This is what your veterinary team is looking for

You're a practice manager of a very busy clinic, and you're looking at your upcoming strategic plan. I want to start by having you ask yourself a question before you begin that process. At your veterinary clinic, who are the key stakeholders?

In no particular order, you’ve got: the patients, their owners, the veterinary team, your suppliers, any strategic partners. And then you’ve got whoever owns the clinic.

Now, an even harder question. Who is the most important? When push comes to shove, in the face of competing demands and limited resources, who takes priority? There’s no wrong answers here.

Well, actually there is one wrong answer. The wrong answer is that they are all equally important. Nice try. This simply dodges the strategic dilemma. Strategy is the selective and consequential allocation of limited resources. And we know resources are very much limited! Any order of prioritisation here can theoretically drive a successful strategy - you just need to know which one yours is.

Although there can be much debate, to me it’s become increasingly clear in recent times that the most pressing stakeholder to serve is the veterinary team. A lot of strategic initiatives are greeted with skepticism by clinic teams - what new reason has been invented for us to miss lunch or not to get out on time? To overcome this skepticism, we should better communicate the “what’s in it for me” to veterinary team members - a question they have every right to ask and still don’t ask often enough.

So, once you’ve identified your most important stakeholder, how do you learn where you stand with them? You ask them. We’re used to doing this with customers; using customer feedback methodologies like Net Promoter Score. NPS asks a customer how likely they would be to recommend your clinic to a friend, and is reported on a scale of -100% (awful) to +100% (perfect).

Just over a decade ago now, I did some work to validate Net Promoter Score as a customer feedback metric in the veterinary sector, and do you know where the benchmark NPS came out at? Take a guess before you peek.


That’s really good. For reference, the median score across all sectors is +44% - so pet owners, in general, really like and appreciate the veterinary teams that serve them.

Net Promoter Score is one of those tools that we’ve typically used to engineer delightful customer experiences that can also be applied to the employee experience. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) asks a subtly different version of the previous question: “how likely would you be to recommend this clinic as a place of work?” Again, we report employee or internal Net Promoter Score on a -100% to +100% scale.

I did some work with Recruit4Vets to establish a benchmark eNPS for the veterinary sector across both vets and vet techs. What do you think we found? Again, make yourself commit to a guess here.


Almost unbelievably poor. We work with incredibly motivated, intelligent, caring team members aligned around a common goal of serving companion animal welfare - and yet we score so very negatively. This compares unfavourably to the cross-sector average of +14%.

So when it comes to serving customers we are 27 points ahead of average but when it comes to serving team members we lag a whopping 49 points behind average. In this way, we are confronted with something I call the “recommendation rift”.

recommendation rift

We are drawing down on a finite supply of goodwill - we cannot continue to rely on the goodwill of veterinary teams to continue to serve the needs of others while their needs go unmet. This recommendation rift is a big part of what is leading to the phenomena of burnout and compassion fatigue that we speak so much about. We cannot go on like this. Something has to change. We need new tools.

We have the late great Clay Christensen - a Harvard Business School professor - and his team to thank for a useful tool here; the jobs-to-be-done framework. It says that we place too much emphasis on the end-user as a persona, and not enough emphasis on the job that they are trying to get done. Yes, that’s right, a key insight here is that users hire products and services to do a particular job.

One way to articulate these competing jobs-to-be-done is through user stories. These can be structured in the following format:

user stories

“When I…’ maps to the situation of the user. “I want to…” maps to their motivation. And “So I can…” relates to their expectation or expected outcome.

So what’s this got to do with our veterinary teams? Well - we and they have jobs to do too, and understanding the jobs our “users” have to get done is half the battle.

Think about it - what did you hire when you couldn’t see clients physically in the building? It was the telephone. Call us - let us know when you’ve arrived.

What about when you need to take payment? That’s right… the telephone, again. Call us and we’ll take payment over the phone. This is despite the fact that overwhelming call volumes is the number one complaint we hear about from veterinary teams.

Okay, but what did you hire the last time you needed to update a pet owner? … the telephone. Again. And when you’ve invented so many reasons for customers to call you that you are almost collapsing under the strain of missed calls?

You buy everyone pizza and do some yoga. Nope, just kidding. It’s the telephone again - you install more phone lines as if your team were suddenly going to grow more hands with which to answer them.

Think about the user story we inflict on veterinary teams:

  • When I... have an overwhelming amount of urgent and important work to do
  • I want to... constantly be interrupted by a ringing telephone
  • So I can... be railroaded into working on potentially non-urgent, less important issues.

The telephone was a great invention… in the 1800s. And I’m even willing to accept it still has its place today - but in many cases, we can do better. And for the sake of our teams we must do better.

We use these same conceptual frameworks at PetsApp to construct improved user journeys for you and your team. For example, we can rewrite the previous user story as:

When I... have an overwhelming amount of urgent and important work to do I want to... be able to prioritise inbound queries at a glance So I can... retain control of my own workflows, ensuring I am working on the most important, more urgent tasks first.

Asynchronous text chat is something you can hire to help eliminate prioritisation bottlenecks for your team, and free them from the tyranny of the telephone, which insists on being answered within three rings no matter how trivial the inquiry.

I genuinely believe the current default approach sets veterinary teams up to fail. Leading to the following all-too-familiar user story:

  • When I... serve pet owners
  • I want to... go above and beyond, only to still fall short of expectations
  • So I can... feel bad about myself and the people I serve.

Remember the recommendation rift we talked about. Despite pet owners generally feeling very positively towards veterinary teams, to veterinary team members the pet owner can all too often feel like the enemy.

A big part of the issue here is that in our eagerness to serve we consistently set expectations sky high, and when despite our blood, sweat and tears we fall just short of that, we are surprised to encounter a disgruntled pet owner. Well, I always say the best way to exceed expectations is to start by setting them.

And that’s why on PetsApp, every inbound interaction starts with an automated welcome message that you get to set. Setting expectations ahead of time in terms of what they can use the service for, within which hours they are likely to get a response and anticipated response times. So if a non-urgent query comes in just before you are about to go on lunch you can actually have your lunch, rather than being caught with Mr Chatty on the phone. And so we come to:

  • When I... serve pet owners
  • I want to... set expectations ahead of time
  • So I can... consistently exceed them and feel great about it.

What about an issue the whole veterinary world seems to be facing right now; the double whammy of a human resource crunch and pent up demand?

There’s a solution - one that hundreds of clinics and thousands of veterinary professionals are taking on. PetsApp - it can help them get the job done.

I really would encourage you to go back to your clinics, and apply a jobs-to-be-done lens to the experiences of your veterinary team. Explore your team’s situation, motivations and expectations. Have them write user stories with you. Because as Richard Branson once said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

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