How to Use Tech to Enhance the Client Bond

How to use tech to enhance the client bond has become a hot topic in recent years and never more so than within the pet healthcare industry. In a recent webinar with PetsApp, Peter Weinstein the executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association and veterinary coach at Simple Solutions for Vets discussed how to use tech to enhance the client bond.

A free thinking change leader and published author, Peter's wealth of veterinary experience spans decades from being a 15 year old kennel kid to owning his own hospital. Now most commonly found teaching business and finance at the Veterinary College of Western University of Health.

How to Start Using Tech to Enhance Your Services

So, how do you start to use tech to enhance your client bond via the services you offer? Possibly you're doing it already to some level. More and more people are using technology to educate people. As the veterinary community moves away from the past and begins to morph (sometimes painfully slow) into the future, for many vets it’s still the the ‘old school’, James Harriet image of the working vet, they have in mind when first starting out. But as lovely as this quaint mindset is, it is the modern day practices we (will) work in that we must be mindful of. Specifically just how state of the art and up to date they are.

But, how can we integrate high tech and still retain the relationships we need with our patients, clients and staff today? Advancements in technology have created so many tools to help us to do a better job, but in doing so many vets worry they’re compromising their ability to be caring, compassionate and communicative. So how do we balance a high tech and high touch approach to create a modern day hybrid? And how do we use tech to enhance the client bond?

According to Dr. Weinstein a recent AVMA study found that as many as 89% of veterinary practices surveyed already used electronic medical records (PIMS), 49% had communication systems that integrated with their PIMS and 44% used some kind of online scheduling system. So, it seems again whether we realise it or not, many of us already have begun a merging of the tech/touch approach, and in doing so currently use tech to enhance our client bond and satisfaction rates, via the management systems we use.

In fact think about the various forms of communications we all already have to tailor the way in which we can communicate with individuals both inside and outside our practices. Now consider changing your set preferences. Rather than picking and restricting your clients and staff to your preferred lines of communication why not instead tailor the way in which you support your staff and clients in the most efficient way for them and add that extra touch point of value in the way you use tech to interact with them.

The growth of technology on the clinical side is simply amazing and more mainstream than ever. In veterinary we’ve adapted so much from human healthcare technology and especially so on the clinical side. Not that long ago talking about digital radiology, digital dental, and online ultrasounds via your phone was a ‘cool’ idea but considered ‘Star Wars’ technology! We need to recognised that not only are high tech touch points ‘cool’, they’re also here in the now and not somewhere off in the future. They already mean we are responding faster and bridging gaps in both health and communication quicker than ever before. The needs of pet health have not changed, but the ways in which we can tackle and support them definitely have.

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Tech Can Enhance the Client Bond

We've come a long way from postcards to email to texting to direct messaging. What used to be a phone call is now a text, an email or direct message. And this works for many people, but could it be deemed impersonal? Do some people want to hear a real voice? The truth is we need to talk to our clients and ask them how they would like to be communicated with? Having a well curated online presence is perfect for this.

Your website for example works as a filtration device to help determine the services that your clients need and where they need to source and discuss them ie online or in person. Used correctly technology can make people feel more connected, especially if what they want to check off now may take a while before they get a phone call back. Use your website and social media channels and think about how these various technologies that we have to communicate with can be customised to suit both the needs of your clients and business.

Our websites, which are the manner in which most find their way to us must be user-friendly. High tech morphing will increase your high-touch online capabilities. Is your website high tech enough to attract millennials but also high touch enough to meet the needs of baby boomers? Likewise for social media, a great tool but what are your social media platforms saying? Client communication tools equal technology. Communication equals touch. The ability to take high-tech tools and touch through communication is huge. Can your clients use apps to schedule their next appointment, make a payment or set up wellness plans? Might sending a picture right to the client's phone of a pet during recovery, not only add a high value touch point but free up your phones lines from anxious pet parents blocking the lines for potential inbound emergencies?

