Cultivate Stronger Customer Bonds
🎶…People – People Who Need People (And Pets) 🎶
Only people of a certain age will get this reference, but the main idea is that we need people (pet owners) to need us (veterinary practices) and not just need us – want us!
So today, I wanted to share some thoughts on how specialty and referral practices can cultivate stronger bonds with clients (pet owners and referring veterinarians).
According to a recent article in Today’s Veterinary Business (August 2020), the normal “bonding rate” for general veterinary practices is around 60%, which means they will again see six out of 10 clients within 18 months. This is nothing to be proud of. Practices located in more transient areas will often have bonding rates of less than 60%, but you really should be shooting for 80-85+%.
Here are four creative ways to increase your bonding rate:
1. Take their pulse
In this uncertain and changing economy, it’s more important than ever to get ongoing feedback from your customers. Using inexpensive online surveys, you can quickly learn what your customers are thinking at any given moment. Ask how you can help them. This is powerful information you can use to make real-time adjustments to your business based on your customers’ current needs.
The closer you are to your customers and the better you are at asking for their feedback and answering their questions, the more likely it is they’ll turn to you when they need a service you offer. No matter what the economy looks like, customers would rather buy from a business with which they have a good relationship. Keep checking their pulse; adapt as needed, and you’re more likely to keep their business – and gain word-of-mouth referrals.
2. Have a dialogue with your customers
Don’t just feed information to your customers and talk at them; invite them to engage in a conversation with you through your e-mail marketing newsletters, blog, and in some cases, social media. Do this by writing content that inspires your audience to talk back in a Q&A or a “stump the experts” section. Ask readers to submit their questions or concerns, and then publish answers and opinions. When you feature a conversation with customers, you demonstrate to your readers that you share their concerns and that you’re also dealing with the pressures of the economy. Providing timely, interesting and entertaining content shows off your expertise while listening and responding show that you care.
The same goes for specialists and referring veterinarians. Talk, don’t just expect referrals to land in your portal. You may need to expand access by sharing your cell phone number and personal email address to communicate in a responsive manner. Just having the option of this personal connection can mean the difference between sending business to you or your competition.
3. Upgrade your communication methods
Think you’re a progressive practice clinically? Great. My guess is your technology infrastructure and communication options are lagging behind. If you ask pet owners today how they want to communicate with you the answers you will receive are: text, chat, app, email, and then telephone. If you can’t offer all of these, you may not notice a dip in clientele today, but your pipeline of new clients will certainly dry up. These are the overwhelming preferences of pet owners, almost regardless of age. Why not make it easy to do business with you? After all, we need to do better than 60%.
4. Do good and drive business to your business
Consumers are becoming more aware of social issues and their impact on the world around them. Tap into your customers’ desire to give back to the community. Team up with a local charity that will use your business as a drop-off location over the holidays, or make a donation in your customers’ name to a charity as a holiday gift. Appreciation and service all at one time!
Use e-mail marketing to inform customers about your involvement with the charity and invite them to join you in your support by offering their time, money, or ideas. You’ll be doing something great for the community while increasing awareness for your business.
In difficult economic times, your business survival depends on strong customer relationships. It’s not how often you communicate with customers–it’s the richness and quality of those communications that’s important. Your goal is to establish the strongest relationships with your customers no matter what the economy looks like at the time. If you build and nurture those relationships, they will keep coming back.