(This post was originally published on June 30, 2016 and has been updated to be more awesome.)
Cost is certainly a reason why many clients fail to follow through with veterinary treatments and recommendations, and why prospective clients don’t visit clinics. However, cost isn’t the whole reason.
In a recent study commissioned by Partners for Healthy Pets (a program created by the American Animal Hospital Association and more than 20 leading veterinary associations), researchers found that less than 60% of pet owners gave cost as a reason why they didn’t seek professional veterinary services. So, if it’s not entirely about cost, then why aren’t clients complying with veterinary recommendations and prospective clients visiting your clinic?
Here are seven reasons why:
1. They Don’t Remember
Visiting a veterinarian can be a stressful experience for a pet owner (especially if their pet is stressed as well), and stress can be distracting. So, pet owners may not hear or remember your words. Alternatively, the words you choose to convey instructions and/or recommendations may be too complicated for easy recall. Anything more than a few simple steps or instructions can quickly become a hazy memory.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Client education information written in plain language and printed and handed to pet owners after a visit (or emailed) helps them remember and understand the importance of following through with veterinary recommendations or treatments.
2. They Don’t Understand the Necessity
Imagine you’ve just examined a dog named Fluffy and recommended oral surgery to repair an oral defect. At first, the pet owner takes you seriously and books an appointment to have the surgery done. Then the pet owner returns home and sees that Fluffy seems to be eating just fine without any discomfort and decides to cancel the appointment. They may not fully understand that just because their pet isn’t displaying signs of pain doesn’t mean their pet isn’t in pain or having difficulty. By providing a pet owner with a post-examination educational handout, the pet owner has a reminder that explains why it’s important and necessary to follow through with your recommendation.
3. They Only See the Short-Term Cost—Not the Long-Term Cost
Recommending an expensive procedure or change in diet can often cause a pet owner to quickly think of their wallet and slam on the breaks. Their initial reaction may be to question whether the expense is truly necessary or worth it. And for pet owners rigidly fixed on numbers, a suitable and often-effective answer is to present them with the long-term benefits of a recommendation versus short-term cost.
For example, recommending that a pet owner change their pet’s usual dry dog food to an oral-care dry dog food to combat plaque and tartar buildup may sound unnecessary to a pet owner. However, by explaining that a full tooth cleaning can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1000, you frame your initial pet food recommendation within an overall context that helps a pet owner see short-term costs as preferable to long-term ones. Knowing a pet owner’s level of understanding in any recommendation can help you decide how much explanation is warranted.
4. They’re Getting False Information Online
While veterinarians know that the web is filled with unvetted, incorrect and ineffective pet health information that in some cases may cause pets harm, research by Partners for Healthy Pets shows that almost 50% of pet owners choose the internet as their first option when a pet is sick injured, and the reason is simple.
The internet is convenient, but convenience comes with risks:
- Conflicting online pet health information can cause pet owners to delay making time-sensitive decisions as they continue searching for what seems like a right answer.
- Pet owners may make a wrong decision in a pet health situation.
- Worse case: Pet owners conclude there’s nothing wrong with their pet and don’t make a veterinary appointment or seek emergency help, even though a situation is critical.
Education is the key to fighting false pet health information online and strengthening client relationships. When providing recommendations to patients, ask them whether they have any questions or what they already know about a subject as a way of starting a conversation.
You can further prevent clients from relying on unvetted online information and improve compliance by providing them with pet health articles from LifeLearn ClientEd. Easily integrated with your practice website, ClientEd’s library has more than 2,000 illustrated pet health articles written and reviewed by animal health experts to make your practice the credible, go-to resource for pet owners to make better pet healthcare choices.
5. They’re Receiving Inconsistent Communication From Your Clinic
If your clients are hearing one thing from your vet tech, another thing from you, and something different from your receptionist, they may leave your clinic feeling confused about whose information to trust. Make sure that your staff is providing consistent information across the board. Being consistent in your communications will do more than help improve compliance. Consistency will also help improve customer satisfaction.
6. They Don’t Understand Your Recommendations Because of Jargon
What oftentimes seems abundantly clear to you may go straight over a client’s head because you’re using veterinary terms they don’t understand, and they may be too embarrassed to admit that they don’t understand what you’re talking about. To avoid this, make sure you’re giving recommendations in plain, simple language, and ask clients if they have any questions when you’re done giving your recommendations. The more you encourage clients to voice their questions, the more likely they are to tell you when they don’t fully understand what you’re saying.
7. They Don’t Feel a Strong Bond to Your Practice
The stronger the bond your clients feel with your practice/veterinary team, the more likely they are to comply with recommendations. This is because a strong bond indicates a strong sense of trust in your practice. When your clients trust your practice, they are more likely to believe that you would only make recommendations in the best interest of their pet, and not in order to make money. (We know you would never make a recommendation just to make money, but sometimes your clients don’t know that.)
One of the keys to a better bond is excellent communication. Keep your communications consistent across your practice. Make sure to provide reminders about upcoming appointments. And when you make recommendations, be sure to fully communicate to pet owners what you’re recommending and why. The better pet owners understand your recommendations, the more they’ll see why you made those recommendations and that you have the best interest of their pet at heart.
Ultimately, achieving better client compliance comes down to informing clients, making sure they remember your recommendations, and providing them with additional resources that empower them.