In the technology age, there is a plethora of social media options. Many businesses have an account with each of the various outlets, but do you really need all of them? When does posting become too much for your business and correspondingly annoying to your clients? Do they really want to follow you on every social media platform and see the same thing posted multiple times? Do they want to see bad animal puns every day or would they rather see pertinent information regarding pet health?
Let’s break down the differences between the four most popular social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Facebook is great for those who want to provide information about their business, as well as share information with their followers. Similar to a website, you can list a ton of information including hours of operation, services offered, and team bios. At the same time, you can also provide current information that may not be as easily updated on a website.
For example- Sally brings in a dog she found wandering on the street with no collar and no microchip. A simple picture of the dog and description of where the dog was found can be shared by multiple clients at that exact moment, which may increase the chances of finding the dog’s owner. Similarly, an update as simple as “Hospital closing due to snow” gets the word out fast and efficiently.
You can also share things such as client photos or veterinary articles that your clients may find useful or just downright entertaining. Clients can also leave reviews directly on your page, which may as a result, bring in new clients!
Instagram is a platform used mainly to upload pictures and videos. This can be a great way to keep in touch with your existing clients, and can foster a relationship more than just at their annual visit. Sharing pictures that clients send in may make them feel more connected to the practice and less likely to go somewhere else for next year’s checkup, or a random sick visit. Adding “behind the scene” clips to the Stories section can show the client how your team works together everyday to provide the best service possible for their pets.
However, Instagram has its drawbacks for businesses. There isn’t a dedicated section where you can provide a description of what you do, just a short space to fill in your name and a general idea of who you are. This could limit your followers to existing clientele and may not reach a new client who needs more info to take action and visit your practice.
LinkedIn is another social media platform that is used mostly for professional networking. Individuals can upload their resume directly to the sight for potential employers to view. Meanwhile, businesses can post available jobs and descriptions. It may be helpful for the veterinarians at your practice to have a profile on LinkedIn so that clients can learn more about their education and experience. However, there isn’t a lot that your business can do on this social media site on a daily basis.
As an employer, LinkedIn does serve as a great tool to keep in touch with contacts within the veterinary industry. Met someone at the AVMA conference? Want to keep in touch with former classmates? Find them on LinkedIn to stay connected. LinkedIn is a great source to find/offer job opportunities and can keep you connected to your professional contacts.
Last but not least, there is Twitter. Known mostly for rants by celebrities, Twitter is a platform used as a “micro-blog.” Basically, users can post short posts throughout the day (limited to 280 characters) about anything they want. For business purposes, this is similarly useful to Facebook in that it gets news out quickly and efficiently. You can use this site to provide information about closures and lost pets as well as share client pictures and “behind the scenes” snapshots of your hospital with short descriptions. Clients can direct their posts to you with questions or reviews, and you can respond and repost their comments to your own “feed.” Twitter can keep you directly connected to your clients, as well as their followers, to keep in contact with them, as well as potentially bringing in new clientele.
Social media is all about the instant gratification of a web-based connection. Staying in touch with your clients outside of the office is a great way to retain your clientele and establish loyalty. However, there is a lot of research that goes into how people respond to posts and what posts they choose to respond to. Is your goal to become famous worldwide for your funny posts? Or is your goal to share information about your practice and increase revenue? The platform(s) you use is up to you. However, we recommend you consider what your goal is and how each site works towards this goal, prior to clicking “sign up.”
Some do’s and don’ts of social media:
Don’t over post… Research shows that once a day is optimal; anything more may become annoying and result in your clients “unfollowing” you.
Do know WHEN to post during the day… If your clients are mostly full-time workers, posting after normal working hours may increase the reach of each post.
Don’t post pricing information… Since prices can change and each situation can vary, do not lock yourself in by posting prices online. A receptionist can provide a range for an estimate better than a website.
Do make your pages easily accessible… Provide as much pertinent information as possible. Make sure you always link to your website and provide a phone number for any questions.
Don’t give access to just anyone… Limit social media access to 1 or 2 staff members who are trustworthy and can work together to keep the platform going.
Do interact with your followers… But do not respond in negative ways to bad reviews. Simply ask the reviewer to reach out to your office to settle the situation.
People like to feel as though they’re worth your time and attention. It’s only human nature, right? When clients or potential clients call your veterinary office, they want to hang up feeling as though their cats and dogs are important to you.
Here are six strategies to help you secure and retain clients through how your practice handles those telephone conversations.
Personalize Calls and Establish Relationships
If you’re a manager, your role in this can be to help ensure that people who answer the practice’s telephones have enough time to focus on the calls they take. You don’t want them to get overwhelmed by having to put too many callers on hold, or become distracted by having to do other tasks.
