Holiday downtime naturally presents clinics with the opportunity to send out past-due vaccination reminders, clean behind the refrigerator, and take care of other practical matters. And practical matters are certainly integral to the success of any practice. Yet seasonal slow times present more than a chance to shine and replenish the shelves. Holiday downtime presents veterinarians and their teams with time to strengthen client relationships in unique and fun ways, and replenish personal satisfaction, joy, and sense of community connection in the process.
Here are five suggestions for holiday downtime:
1. Get Involved in Community by Participating in or Giving to a Good Cause
When you help make a difference in the world, you help lift the hearts of others (as well as your own), which brings people together to strengthen community and how they view your practice as a holistic presence of caring. A few examples to bring people together and give to a good cause:
- Set up a gift-wrapping table at a mall, community hall, or other location to raise funds for your local Humane Society or animal rescue organization.
- Host a “Pet Photos with Santa” day at your clinic. Spread news of Santa’s arrival through your website, social channels, and client email list. Accept donations for pictures on behalf of a charity. If you’re taking pictures of pets with Santa in addition to clients taking their own photos, get consent from clients in writing to photograph them so you have the option of posting images on your practice social channels.
- Host a donation drive. Call your local animal shelter to find out what their “wish list” is for the holidays. Then put the word out to your clients to let them know they can drop things off at your clinic. Extend season’s greetings to those who arrive. Photograph your delivery of donations to post to social and display in your clinic, and publicly thank your clients for their warmth of spirit and generosity.
2. Create a Paper Gratitude Chain
The holidays are a time of gratitude. In celebration of this, place colorful strips of paper in a bowl or basket in your reception area. Invite clients to take a strip and write down what they love about their pets. Then add the strips of paper as links in a gratitude chain and string it in your reception area. Let clients know that for every link added to the chain, your practice will donate a dollar (or whatever works for you) to a charity. Gratitude chains are a visual representation of a universal truth. When we all work together, the world becomes a better place.
3. Invite the Community to Help Less Fortunate Pet Owners
While many pet owners can afford to take care of their pets’ medical needs, either through savings or pet insurance, the reality is that many pet owners face a terrible reality. Though their pets may need a critical procedure or treatment, they simply can’t afford the cost. To help less fortunate pet owners, create a “Paws for a Cause”-style donation jar and collect donations for programs like the Farley Foundation. Administered through the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, the Farley Foundation assists pet owners and pets in need and gives hope to those who depend on their pets for love and companionship. Post paw-shaped donation cards all around your front desk with donor names on them and celebrate the community generosity on your practice social feeds.
4. Do Something Different
Reach out to your local radio station and volunteer to chat on air about pet health. Or, contact your local newspaper to write a short article about seasonal pet safety tips. Brainstorm ideas with your staff or colleagues. The main point is to do something that you don’t normally do while giving back to the community. Few things lend fresh energy and fun to your day than mixing up your routine.
5. Send Seasonal Greeting Cards
You don’t need a degree in statistics to know that fewer people are sending seasonal greeting cards. Why go to the trouble of snail-mailing a card when it’s easier to grab a dancing Santa clip from GIPHY, post it to social, and boom! Holiday greetings done! Yet therein lies the opportunity to strengthen your client relationships using an underutilized communication channel.
While people may be sending fewer holiday cards, most people still appreciate receiving them. Sending cards (ideally signed by your team) engages clients in a unique and special way. Cards show them that you make time for your clients. They strengthen client relationships by showing them that you consider them and their pets as family, and connected clients tend to be loyal clients.
If you don’t have time to send cards yourself, there are services like Postable to print, address, and mail cards for you. To easily send physical cards throughout the year to maintain client engagement, practices using the ALLYDVM Communication + Retention System can use an optional, automated feature to send timely appointment reminders to clients in the form of physical, practice-branded postcards.
No matter how you connect with community during any slow holiday periods, a little can go a long way to strengthening client relationships and adding fun to the holidays for your and your veterinary team.