Practice Management News and Views from around the World – January 2018

7 Tips for Helping Your Clients Adapt to New Veterinary Technology

                            From an article published on the website

These days it’s nearly impossible to run a business without the use of technology, and the animal health care industry is no exception. The modern veterinary clinic must rely on tools, like computers and software, to manage everything from scheduling clients to keeping staff on track. Likewise, most clients today prefer vet practices that offer high-tech options, like online appointment scheduling and prescription refills.

But what happens when you have those clients who struggle with technology, for whatever reason? Here are a few pointers that will help get more people on board with your practice management system.

Present Solutions – If you want your clients to be excited about a new technology you’re using, you need to demonstrate to them how it solves their problems. It’s more about what’s in it for them than it is about you. As such, present your tech options as a tool to make their lives easier and show them how.

Make it Personal – Touting the overall benefits of your new system is one thing. Personalizing those benefits to each client and patient is another. For instance, saying: “Mary, the online portal will help us keep track of Buster’s medications and save you a lot of time,” is much more powerful and impactful than simply handing her a flyer with a generic bullet pointed list.

Educate Th​em – Don’t just assume your clients are all comfortable with technology. Some may need a little assistance along the way. Figure out the best way to educate your clients, whether it’s a video tutorial that you share, an instructional flyer or having a staff member walk them through it in person.

Integrate and Talk About It – The technologies you use to better serve your clients and patients should be a part of everyday conversations you’re having within the practice, particularly when it comes to interactions with your clientele. For instance, if you have to order diagnostic tests, let the client know the results will be available in the online portal. Remind clients that appointments can be scheduled and prescriptions refilled conveniently online. Train staff to suggest and encourage the use of technology.

Be Responsive – Understand that a portion of your clients may have questions or concerns about the tech you’re using in-practice. Meet those issues head-on by keeping the lines of communication open and encouraging feedback. If there are a number of similar questions being asked, compiling a list of FAQs might make things easier for everyone. Acknowledging and addressing fear is the only way to overcome it.

Be Patient and Persistent – Just like any type of marketing, it can take multiple “touches” to get a person on board with a new technology. Sending out one email blast when you first roll out your new system probably won’t get you the results you’re after. Keep talking about it, sharing it, promoting it and encouraging it. Over time, you’ll notice some of those who may have been on the fence beginning to warm to the idea. Above all, be patient and understanding. Your consistency will eventually pay off.

If you’re struggling to help your clients adapt to new technology, remember that veterinary medicine isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some clients may simply choose not to engage with the solutions you offer, and that’s okay. But with the tips listed above and a little bit of patience, you should be able to successfully change the minds of many.
You can click here to visit the dvmelite website

Dealing with Staff Conflict? Top Tips to Prevent and Alleviate Conflict in Your Practice

From an article by Monica Dixon Perry published on the Veterinary Practice Consultation website

We are faced with many conflicting events, professionally and personally, throughout life. When conflict arises amongst your team, making sure they are resolved sooner than later is imperative.

My goal is to prevent conflicts from arising within a practice - here are some easy techniques to incorporate into your practice. This is a great time of year to start fresh if your practice has a chronic problem with staff conflict.

Set expectations. During the initial interviewing or on-boarding phase, establish and articulate that employees will be treated as professionals and expected to conduct themselves as such. Make it clear from the onset that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

Promote a team environment. Although management structure and organization charts are recommended, it is equally important to create a culture within the practice that cultivates appreciation and empathy for all. I recommend cross-familiarization. As a part of on-boarding or phase training, every new hire will be scheduled one full shift in each department so that they can become familiar with the responsibilities and challenges of that department. When you allow team members to walk in the shoes of other team members, they are more receptive and empathetic to what their co- team members go through and experience day in and day out. I find this to be one of the most successful efforts to bring a team together if there is a divide. Although recommended for new hires, you can plan for all employees go through cross-familiarization regardless of their length of employment.

Empower Employees to Resolve Conflict on Their Own. If conflict does arise, despite your best efforts, let employees know you are not a babysitter. Stress to them that if conflict between employees has gotten to the point it is negatively effecting the practice environment, they will be expected to work it out or they may no longer be able to work at your practice. Even if it means treating them to lunch so that they can work out their differences, do so. But let them know they are not to come back to the practice until their issues have been resolved. If two adults cannot come to an agreement to put their differences aside or agree to disagree in the interest of the practice, they may have to seek other employment.

Whether you are dealing with new employees or those already employed by you, setting the tone and expectations is imperative. It is important that your team knows what is expected of them and that you clearly set and enforce boundaries that will not compromised. Let them know that while they do not have to be the best of friends, they are expected to work together as harmoniously as possible.

