family. If a vet is suffering emotional problems due to stress they might be more likely to see suicide as the only way out. The issue really is that vets are so used to euthanasing animals that they can become embroiled in a sort of ‘culture of death’.”

“There are a number of initiatives springing up now, most prominently Vet Life and the Vet Well-being Initiative, which are aiming to address these issues and provide support. As an organisation representing many thousands of vets across the UK we could think of no better theme than ‘happiness’ to shape this year’s congress.”

This year’s congress will also provide plenty of opportunities for networking, socialising — a Gala Dinner and Salsa Evening are part of the schedule — as well as relaxing and taking part in a variety of activities, including a golf competition, or simply exploring this beautiful part of Northern Ireland. There’s no need to leave the kids at home either as creche facilities will be provided and there will be a wide variety of activities for children.

For more information, and to book your place, please contact the SPVS office on 01926 410 454 or click here to send an e.mail

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An Exciting Initiative from the AVPMCA and the VBMA

The Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants and Advisors (AVPMCA) and the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) have announced plans to provide veterinary student externships focused on enhancing business or legal understanding. Several well-known studies have highlighted the profession-wide deficiencies in core business practices, while many practitioners have reported that they did not feel prepared upon graduation for the management requirements of private practice.

The VBMA is a student-driven organisation dedicated to addressing these issues by providing business education within the 28 U.S. veterinary schools and at Ross University. Many veterinary colleges do not offer substantial practice management education, and those that do cannot simulate the hands-on experience gained from working in consulting or other veterinary-relevant businesses.

The two Associations are seeking the help of veterinarians, business consultants and others with experience in the areas of veterinary business and/or legal matters! The initiative has originated in North America but similar symbiotic arrangements between veterinary practice, business consultants and undergraduates with an interest in the business of veterinary practice could also be of value in Europe and other parts of the world.

Click the following links for more information about the AVPMCA and the VBMA



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Adding Value to the Phone Around Quote

by Caroline Johnson who offers advice on how to handle potential clients who are phoning the practice for a quote.

In the increasingly competitive world in which we live, clients ringing around and asking for quotes is commonplace but how often are these quotes handled in the most professional manner and in a way which demonstrates the value of what we do versus our competitors?

How many times do we assume that the person at the end of the phone is looking for the cheapest price when actually they will ultimately chose the best value — and that may be the most expensive!

Do clients simply want to know how much money to bring, and the opportunity to reinforce the bond with your practice is lost? If you think you could do better in this area, then read on.

Build Rapport

When a client rings and asks for a quote, build rapport by asking one or two short questions. For example: “Yes, I’ll just look up the price for that procedure. What kind of dog is he? Oh, a mongrel,we have lots in here; they make super pets, don’t they?” This takes less than a minute but it helps create or reinforce a bond with the person at the end of the phone.

Itemise the Procedure or Service

For example, if neutering a bitch involves a pre-op examination, general anaesthesia, the surgery itself and analgesia, then summarise everything that is included. Then, and only then, give the price. Again this takes less than one minute but it adds value to the service being offered. Some practices merely spey the bitch!


When giving a professional service it is imperative to have written protocols; this ensures the consistency of the message regardless of who is on reception and takes the request for a quote.Develop and implement protocols for the most commonly requested quotes with the help of reception, nursing and veterinary staff. Use them and you convey knowledge and professionalism, always.

Follow Up

For the most common requests e.g. vaccination and neutering, pre-prepare standard letters which thank the client for the quote and reiterate what has been said at the time of the phone call. At the end of the phone message you can then ask the client for their name and address and send them a written quote and a practice brochure. This reinforces the verbal message, re-emphasizes the quality and value of your service, looks professional and gives you a ‘second bite at the cherry’.

Keep an Open Eye and Ear

Regularly review your quote handling procedures and protocols to keep them up to date and to make improvements where possible. Next time you ask someone else’s business for a quote, think about what impresses you and what doesn’t, and incorporate what you learn into your practice. The best ideas often come from outside the environment we are familiar with and they can make a very positive difference.

First published in Veterinary Management for Today

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