Your Practice Needs a Client Communication Co-ordinator By Kyle Palmer, CVT

Who has time to send smartphone texts, send and receive medical records, manage online appointments and send patient updates and cute pics to information-hungry pet owners? Here’s why I think everyone needs this new client-facing team member in their veterinary practice.
One new change at our practice that is 100 percent client-centric is the addition of a Client Communication Coordinator. If you’re
like us, you’ve noticed an explosion of requests for electronic communication, especially for medical record records from clients, referral practices, veterinarians who share a “mutual client” and, of course, taking in all of those records coming back into your practice from those other locations. But before we officially set up this new position, we talked through about some steps that needed to happen first:
You need to get rid of all those paper records and do it now. On top of all of the other reasons electronic records are superior (storage, access, security, long-term protection), they are also a lot easier to send and receive. You need a consistent email address or several. And, remember, while it’s nice to have email addresses associated with your website address: office@progressiveanimalclinic. com it works just as well to get a simple Gmail account. It takes about 45 seconds and it’s free. I cringe whenever I ask for a clinic’s email address only to hear they don’t have one. Really? Give your doctors their own emails so they can communicate with clients that is, If you want to employ doctors under the age of 40.
Get rid of your fax machine. Replace it with an eFax account and encourage anyone who wants to fax you something to send it by email instead. When someone sends a fax to your eFax account, they don’t need to know you don’t have a real fax machine. What they send is converted into an email for you. You’ll take back counter space from your old machine, stop spending money on print cartridges, eliminate the need for a dedicated phone line, and, best of all, if you’re keeping electronic records, the faxed messages are already electronic.
The Patient Revolution gives way to the Client Revolution. The past five to 10 years of veterinary medicine could easily be called the Patient Revolution, with an era of sweeping improvements in the tools available to us as we make daily decisions for our patients. Think of it all: better anesthetics .. widespread adoption of digital radiographs and dental radiography … better pain medications for dogs (and the existence of pain medications for cats)… next-generation flea and tick products… amazing pharmaceutical advances … and the list goes on.
While those advances will no doubt continue, we are now entering a period that will be known as the Client Revolution, a time when successful practices explore ways to be more client-driven while holding onto those advances we’ve made in patient care. It may be the natural evolution of competitive business or it may be the result of a “not that long ago” economic downturn that put consumers in the driver’s seat, choosing to do business with whichever practices responded best to their needs.
A common thread among many of these Client Revolution opportunities I’ve written about at-home euthanasias, comfort rooms for quiet procedures and outdoor exam spaces is that, on the surface, they’re all about the patient. There’s no arguing that providing a less stressful environment is good for the dog or cat, but it’s the client’s perception of value that can really add to the bottom line especially when pet owners see that you care enough about their pets to make changes like these.
What else could YOU do today, this week or this year to show pet owners that your veterinary practice is part of the new Client Revolution?
Once your practice is ready, it’s time to find your Client Communication Coordinator. How will this special team member stay busy and vital to your practice? Let me count the ways:
1. Clients want to send pictures of something for
their veterinarian to look at a hot spot, hair loss or a
video of odd behavior. Your Client Communication
Coordinator routes those photos to the appropriate
doctor.
2. Many practices, including mine, use third-party
systems to set up online appointment requests and
electronic communication of appointment reminders
and confirmations. It’s an amazing system, but it
sometimes requires some human interaction… by
your Client Communication Coordinator.
3. Would some of your clients love it if they could get
text messages when a pet was cleared to begin an
anaesthetised procedure, when a procedure started
and ended, when a pet went to recovery, and when
a pet was awake and upright? That’s an incredible
service to provide, but it takes a Client Communication
Coordinator to manage.
4. If you board pets at your facility, how much would
clients love to get a photo emailed or texted of their
beloved family member while they’re away? Clients
who receive them from our Client Communication
Coordinator are very thankful.
5. Who manages your practice’s social media
presence? Don’t HAVE a presence? Start writing your
practice’s obituary… or hire or promote your own
Client Communication Coordinator. These days it’s
vital to follow clients’ favorite ways of communicating,
and social media is king. You’ll get feedback about
your practice, you’ll be able to share things clients
want to know about your practice, and you’ll be able
to use social messaging as one more way to avoid
the telephone, which will one day be completely
replaced as the primary form of communication with
your clients.
The writing’s on the wall or, rather, the smartphone, that clients want to communicate with you in very different ways than they did 10 years ago. Now the ball is in your court to give them what they want. Find the right person on your team (or hire, if you need
to). You’re looking for an expert on navigating email, posting on social media, and scanning and managing paperwork equipment. Then make this person your inaugural Client Communication Coordinator.
It’s money well spent.
Article reprinted with the permission of Firstline. The article was originally
printed in Firstline, February, 2017. Firstline is a copyrighted publication of
Advanstar. Communications inc. All rights reserved.

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