From hype to value creation: How technology can unlock transformative customer experiences

29 October 2021 5 min read

 
headshot of Ying Chen, Chief Customer Officer, Product

Ying Chen is Chief Customer Officer, Product at Covetrus. She leads strategy and product development focused on empowering animal health practitioners.

Ying’s background includes 20+ years in the B2B software industry delivering award-winning product for VC backed startups and global public enterprises. Most recently she was a General Manager and Vice President at HubSpot, where she helped deliver effective customer experiences through technology contributing to a platform that serves 121K+ organizations globally. Chen held various executive leadership roles including Chief Product Officer at Luminoso, an MIT Media Lab spin-off that applies modern machine learning to help the world’s most recognizable brands develop effective voice of the customer programs. Chen holds a Bachelor of Science from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Boston University.

As tech innovation continues to advance animal health and wellness, the best solutions will provide fully connected care and an integrated experience that empowers both practices and pet parents.

New technologies are fond of promising how they’ll transform the way we live our lives or run our businesses. Whether automating tasks to save us time or enabling better communication with our customers, tech innovations can, in fact, effect positive change.

But as a veterinary practice, how can you distinguish between technologies that sound great in concept and those that help you deliver care more proactively and efficiently and offer a better pet-parent experience?

Where’s the line between hype and value creation?

Let’s use chatbots as an example. Just a few years ago, these computer-simulated, online customer service reps burst onto the software scene and quickly became all the rage. Companies were eager to adopt the technology because, well, it was cool – without having a clear goal of how it fits into the consumer journey.

And anyway, in those early days, chatbots didn’t really do much besides say hello or “I don’t understand your request,” before pointing you to a phone number to call.
But as organizations realized that the value of the technology is in its ability to democratize self-service, we began to see better and more effective chatbots. Today, chatbots are commonplace.

Consumers are driving the demand. Between 2018 and 2020, chatbot usage has increased 67 percent, according to research by Salesforce. And during Covid-19, the technology has provided millions of people with critical, timely information. For instance, in April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Facebook Messenger version of its WHO Health Alert platform, leveraging Facebook’s global reach to offer instant and accurate data about Covid-19.

So how should we think about the acceleration of new (and much-hyped) technologies in the veterinary industry, and how should your practice decide which tools to adopt – and which to pass over?

Consider your practice’s biggest challenges.

In an April 2021 study of Covetrus partner practices, 89 percent1 reported that recruiting talent is a challenge for their clinic, with 60 percent citing retention as a challenge as well. A significant majority (94 percent) also struggle with finding enough time to get things done.

Tasks like better onboarding of new staff, extending care through self-service technology or telehealth capabilities, and implementing new tools that the whole team can use are tangible challenges that practices can tackle one-by-one, not all at once, and make solid progress.

Without a doubt, Covid-19 has amplified the challenges for many practices. Working from home has made pet parents more attuned to their animals’ ups and downs, driving demand for veterinary services as hospital staff have worked through heightened safety protocols. And consumers overall have only cemented2 their mobile-driven, online-shopping habits.

Practices should think hard about the types of problems that technology might enable them to solve, but also consider the business process necessary to support successful adoption of that technology.

Technology has the potential to bridge the gap between pet parent and veterinarian.

The right technology can improve efficiency and staff productivity by automating communications and streamlining workflows – and enable you to shift from reactive to more proactive care.

But you should be strategic and targeted about how technology can address your practice’s day-to-day challenges. Technology should be used to extend the exceptional care you provide – not to replace the care.

Appointment management is a key opportunity to extend care, provide convenience, and lighten staff workload. What kind of impact can a missed appointment have? Covetrus data shows losing a single appointment each day can cost more than $66,000 in revenue3 a year.

Appointment management software is designed to be easy to use, to empower automation, and to offer your clients self-service, all of which creates a win-win situation for practice staff and pet parents.

Similarly, client communications software that leverages automated mobile and email messaging for appointment scheduling, reminders, and follow-ups allows you to manage your calendar more efficiently, and it can help minimize missed appointments.

Rather than replacing care, client communications software enables you to extend your services to pet parents where they are: on their mobile devices, on the go. And while you add a new way to connect with your client, you save on staff time spent managing appointments.

Another example of technology that can strengthen the pet-parent/vet relationship: prescription home delivery. The all-too-common prescription “walkout” – when a client leaves without purchasing a recommended medication – comes with many risks. The pet doesn’t receive the care it needs, the practice loses that revenue, and the client is more likely to purchase the medication from a third-party pharmacy. Purchasing elsewhere also creates information gaps in the patient record – a lack of visibility that hinders appropriate follow-up.

A prescription home delivery solution can help reduce those risks – and close those gaps – with tools that enable you to email a prescription reminder and allow the client to purchase the medication at a competitive price through your own online pharmacy.

This technology also extends your services into an area – online shopping – that pet parents are already familiar with and increasingly expect from their veterinarian.

How to go from awareness to adoption: 3 tech takeaways

What does it take for your practice to see through hype and recognize technology solutions that will create value?

  1. Technology doesn’t need to solve every problem.
    Even as our culture has come to expect “there’s an app for that” in any situation, remember that technology adoption doesn’t need to be “all or nothing.” Too many practices rush to modernize their operation, for fear they’re falling behind the curve, without fully considering the role they want each technology solution to play. Instead…

  2. Identify challenges you want to solve.
    From the general (staff fatigue, client communication gaps) to the specific (missed appointments, prescription walkouts), understanding your biggest pain points and how they overlap will serve as your compass in the direction of the right solution.

  3. Work with your technology provider to set and achieve goals.
    Finally, when you’re ready to implement a new technology, work with that solution’s experts to help you focus on key metrics of success. Even the smallest valuable area that you improve can have a significant impact on the health of your practice and the animals in your care.

SOURCES:

1: Covetrus Veterinary Practice Survey, April 2021.

2: 2017 Covetrus North American Veterinary Industry Marketing Research

3: eCommerce Growth North America