You can click here to visit the veterinary management consultation website

A starting guide for new receptionists

From an article by Rebecca Rowe and published on the website

You're the hello and goodbye to every client, and the guiding hand of the veterinary practice. Here's how to make sure you're being the best you can be. Your receptionists are the first and the last to interact with clients, which means they can make or break your business. This also means you should start training the moment they walk through the door on their first day of work..

Walk before you run We begin training our receptionists as “junior” receptionists, even if they have prior experience. Every practice operates differently, and it takes six months to a year for new employees to become good at their jobs. Until then, your new employee should have restricted interaction and careful guidance with your clients.

Emergency training The No. 1 thing to teach a new receptionist is what your practice considers an emergency and how to handle it.

When someone brings an emergency through the door, you want everyone to know what to do. The receptionist may have to make a life-or-death decision. Teach your receptionist what constitutes an emergency and post a list prominently. In our practice, we consider the following an emergency:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Trouble breathing
  • Collapsed
  • Lethargic
  • Bleeding
  • Male cat not urinating
  • Seizures

Any one of these conditions needs to be seen immediately. It may be difficult to get the client to come in right away, because they may not realize their pet could be in crisis. What your client sees is not what your doctor sees, and your receptionist needs to convince clients their pet needs to come in immediately. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Phone skills. Train new receptionists to answer the phone, ask why clients are calling and put them on hold for another receptionist. This gets your new receptionist comfortable talking to clients on the phone and can be helpful, especially when the front is busy. You can also have your new receptionist call and confirm the next-day appointments. Again, this activity helps them get used to talking to your clients and begin to learn a little about scheduling. Short and simple phone exchanges build confidence and knowledge.

No diagnosing over the phone Teach your new receptionist they must not diagnose over the phone. Pet hospital employees become familiar with terms and conditions you see on a regular basis. Remember, what the client sees and what the doctor sees often aren’t the same.

Price checking Anyone can answer questions about pricing, but how they answer determines whether you get that new client. A couple of years ago, our business was down dramatically, even though it was March and we should have been bustling. I began monitoring some of the incoming calls and was surprised we had a business at all! The veterinary team was unknowingly putting a halt to our business. Here’s a look at some of the problems I uncovered.

1. Every time someone called for a price, they received different information. For example, sometimes just the price of a spay was given and other times it would include all the options. Sometimes the prices were low and sometimes high. This kind of inconsistency created distrust and anger with our clients and potential clients.
2.The receptionists didn’t lead the conversation. Clients had to drag information out of the receptionists. Your clients view your veterinary team as professionals and expect them to guide the conversation.
3. An appointment was almost never offered. Most callers were left hanging, not knowing the next step.

The first thing we did was create a standardized price sheet for routine services and post it by every phone. Next, we trained and quizzed every employee. The quiz included how to give pricing; list the services included; inform the client that any additional services, products or procedures would be an additional cost; and, finally, ask if they would like to make an appointment. Any pricing questions for services not included on our sheet had to go through our technicians. Our number of appointments began to climb instantly.

The hellos and goodbyes

Checking clients in and out is the best way to make a new receptionist helpful. It gets the receptionist familiar with the practice management software, policies and procedures related to the flow of appointments. They become productive right away, and they’re able to interact with clients on a limited basis. It can be stressful on the team when a new employee is in training. They must not only do their own job, but also help inexperienced team members. When your new receptionists are productive, the team begins to appreciate them.

Getting your new receptionists off to a good start will build the foundation for a lasting career in your practice. You’ll help them meet your expectations by simply providing a structured environment that promotes success.

Top tips for marketing your veterinary practice in the 21st century

From an article by Shane Simpson published in the VetAnswers website

Marketing has changed & it's time for the veterinary industry to respond.

Marketing in service industries has changed significantly over the past decade, and the veterinary industry is no different. Like most of the other service sectors, it can be difficult for vet practices and hospitals to develop a meaningful brand, and the industry needs to respond to the changing behaviour of the consumer, i.e. the client. Let’s have a look at some of the marketing strategies that are evolving in response to new consumer trends.

The Digital Revolution and changing client behaviour

The rise of the digital health care provider is a growing trend, as over 50% of consumers use their mobile devices to find out information, book appointments, and shop and pay for goods and services. In particular, clients are using their mobile devices to find out third party information about their pets’ medical conditions and treatments, and to research the area of pet medicine that they are interested in.

Across the marketing sector as a whole, there has been an increase in digital ad budgets, creation of personalised content for the target sector, and improvement in search engine optimisation (SEO). The veterinary industry cannot fall behind in this change of focus, and websites now have to be mobile friendly. It is also important to understand the target audience you are going to be dealing with because the way they choose and use their service providers will be very different to what has happened in the past.