How many phone calls does your practice get on an average Monday? An average Saturday? At what times throughout the day does your call volume tend to increase? Have you adequately staffed for these times? If someone on your team points out that he or she can’t give adequate attention to callers, how do you respond? Is that response effective?
If you are someone who answers the phones for your practice, quickly find out who is on the other end of each call. Get the name of the caller and their pet(s) and use those names throughout the conversation. Let’s say, for example, that someone calls and wants to know how much you charge for a first-time visit for a kitten, including shots. You could respond by saying that it can be so exciting to get a new kitten, and then ask them for their name and their kitten’s name. In that one simple response, you’ve already set a friendly tone and obtained the information that you need to start to personalize the call.
If you ever feel as though you don’t have enough time to spend with each caller, let your manager know. Ideally, you can brainstorm effective solutions together.
Clarify Client Needs and Provide Appointment Information
During a phone call, find out information such as the pet’s age, how long the person has had the pet and the breed. Use language that’s clear and easy to understand, avoiding industry and medical jargon.
If the caller starts out by asking about the price of a service, let him or her know that you would be happy to provide them with that information, but you need to clarify a few details first. This gives you a chance to bond and build rapport, while ensuring that you’re providing the potential client with the information that he or she really needs. If you simply answer the question with a dollar figure, the caller may just end the call at that point.
Picture this scenario as an example. Let’s say that someone wants to know how much it will cost to neuter a male kitten. Through your conversation, you discover that the caller intends to adopt at a shelter tomorrow where that service is provided in adoption fees. You could then walk your caller through what a typical appointment is like for a kitten just adopted from a shelter and help to book an appointment.
Every situation is different but, in each case, clarifying the client’s needs is a crucial step in providing the best service possible to the callers.
Ask About Other Pets
Let’s say a client calls to make an appointment for his or her dog. While updating the records, you notice that the client’s cat is overdue for a checkup. Kindly remind the client of this information and offer to make appointments for all the animals during the same phone call. Ask what days of the week are best, whether morning or afternoon works better, and so forth, and the client will likely recognize how much effort you put into making the situation as stress-free as possible.
Then, offer two choices. “OK, so Thursday afternoons are good for you. Would you prefer 2 p.m. or 3 p.m.?”
Side note: Although the two-choice rule can be highly effective in this situation, it is best to avoid many of the types of questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”. For example, “Do you want to make an appointment?” makes it far too easy for a caller to say, “No.”
Be Aware of the Language You Use
Compare and contrast these sets of examples:
- “Georgie needs a rabies booster shot” versus “I recommend that Georgie get his rabies booster shot”
- “I’ve fixed your bill” versus “Your bill should be okay now”
- “The doctor plans to call you today to answer that question” versus “The doctor is really busy but will call sometime today when she can”
In each case, the first response is more confident and helpful, while the second one is more wishy-washy. And, in the second two examples, the latter responses can be insulting to clients, perhaps making them feel that they aren’t important to your practice.
Be Knowledgeable, But Not Scripted
Clients and potential clients alike appreciate when the person answering the phone is knowledgeable about schedules, services offered at the practice, and so forth. Having said that, authenticity is what connects people and makes people want to engage with you, so an overly scripted presentation can turn people off.
Here’s another caution: as receptionists gain experience and knowledge, it can be tempting for them to guess what their veterinarians would say, and provide information to callers. Even though experienced team members may be correct with their advice, it’s not wise to provide answers to medical questions without getting the information from the doctor.
For example, a client might call and say his dog is lethargic and doesn’t want to go outside. A receptionist might respond with, “Well, it is pretty cold outside. Maybe you could wait to see how Brutus does tomorrow. I know my dog doesn’t like really cold weather, either.” That receptionist may be exactly right, or Brutus could be having a significant medical problem. If the latter is true, this opens up the practice to legal liability.
Be Friendly but Also Efficient
Friendliness and kindness can play significant roles in obtaining and keeping clients. For example, if you realize that there is no way for you to avoid putting a caller on hold, doing so in an empathetic way will make it much more likely that the caller will understand and be willing to wait, rather than if you sound frazzled or even irritable. This concept will hold true in virtually everything you do at the practice.
Having said that, efficiency is also important for many reasons. First, the person calling in may be busy; second, efficiently handling calls opens up more receptionist time for the next caller.
To help ensure that your practice provides quality telephone service and etiquette, here are four tips:
- When hiring, consider soft “people” skills alongside the more resume-driven ones.
- Thoroughly train people who will answers phones, providing them with solutions to deal with typical challenges that arise.
- Provide enough resources so that receptionists are not forced to hurry. Efficiency is good; hurrying often leads to frazzled employees and dissatisfied clients, as well as potential clients who go to the practice across town.
- Managers and receptionists should communicate whenever a problem arises and work together to brainstorm solutions that work well for everyone involved.