Maybe Dr. Weinstein wants to hear from his doctors by email. Maybe Mrs. Smith wants to hear by text. Maybe Mrs. Jones wants to be heard by direct messaging or multiple resources depending where she is and what she is doing. Technology allows us to use all of these ways of communication, but we need to customise them to meet both the needs of our clients and business in order to feel that high touch expectation.

We're seeing as many as five different generations of pet owners in clinics right now, can we meet their needs from a relationship standpoint, their pet's needs from a clinical standpoint as well as our practice needs from teams standpoint.

Practice Information Management Software

One of the biggest discussions amongst the veterinary profession is PIMS; practice information management software. 20 to 25 years ago, one of the first cloud-based software programs that came out worked with the individuals who were trying to sell it and people loved the software, but couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that they didn't have a tangible server in their hospital with a data backup. They simply didn't understand what the cloud was. But now more and more of our PIMS have moved from this server spaghetti to a cloud-based software progressed from networks to this nebulous image that we call the cloud.

Think about how far we've come in a very, very short period of time our clients are online and most commonly searching for us first on Google and reviewing our services via our websites and social media pages, before ever picking the phone up to us. Now your website acts as a filtration device and gives many pet owners the answers that they're looking for before coming into practice. If they can easily book an appointment, source your services or even schedule a delivery they might not ever need to jam up your phones lines with basic life admin! With all of the technology surrounding us, we need to understand what our clients want and how to give it to them.

Millennials are by far the greatest majority of our pet owners and the most highly influential to the adaptation of the way in which we go about our day to day work life. But we can not negate one generation in accommodate another. Baby boomers with their lifelong friend often want that warm fuzzy feel. They love coming in your lobby, hanging out, talking to your client service team. They may want to call and talk to Crystal or Patti in reception. Where they sit aligned is that every generation wants things to be quicker, easier and more convenient from both a a transaction and communication standpoint.

Have you adopted your practice to the demographic that you serve? Do you look at the demographics that your practice serves? Since millennials are the largest share of pet owners that alone could be argument enough for a transition more towards digital payments? Whether you are solely high tech, a purist of high touch or a hybrid of the two, as a veterinary professional you always have to be thinking about quick, easy and convenient when it comes to transactions and communications.

Right now, the cost of veterinary care is going higher and higher. So the value proposition is huge. Was the experience that they had with the doctor, good? Was the time that they spent worthwhile? Was the experience with the staff satisfactory? This is where relationships and lifelong loyalty are built. Think from your own view point as a consumer rather than a practitioner/service provider; What is it clients want?

Then there is Staff satisfaction and wellbeing which also comes with high tech. Have your staff been a part of the team that's choosing which technologies you will integrate into your practice. They will be the lead mavens when it comes to integrating all of these with your clients. You've gotta recognise that as a doctor, your job is to focus on taking care of the clients and patients as a manager, taking care of the staff, the doctors and the clients and patients. It is your team that will lead the change with all of these different technologies. So they need to have a voice, and they need to test them out.

Is Technology a Barrier to Veterinary?

Technology should not be a barrier but instead an asset to communication. And if it improves patient care, if it enhances continuity of care, if it takes care and improves client compliance because it helps us stay on top of things with our clients then it also facilitates better communication too. If it strengthens the human animal bond by letting your clients communicate their concerns with you and you communicating your concerns with them, these are all home runs. And if we improve our efficiency, we can improve our profitability and all of this while we continue to build trust and credibility! Don't forget about the benefits of all of this to your staff too, especially in terms of decreasing and streamlining workflows and easing some of the daily time suckers that are stressful to them.

The Modern Veterinary Business Model

One of the big things that you've heard about probably is, is the question of how efficient or inefficient are veterinary business models? Veterinary hospitals are currently at a crossroads. We've got to adapt with technology and become more efficient. Or we can stick with traditional methods and see what happens financially with clients and our teams. We need to care and control and should not decrease our ability to reach out and touch, by increasing our tech ability. Likewise technology should not add work to your team. It should simplify things. The winning formula to enhancing your client bond through a balance of technology and touch together with well onboarded teams and carefully considered clients and patients.

High Tech & High Touch: Using Tech to Enhance the Client Bond ⚡️

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