Silver Surfers and Generation Z

The marketing world has identified growth in the following areas: the Silver Surfer generation, and Generation Z (or iGen) consumers.

Silver Surfers With the population living longer, the Silver Surfers are those in their fifties and sixties whose family have left home, who now have more disposable income at their fingertips but also, unlike the generation before them, have enjoyed good health and higher levels of education.

Tapping into this market sector means finding a selling point that says, “We understand you and care about your pet.” Ensure your practice has a professional LinkedIn page and use this to generate posts about the offers and services you can offer. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, post information about the latest innovations and updates in the sector you are in, and continue to build a great network of contacts.

Generation Z consumers prefer to communicate using digital media and social network platforms. Generally aged 6-20, they are potential clients you may or may not be interacting with at present. They want information quickly, are going to be used to high levels of change in their lifetime, and will search for information using third party providers. Ensure that your website has a “meet the vet, nurse, etc.” page and personalise it by giving your vet professional a name, e.g. Meet Dr Brown. If you already have this on your webpage, then ensure it is easy and quick to find. Showcase it in a clickable banner or add it to the navigation menu. Avoid stock photos and instead use actual photographs of your clinic or practice so people begin to feel a personal connection with you. Collect testimonials from current clients and post them on your social medial pages.

Online marketing

If someone is going to search for a new vet, for example, it is more likely they will do it online and use a search engine like Google or Bing. This is where online marketing efforts must be stepped up to capture this new generation of consumers.

If you have a website, there are elements that need to be looked into to optimise it to be found by search engines and deliver the most appropriate results for those searching the Internet. The name of your practice, telephone number and address need to be cohesive across the Internet because this plays a really important role in getting results.

You want to ensure that you benefit from these improved lead-generation opportunities as well, so there is a need to revisit and refresh your marketing stance. Make sure that your blogs and website are populated with up to date, relevant content that is of good quality. This will drive up traffic to your site, while the use of analytical tools such as Google Analytics will help you to monitor what is working well and what isn’t.

Social Media:

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can, at a reasonable cost, boost your digital message, and some professionals are even investing in quality videos to place on YouTube.

In conclusion, veterinary practices, like any other service professional, need to think about projecting a brand image that encapsulates the latest in modern techniques while also showing the caring side of the profession. Harnessing the power of social media and a good website is the most important step, as this allows you to interact with potential clients while highlighting new developments and methods of treatments, as well as providing quality information that will build their trust.

You can click here to visit the VetAnswers website

Business planning is your business plan in motion

From an article by Jim Blasingame published on the Small Business Advocate website

The Age of the Customer is disrupting and making obsolete many older practices, but not the requirement for business planning, especially cash flow.

A business plan is the result of thinking, researching, strategizing and reaching conclusions about how to pursue opportunities. It may exist only in the head of the planner, but it's better when written down.

Whether elaborate or simple, a written business plan is an assembly of facts, ideas, assumptions, and projections about the future. Here are three ways to use a written plan:

1. Document the due diligence on a new business venture or the future of an existing one.
2. Evaluate opportunities and challenges and compare them with your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Assist when getting a bank loan and courting investors.

So how does a static, written plan work when a business is always in motion? It works when you turn your plan into planning. A plan is like a parked car; planning is taking that car on a trip.

Planning is measuring your business motion against the baseline of assumptions and projections you made in your plan. Planning allows you to see how smart you were when the plan was written, or where your research and assumption skills need work. Planning also highlights external forces you face.

Written business plans often become collateral damage during challenging economic times. But you can't allow planning to meet the same fate. Indeed, when things slow down there is even greater need to check your position than when things are rockin' and rollin'.

Here is a critical two-step planning activity that's the heart of a business plan and the essence of planning. Beginning with these will help you operate more successfully anytime, but especially when business slows down.

1. Build a 12-month cash flow spreadsheet in a program like Excel, so you can project and track the monthly relationship between cash collections and cash disbursements from all sources. This planning tool will provide a rolling picture of cash flow in any given month.

2. Look at the "Ending cash" number at the bottom of each month's column. A negative number in any month means you'll need to take additional action like increasing sales and/or accounts receivable collection, reduce expenses, or acquire cash from another source, like a bank loan. But before you ask for a loan, if you have time, make sure you've pursued all the other options listed, which could either eliminate or reduce the loan amount. And that "if you have time" thing? That's what planning is for. Otherwise, you'll be seen as a crisis manager, and crisis managers don't get a lot of loans.

A banker once told me that if I could bring him only one financial document with a loan request it should be a 12-month cash flow projection that included both how the borrowed cash would be used, and how and when it was going to be repaid.

I always listen to my banker and you should, too.

Write this on a rock ... A business plan is important, but planning is essential.

You can click here to visit the SmallBusinessAdvocate website