Dr Thom Jenkins MA VetMB MRCVS
26 June 2020
Judging by what’s been happening over the past few months, client communications are now going to consist entirely of vets giving video consults, right?
Well, actually my aim is to convince you that’s there’s must more to digital client communications than the narrow offering of video consults, and that digital client communications when done well - much like the in-clinic experience - are the result of a collaborative experience with a place for the involvement of each member of your multitalented team.
And I say this as a guy whose company’s first product, two years ago, was originally limited to a video consulting platform just for vets!
Not just video consults, you say?! But what else is there?
Well, how about text chat supported by digital payments and push notifications - these sorts of tools provide you with a rich pallet of virtual interactions beyond video consulting alone. These interactions are asynchronous too! So, instead of sitting on a video consult waiting for the cat to sneeze in exactly the manner described by the pet owner, the pet owner can post a recorded video onto the text chat ahead of time. Forget an important question - no worries, you can follow-up with a text chat query. It’s very flexible and freeing.
However, our data shows that the video consult is still a key monetisation opportunity. With a virtual care interaction involving a video consult being more than twice as likely to be monetised as compared to an interaction purely through text chat. And where payment is requested, the ATV of an interaction including a video consult stands at a healthy £39.73.
But! Interestingly, for text chat interactions that do not include a video consult but where payment is taken, the average transaction value is 46% higher at £57.99. This suggests that there are, indeed, very rich, value-additive, monetisable digital client communication opportunities beyond video consulting, which we might be missing.
That said, average transaction value is not the be all and end all, when it comes to making decisions about optimal client communication channels going forward. Customer feedback matters too. Luckily, on our platform, we’ve been collecting customer feedback at the end of every interaction since we launched, and so have some really good data on this.
One thing is beyond doubt - pet owners love the rapid advances that we as a sector have made in our digital client communications approach. The feedback you’re seeing here is a sample of the more than 2,300 reviews we’ve received on the App Store, averaging 4.9/5 but I want to dig deeper than that and into the tens of thousands of insights we’ve received at the end of every virtual care interaction within the app.
The average customer feedback score for the 55,000 virtual care interactions we reviewed for this talk is 4.6/5.
This rises to 4.67/5 where a video consult is involved.
But! There’s a confounding variable here. Usually, not always, but usually where there is a video consult being performed, it’s a vet that is giving it.
So, what happens to the customer feedback when there is a vet involved in the text chat interaction but there is no video consult…
It goes up still higher! With interactions involving a vet but not involving a video consult being scored at 4.73/5, higher than the 4.67 average score for a video consult, and higher than the 4.6/5 average score for all interactions.
Okay, so hopefully you can see that not only are there significant monetisation opportunities within your digital client communication approach beyond video consulting but there are also plenty of opportunities for delivering customer “wow” through asynchronous text chat alone. Indeed, only a third of all virtual care interactions on PetsApp lead to a video consult.
But is the opportunity here all about vets? What happens when you start offering digital interactions that include team members other than vets? What sort of experiences can veterinary receptionists and vet nurses offer?
So, across all virtual interactions, let’s look at how the average vet performs on their own. They do pretty well on client feedback at 4.65/5. Over a quarter of the digital client communications they’re involved in are monetised, and those monetised chats have an average transaction value of £43.28. Here it’s worth stating that by monetised I mean payment is taken through the app during the interaction. In some cases these interactions will be leading towards a monetised in-clinic visit, and some clinics on PetsApp bundle virtual consults with their Pet Health Club. These interactions do not fall within the scope of this data, so just keep that in mind but it’s interesting and directionally instructive all the same.
A nurse on their own does slightly but not much worse on customer feedback, significantly worse on monetisation, that is to say more of their virtual interactions are given away for free, but when they do take payment the average transaction value is attractive at about £60.
Receptionists digitally engaging with a client on their own perform similarly.
But the really magic happens when you have collaboration across team members. A receptionist and a nurse working together on a digital client experience perform slightly better than a vet in terms of client feedback, they’re almost as likely to monetise the interaction and their ATV is 72% higher! Clearly the nature and scope of the interactions are going to be very different but they’re delivering experiences that clients value and enjoy.
When you add a vet back into the mix, so that the virtual care interaction involves the whole veterinary team - customer feedback doesn’t change much but the likelihood this digital interaction will be monetised shoots up to 52.4%. So that each virtual care interaction is worth an average of £27.23 - that’s the ATV multiplied by the likelihood to monetise - and again that’s just the payment captured digitally, that doesn’t include any subsequent payments that might be captured in-clinic.
And guess what, you take either the nurse or the receptionist out of this interaction and the average transaction falls! Looks like receptionists and nurses are capturing charges the vet might otherwise miss… sound familiar? Because it should. And that’s key, it’s important not to treat digital client interaction as some strange beast that you need to approach with extreme caution and a whole new set of skills. Instead seek points of familiarity - it shouldn’t come as a huge shock to us that vets performing only video consults on their owner without the support of receptionists and nurses can find the experience stressful and unrewarding, and often leave the interaction unconvinced of the value they’ve just delivered. I mean, how many of us vets would see it as long term viable to work in a veterinary clinic without the support of these key team members? We have to take a joined up approach, thinking about the customer experience in its entirety.
And, on that note, one thing you might have noticed is that increasing the probability of asking the client for money has not reduced the customer feedback score here.
That’s right, the average customer feedback when you take payment is 4.68/5, compared to a score of 4.56/5 when you don’t charge! Indeed, for reasons that I’ll come on to, we recommend taking payment before a virtual consult at point of booking, and this often means taking a second payment after the consultation for any products that have been recommended. That’s two payments in a single interaction - shock, horror, right? - it must drive pets owners crazy…
Nope, for interactions where 2 payments are taken, the average feedback score is even higher at 4.72/5. Pet owners are happy to pay for this stuff! And they say so in the reviews - ease of payment is a key benefit that they highlight time and again. And this should be great news for those of us looking to tackle bottle necks at reception.
By this point I feel like I risk overwhelming you with data but there is so much here and so much we can learn to improve the service we are offering, better advocate for our patients and grow our businesses - and trust me, despite the nightmare backdrop there are clinics using this technology to grow their businesses even now.
In terms of the sort of further insights we can unlock - look at these two heat maps, for example. Along the top is the hour from midnight to 11pm at night. And along the side is the days of the week, Monday down to Sunday.
The top heat map shows the times at which chats are initiated, with very red spots being very busy times for clinics using PetsApp, and green times being quieter. That little white box means despite this being based on a dataset of around 55,000 virtual care interactions, no one within this dataset has commenced a chat at 2am on a Tuesday.
The heat map on the bottom shows the average time it takes to respond to a chat that comes in at various times of day - red is a super fast response time and green is relatively slow. It’s not a massive step to see how these heat maps could inform staffing requirements and opening hours. Maybe you should consider opening earlier rather than later? Could you use this to integrate flexible working opportunities into job descriptions in the longer term - would that help make you an employer of first choice?
There’s just so much to geek out on here, and this is exactly the sort of thing we like to geek out on with the clinics we partner with.
Talk summary Setting a price for a product or service is one of the most important decisions you can make. But all too often vets treat…Read more