Compliance is an ongoing challenge for veterinary practices today. According to research by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), pet-owner adherence with recommended treatments fell from 29% to 22% between 2013 and 2016, while annual visits by pet-owners dropped from 4.4 to 3.2.
At the same time, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports the number of current pet-owners who aren’t taking their pets to a veterinary clinic has risen steadily, corresponding with a decline in the number of new pet-owners visiting veterinary practices.
While there are clear benefits to preventive healthcare, getting clients to bring their pets into your practice for regular check-ups is a constant worry for veterinarians and practice owners. While it’s acknowledged that good client communication is vital for success in this area, successful execution requires a sound strategy and effective tools.
Here are four key ways that automated reminders and recalls can help bring clients and patients back through the doors of your practice and increase compliance.
Ensure reminders arrive at the right time
As with most things, timing is crucial when it comes to sending out reminders. Send it too early and they will forget again, send them too late, and they may no longer have the time to come in.
Veterinary communications expert, Wendy Meyers, recommends sending the first reminder three weeks before the appointment due date. If the client doesn’t attend or reschedule, continue sending reminders at the two and three-week mark after the due date.
Another timing consideration to keep in mind is how you batch the reminders you send. This provides maximum efficiency for your clinic and ensures you’re not inundated with calls and requests for appointments over a short period of time. Scheduling a reminder batch to be sent out weekly means that appointment bookings are more spread out and manageable, and the client is more likely to find an available time slot that suits them.
Ensure reminders are sent in the optimal format
Traditionally, veterinary clinics would rely on phone calls to contact clients about upcoming appointments. But, as clients often work the same hours as the clinic is open, this wasn’t always effective. Calls would either not be answered, or, if the call was answered, it was often a bad time to arrange an appointment.
Using postcard, email or text reminders means the client can act on the reminder message at a time that suits them best. They can then call, reply by email or go online to book their next appointment when it best suits them. This makes it more likely that they will.
Include an online booking function
Sending out reminder communications by email, text or postcard is a great way to prompt a client they have an upcoming appointment. However, if the only way they can make or amend a booking is by calling you during business hours, it decreases the likelihood they will make the effort.
Including a link to an online portal is a great way to enable your clients to book or change their appointment time due to its convenience. Of all appointments made using an online booking system, 50% are booked outside normal business hours and 17% are from new clients. In addition, 17% of practices report an increase in revenue after adding an online booking service.
If your client didn’t respond, or return for a visit the first time around, that doesn’t mean they won’t respond in the future. While you may feel tempted to class clients you haven’t seen in over 18 months as a lost cause, don’t give up on them yet. Recall communications to these clients can still work – so it’s definitely worth persevering.