The Client Experience in One Simple Question

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Every partner hospital is different, and so are we!
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At this point, you’re probably growing tired of hearing about the “client experience”. It seems to be the topic du jour in the industry and there is no sign of this abating. However, unlike the Facebook craze of 2012 and the Wellness Plan mania of 2013, I think an attention to client experience is owed and so it behooves all of us to think about it rather thoughtfully. But where do you start?

To begin to tackle this enigmatic riddle, it is imperative that you take an outsider’s perspective when you look at your practice. I know this is easier said than done which is why we’ve developed a simple exercise that any practice owner can use as a starting point. We call it the “What time do you close?” test. Allow me to elaborate…

It is 4:23pm on a Tuesday afternoon. At your front desk is Alice, your star receptionist. Alice is a star because she embodies everything you seek from a staff member. She is thoughtful. She is cheery. She strives to be as helpful as possible whenever she interacts with clients. The phone rings and Alice has the following conversation:

Alice (in a voice that conjours thoughts of rainbows and sunshine): Thank you for calling Springfield Animal Hospital. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi. I was wondering what time you close.

Alice: We close at 6:00pm on Tuesdays.

(pause)

Caller: Thank you.

(call ends)

By most accounts, Alice did exactly what she was supposed to: she was friendly; she provided accurate information; she answered the caller’s questions. Regrettably though, she failed to understand the caller in a way that made this call completely mediocre. The reality of the matter is that in isolation, no one cares what time your practice closes. What they do care about is whether it is feasible for them to visit you before you close. While nuanced, this is a critically important point that gets to the core of the client experience: understanding client needs and meeting those needs. The caller’s need was to know whether they could come in this afternoon. Alice could meet that need by recognizing the cue and offering an appointment. For example:

Alice (still in a voice that conjours thoughts of rainbows and sunshine): Thank you for calling Springfield Animal Hospital. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi. I was wondering what time you close.

Alice: We close at 6:00pm on Tuesdays. Were you hoping to swing by this afternoon for something?

Caller: Yes. My dog needs his shots.

Alice: Excellent! We could get you in to see Dr. Anderson at 5:00 or 5:15 if that would work for you?

Caller: 5:15 would work great.

Alice: Wonderful! Could I get your name to look you up in our system?…

In this scenario, Alice understood the non-verbal cue offered by the caller and addressed it directly. Research shows that consumers love when businesses do this. It makes them feel as though the business is really listening to them and strengthens the constantly evolving rapport they have with you.

As you think about your own practice, ask yourself: does my entire staff have a mindset for serving the client? As clinicians, practice owners are constantly thinking about the medicine, but at the end of the day, a veterinary practice is a customer service business first and foremost. Practices that excel at the client experience have this type of focus.

To conclude, refining your client experience does not mean changing workflow, changing process, etc. Instead, small incremental changes will have the biggest impact over the long term. In our experience working with our partner practices, simply working with staff to shift their mindset toward a more customer-centric one in which they are constantly trying to guess how the client wants to be served has produced the most pronounced effects. It is the “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” mentality that will show your commitment to your clients and keep them coming back for years to come.

 

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