Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Can Veterinary Care Evolve With Our Clients?

Maggie and Molly. 
I'm interested in hearing about what is important to you. You, the people in veterinary medicine that my veterinary clinic serves.

There are so many articles written already about "How to do almost everything." But I wonder who really ever asks our clients about what they need from us, instead of what we think we need to be doing for you?

There are numerous surveys available to query our clients about our clinic's appearance, our customer service, patient care, and overall experience, etc.. All incredibly important and valuable information for every practice owner to hear, but we are always asking for help about what we do, instead of asking you what we can do  to help you and your pet?

My big gripe with veterinary medicine is that too many of us live in a bubble. We are incredibly important to the lives of our patients and their families (yes, that is exactly the order in which I see it), but we don't change our direction or outward focus until we smell a predator lurking in our yard. Those predators are not only increasing in numbers, they are well organized, deep-pocketed, and savvy. What do we have going for us? We are humble, genuine, and durable. The landscape around us is changing. Our clients will not leave us because they don't value us, they will leave us for two reasons;

1. Price point. We probably can't win this battle.
2. Convenience. We better start focusing on this.

Princess Penelope
Let's look at the good and services that we provide;

Pharmacy. This highly lucrative component of our practice represents close to 30% of our revenues. We are going to lose this. It is going to go away. We can complain, lobby, and formulate erroneous reasons why our clients  are better served paying more for a product procured before they depart our doors, but the price points dictate decisions when the delta grows and it will keep on growing. Or, the big box stores will win their battle to require written scripts for each prescribed product. How are we going to argue that one?

Vaccines. For decades these were our primary marketing tool. Our bread and butter. In my practice the largest revenue remains from those clients who seek our services for an Annual Physical Examination and Vaccinations. I don't think that I can count on one hand the number of clients who came in for an Annual Examination that Didn't Require an accompanying vaccine. We have set ourselves up for a big problem. If we don't begin to build impenetrable bonds based on genuine care of  pets well being AND an unparalleled knowledge base we will begin to lose the weakest of our kind and foreclose to the corporations circling a growing, lucrative. Vaccine clinics are sprouting up like out-patient minute clinics. In fact, your local big chain pharmacy is drafting plans to offer rabies, distemper, and kennel cough vaccines. How is that going to impact your bottom line?

Surgeries. Well, if you don't see or feel the pressures from low cost spay and neuter clinics yet, you will. Better bone up on the cystotomies, cruciates, and GDV's. Can you imagine "spay/neuter" or "dental" only vet clinics that can provide these at half the cost that we do? I can.

Whatever large portion is the backbone of your revenue stream depends on is being squeezed and is in jeopardy.

It is going to become easier and cheaper to circumvent our practices. We will become the general practitioner to pet that we are the patients who go to see our own general practitioners. We are patients of minute clinics, flu shots at our grocery stores, and consumers who shop from the couch.

If you aren't trying to figure out a way for your clinics presence to be felt and influence from your pajama clad clients living room someone else will, or is.

Here's my question?

What do you think your clients want from you?

What do you think they need that we aren't providing them with?

How are we evolving to meet the needs, wants, and lifestyle changes of our customers?

It is not a model of "business as usual." It cannot and will not sustain, at least not in a successful sense.

One of my reasons..
my Jekyll.

I went to veterinary school for a few reasons, at the top of my list was my ability to help those closest to my heart. I never wanted to feel that I was at the mercy of anyone except a fate and a higher beings calling. It is nice to have a clean  hospital with a nice staff, but before I became a veterinarian I was a client. My biggest fear was to be unable to decide what to do. Or that I was unable to provide for them as they needed me to. I did not want to feel helpless and hopeless. I'm guessing that my perspective is not unique.

Where am I going to start? I'm going to start at the same place every other business with long term viability does.  I'm going to ask AND listen. Be more proactive and evolve to an ever changing landscape. Most of all I am going to be the veterinarian I needed when I was a client.

I want to hear what you think.. please leave a comment. You can also find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, in the clinic Jarrettsville Vet (where I will be doing a survey of my clients), or ask me a pet question, add your thoughts to others, at the place centered around helping you with the resources and knowledge to take better care of your pets Pawbly.com. Pawbly is free to use and open to everyone who loves pets.

1 comment:

  1. Really good questions. Though I wonder if a better question is what pet owners want in general. There me something they want that we can provide, that they wouldn't think to ask a vet for.