In light of the modern shift toward sharing our lives online, we don’t treat privacy the same way we once did. To stay competitive, businesses must learn to operate within a culture of wide-open expression—and that means learning the value of transparency.
This value is a big one for millennial pet owners in particular. With this age group now representing the primary demographic of pet owners, it’s important to understand how their tech-savvy lifestyles have changed the game when it comes to transparency.
Want to know why transparency is so important? Read more about it here!
Healthcare studies have shown that transparency can play a role in safer, more effective care—and this can translate to your veterinary practice, as well. The trouble is, it can be hard to find new ways to incorporate transparency into your day-to-day operations.
Most clinics don’t have the luxury of spare time and budget for researching ideas to improve transparency, so we looked into it for you. Here are some practical ways to build a transparent business.
Transparency starts at the top.
A seamless transition toward a more communicative veterinary clinic starts with leadership, which sets an example for the rest of the team. In fact, one could argue that high-level positions require the most transparency, since they make most of the core decisions.
It can be as simple as sharing relevant personal thoughts and opinions on social media, or disclosing business objectives both internally and to your clients—but keep confidentiality in mind, of course. In this way, transparency can break down the barriers between the employer and the employee to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the overall success of the practice.
It takes a village.
Whatever your role may be, it’s essential that all team members follow in the footsteps of their leaders because transparency is a practice-wide responsibility. Secrecy is the enemy of transparency, and withholding certain information from your colleagues or your clients can be damaging to an environment of openness.
When all levels of staff are clear with one another about shift scheduling, knowledge bases, policies and training, you will all be on the same page. When it comes to communicating with clients, this can help negate confusion because your team will all give the same message.
Sharing is caring.
Improving your communication with pet owners is the ultimate goal of building a transparent veterinary practice. When people are transparent with one another, their relationship deepens, and this is the effect you want to have on your clients.
Try to keep pet owners aware of goings-on at your veterinary practice and share your business objectives with them. Offer frequent updates on key projects and promotions at the clinic so clients can stay engaged. Newsletters, emails and social media are some great ways to reach your clients with these kinds of updates.
Communication with pet owners is more than words.
It’s not uncommon for veterinary practices to shield pet owners from details by taking pets “to the back” for treatment. There will certainly be sanitary reasons to keep pet owners out of these treatment areas, but it’s important to recognize that this is a transparency issue.
Rather than taking pets to the back room, check with the pet owner—and if they’re okay with it, do as much of the pet’s treatment as possible in the exam room. If they don’t wish to experience it, offer them information to give them an idea of what’s happening in the treatment room.
It’s always a good practice to make these details available online too. You could even run a campaign on social media or write a blog post that demonstrates the steps of common procedures. This can help bridge any gaps in pet owner awareness and improve your openness as a clinic.
It’s important to be authentic—don’t use transparency as some clever PR gimmick. One of the main purposes here is to start meaningful conversations with clients about your services. Sometimes this can require extra measures of effort and boldness, because you need to truly put yourself out there. As a result, transparency will enhance your relationships with pet owners.
Disclose pricing details.
Cost is a significant part of how pet owners choose their veterinarians, but there’s a tendency within the industry to withhold pricing details until after the service has been completed. Not all clients will think to ask about price, or feel comfortable enough to do so.
While you might be concerned that big fees will drive away budget-savvy clients, the opposite can be true too. If price information is too difficult to find, potential clients may look elsewhere, with the assumption the prices aren’t posted because they’re expensive.
In reality, there’s no reason to hide costs. If pet owners choose your practice, they will discover the price soon enough. Disclosing the price can preemptively help limit the shock factor and allow clients to budget accordingly.
Sharing a detailed care plan with clients is a great way to help eliminate miscommunication associated with pricing. If pet owners can see exactly where their money is going, they may be more understanding of the cost.
Celebrate your successes; own your mistakes.
Obviously, your practice wants to be successful, and you should celebrate the good stuff with your clients! If it feels like you’re bragging, you’re not—it’s important to demonstrate your abilities to pet owners so that they will grow to trust your services and recommend you to others.
Balance is the key to practicing transparency effectively, because the aim is to be open and honest in every communication. This means sharing the highs and lows at your veterinary clinic. When you are transparent on a regular basis, even just with everyday successes, it will make any potential mistakes easier to swallow.
In an ideal world, you could keep every pet owner happy with their experience at your veterinary clinic, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. Avoid laying the blame on someone or something else. Instead, own the mistake; apologizing to pet owners can go a long way. When things go awry, the first thing that comes to mind is often “why?” Addressing that question head-on with dissatisfied clients can help dispel their frustration.
Face unhappy clients head-on.
Turn your interactions with dissatisfied pet owners into good customer service moments. While you should never tolerate cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior, it’s important to handle unhappy pet owners head-on.
Unhappy clients don’t always go away quietly, so there’s really no sense avoiding it because they may choose to vent online instead. Answer client concerns directly and professionally, and embrace negative reviews as an opportunity to learn and improve your services publicly.
Leaving up a bad review (alongside your positive response) shows pet owners that you are not afraid to admit to any shortcomings and that you will make every effort to learn from your mistakes. Ultimately, people will come to trust that you are transparent when you refuse to hide even the negative reviews, which makes your positive reviews all the stronger.
Make changes known.
Change can be an extremely good thing for your veterinary practice, so long as you minimize the element of surprise for your clients. Whatever the change may be, it’s important to disclose this information to avoid blindsiding pet owners.
Considering a change in location? Make sure to tell your clients well in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements for travel, or find another veterinarian. This can help maintain the positive relationship, and a satisfied former client may recommend you to their friends in your new area if the transition is smooth for them.
Even if a change is last-minute, let your clients know as soon as possible. If a drastic change in policy, pricing or staffing comes into effect outside your control, make sure to share these changes with clients as soon as you can. This will help pet owners feel involved and engaged with happenings at your practice, which will solidify your relationship and encourage client loyalty to your business.Enhancing the level of transparency at your veterinary practice doesn’t have to be a high-cost operation. In fact, some of the most beneficial tactics are also the least expensive. By adding small measures of openness and honesty into your day-to-day business practices, you can improve communication between your team members and with clients too!
Eager to start practicing more transparency with pet owners? Find out how a WebDVM website can help streamline the process!