PetsApp Together: Thom Jenkins in Interview with James Westgate, Editor of Vet Times

At our first ever community get together at Somerford Hall, back in May, Vet Times Editor James Westgate joined the pack to interview Cofounder and CEO Dr Thom Jenkins on PetsApp’s new initiative and it’s ever-growing community.

What is PetsApp Together?

James: First, Thom, thanks for coming today, where are we and what’s this all about?

Thom: We’re at the first ever PetsApp community get together.

James: We’ve had a bit of kick around this morning, met lots of people. So, what was the general thinking behind getting everyone here today?

Thom: It’s just getting the community together, at PetsApp we believe in a joined up online to offline touchpoints. It’s not virtual versus physical, its best of both. Getting together, sharing ideas, and finding out how we can all do better. So much has changed and so it’s all about learning how we can serve one another better. So much has changed and so it’s all about staying up to speed together.

James: The first time we spoke was back in 2020, during lock down on our ‘First Opinions’ podcast. And at that point it was very much trying to explain the tech to practices holding it up as a solution to a lot of their problems. How has the product and the market changed for you over the past 3 years?

Thom: We were lucky that we launched with the likes of Pennard Vets and Pets ‘n’ Vets in the January of 2020, so before locked down and they were already having a lot of success with it. And therefore, we knew this wasn’t a Covid only phenomenon. In the past week alone, we’ve ranked number one medical app in Ireland, number 3 in the UK and so it’s clear that what we have is here to stay and people are attuned to that reality. Now it’s about how much more can we do with it? And lots of practices are doing incredible things in so many different directions with PetsApp and using it in so many ways. And if we can get people together to show all those different practices to create an ultimate playbook of this is how we utilise PetsApp to create better outcomes for our clinics, teams and clients, this whole get together will be a huge success.

James Westgate interviewing Thom Jenkins

How are Veterinary Teams Shaping PetsApp?

James: My colleague Marie and I were in one of your workshops earlier, and everyone knows there’s no room more rigorous group of people than a room full of vets and we were listening in to a lot of the feedback from attendees. It is events like this where you as a group are going to learn, problem solve and even add elements that don’t currently exist. So, events like this must be hugely important to your product development.

Thom: The product will only be as good as the community helps us to make it be. And that comes from them telling us what they need to do their job as well as they can, what helps them to fill fulfilled in the roles they do, what they need to deliver the outcomes we all want for patients. Without the feedback coming back we can’t keep moving forward and we need to collectively move forward as there are digital disrupters and direct to consumers waiting to eat the lunch of your local veterinary clinic. And that’s not in a pet, pet owners or veterinary teams’ best interest. So how we can help the local veterinary clinic stay relevant and not just left struggling to maintain the cost of a physical infrastructure while being stuck dealing with all the issues that no one else wants to deal with, that’s of the greatest importance to PetsApp.

James: So to a certain extent a tool that through parenthesis it’s a tool that practices can use to help shape their own future, rather than having it shaped for them?

Thom: Exactly, people pursue their own interests. I think that the veterinary clinic is a force for good in the world. It’s a beautiful sector to work in and there are so many great win/win scenarios. But that doesn’t just happen, we have to move forward and make that happen. And we are very well placed, most companies cannot offer a joined offline to online journey for their customers, veterinary clinics are the only people that can do that for their pet owners. Which means if they don’t start to do that they will find they start to lose the opportunity and the central touchpoint at the heart of every pet care journey.

Why We Were Wrong About Millennials

James: And I guess that’s the key you’re dealing with. The last time we spoke you said the largest demographic we have are millennials and that older pet owners are simply happy with doing things the way they’ve always done. And that’s ok as no one wants to disenfranchise anyone. But that PetsApp allows for clinics to engage with that new way of clients in new forms of communication.

Thom: You know I was proven wrong there James and what I’ve come to realise is that the pandemic has made millennials of all of us! And you know my wife is from the States and so it means that either my in-laws or my parents here in the UK one of them is always going to be on the wrong side of the Atlantic. And they’re doing all kinds of video calls, messaging, and A-synchronous chats to stay in touch; people are used to this now being a part of the very fabric in which they live their lives and maintain relationships. Does that mean they never want to physically see their grandkids again, no! They still want those physical touch points, but they also want the online interactions to augment and supplement. So, I think yes Millennials are the largest and most compliant demographic, but other demographics also want these features and services. I was talking to Dr Shawna Garner the other day, who uses PetsApp and she was saying her oldest pet owner on the app is 92 years old, so it really is for everyone.

James: It’s an easily leaned piece of technology. So, I guess my next question is there any resistance you’ve found, I can’t imagine much with +450k pet owners using the app but is it the clients creating the barriers to uptake or the practices.

Thom: I think clinics are more accepting that this is something that is very much needed for engaging with pet owners. And we’ve all been there and held hostage to the tyranny of the telephone, that ringing telephone that we must treat as an emergency until proven otherwise. But then we discovered A-sync communication. But there’s more we can do there’s the tech touch success that you can do with reminds, online appointment booking, driving penetration of wellness plans, home delivery, post op pet updates. It’s about constructing the full customer journey and working out whether you need a physical or digital touchpoint for each element. Sometimes its our name that least serves as because in being called PetsApp a lot of people think you need to have the app to use our services and you don’t. You can engage with 100% of your pet owner population from day one, through 2-way SMS, we’ve the web version, the online widget and of course the app, which in fairness people are downloading, our clinics tell us around 75% of their clients download the app and we simply wouldn’t be in the top 5 health apps, in the app store if it wasn’t being downloaded. But the fact that you can communication with everyone and anyone from day one that’s a big step forward, and as we move quickly to help clinics to keep up with that escalating pet owner expectation we need to keep up with that speed of iteration.

James: It was touched upon this morning about how busy veterinary practices and another thing you spoke to me about last time was PetsApp not just being another thing that teams have to do. But there must be a huge amount of education that goes into the adoption of PetsApp.

Thom: You’re exactly right. We actually encourage clinics and their teams to ask, ‘what’s in it for me’ and if they can’t see that in what we have in the app, then they shouldn’t onboard it. We work hard to show them why using it is better for them and how it is going to help them get their lunch back and increase time they have with their families by assisting them on clocking out on time.

James: You mentioned that this just as much about the teams as it is the pets that veterinary teams serve. Another interesting element of PetsApp is how it can potentially be used to enfranchise nonclinical members of the team.

Thom: Yeah, we see receptionists protecting vets from activities that they’re not well placed to do, using PetsApp to practice to the best of their professional ability, which gives them increased efficiency and job place satisfaction. And a bit of a secret they’re much better at it. You look at the data and the average chat that involves a receptionist collaborating with a nurse, you’ll see far greater monetisation, better engagement, and customer feedback compared to that led by a vet alone. They do a good job whilst also saying the vet a huge amount of time, which if that’s your bottleneck, its obviously something you really need to get onboard with doing.

PetsApp is More Than a Communication Tool

James: Finally, at events like this you’re feeding back and developing the product. Is there anything you can tell us today about how PetsApp is developing?

Thom: 100%! We’re seeing PetsApp even before our introduction of wellness plan and subscriptions, we saw it as a tool to drive uptake by as much as 35%. And so now we’ve always offered one off payments via PetsApp, but you can now also take subscription payments as well. Which means you can drive the uptake of your subscription plans leading to a better experience for your teams, better outcomes for you patients and happier clients and better business outcomes with increased revenue.

James: What a great place to end, thank you!

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