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Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone Frenzy? 7 Ways to Cut Call Volume

Phone frenzy? 7 ways to cut call volume

Call volumes have more than doubled at practices nationwide, according to GeniusVet survey data (1). Front-desk teams are struggling to answer the onslaught of calls to schedule the three-month backlog of checkups and elective procedures, refill medications, and curbside arrivals. Clients’ phone experiences have rapidly deteriorated, with calls frequently rolling into voicemail when employees can’t keep up.    

You need to fix phone experiences now or risk losing client relationships and revenue. Here are strategies to stop the phone frenzy: 

1. Have clients text (not call) when they arrive for curbside appointments.  

Signs instruct clients to call your hospital upon arrival for curbside care, resulting in more call volume. Switch out the “Call us when you arrive” sign for “Curbside appointment? Text this: ARRIVED, your name, your pet’s name, parking spot #.” Reply to confirm the arrival and explain you’ll text again when your nursing team is ready to go to the client’s car. 

2. Reduce prescription refill calls.    

You get 50 or more calls a day for prescription refills. Why do clients wait until the last pill is gone before calling for refills? Because you don’t remind them! Turn on refill reminders in your practice-management software for every drug that clients will need to repurchase, from preventatives to allergy medications.   

Text this: “Max needs a refill of <brand> for flea and tick protection. Click here to refill in our online store with home delivery OR reply Y to refill and get curbside pickup at our hospital.” 

The nurse who fills the medication will send a text to the client when it’s ready: “Max’s medication has been refilled and is ready for pick up. Please park in our curbside pickup spot and text us when you arrive. We’re open until 6 p.m. today.” 

3. Designate a parking spot for pick up. 

Just as restaurants have reserved parking for to-go orders, do the same for clients picking up medication and food. Post a sign instructing clients to text you upon arrival for contactless pick up. Clients can push their trunk release buttons for your staff to load items. Have a local sign company print your curbside parking signs. To design your sign, use free websites such as www.canva.com.   

4. Get text- or email-to-pay solutions. 

Don’t take credit card numbers over the phone and get slammed with the extra 2 percent merchant fee for manually entered credit cards. Ask your practice-management software or third-party providers about text- or email-to-pay options. Also check with your local business bank about mobile payment devices.  

A Weave survey found 30 percent of small business customers would “frequently or always” pay with a text from their phone if they could (2). Among buyers under age 35, customer preferences doubled to 62 percent.   

5. Offer online and app scheduling.  

The average veterinarian sees 30 patients daily. That’s 30 scheduling calls at eight minutes each, totaling four hours of talk time. Update text and email reminders with links to online scheduling or prompt clients to download your clinic app.  

Many hospitals are scheduling appointments two to six weeks out. To end the backlog chaos, send reminders six to eight weeks in advance and use forward booking. Text this: “<Pet name> will be due for a checkup Feb. 15. We are experiencing increased appointment requests. Book now to ensure your first choice of time, day, and doctor. Click here to book online or download our app.”  

Email reminders need powerful subject lines that motivate clients to forward book. Use the pet’s name and a benefit statement. Here’s a strong subject line:<Pet name> needs a checkup soon | Book now for best availability.” The body of your email would explain: “Because many pets became overdue when COVID safety guidelines limited us to urgent care and emergencies, we are experiencing increased appointment requests. <Pet name> will be due on Feb. 15. To ensure your first choice of doctor, time, and date, we need to forward book your pet’s appointment now. Click here to book online or download our app.”  

6. Update your voicemail greeting to set expectations. 

A generic voicemail greeting may be leaving clients confused and even angry. Clients think, “Why aren’t they answering phones during business hours? My pet is sick, and I need to talk to someone NOW!” 

To stop the disappointment, update your recorded greeting. Tell callers what specific information they need to leave in their messages and when to expect returned calls. Record this: “You’ve reached the voicemail of <Hospital Name>. Our client care team is helping other clients and is unable to take your call. Instead of putting you on hold and taking up your valuable time, please leave your name, pet’s name, phone number, and how we can help you. You also may text us at 555-555-5555. We will return your call or text within 15 minutes.”  

Giving callers two options of leaving a message or sending a text will have them feel in control and confident that they’ll promptly hear back from your team. Front-desk employees should watch for the flashing red voicemail light like it’s a siren. When you provide timely answers, clients will reward your practice with loyalty and positive interactions. 

7. Add direct-dial lines to reduce phone traffic on your main number. 

Set up direct lines for pharmacy, ask-a-nurse, boarding, and grooming. Have voicemail on each direct-dial line in case an employee isn’t immediately available to answer. You’ll spend $30 to $50 per month for an additional phone line but save time for clients and your front-desk team. 

Here is a sample voicemail greeting for your pharmacy direct-dial line: “You’ve reached <Your Veterinary Hospital>’s pharmacy line. Please leave your name, your pet’s name, the prescription you need refilled, dosage, and phone number. Leave your cell number and let us know if you prefer a text response. We will review messages at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Thank you!”  

Talk with your client care team about strategies that will save their sanity while improving client experiences. Embrace technology tools that will become long-term solutions. Hurry, the phone is ringing! 

References: 

  1. GeniusVets to Host “Defeating the Phone Frenzy” Webinar to Help Practices Improve Communication During COVID. PRWeb. Available at: https://www.prweb.com/releases/geniusvets_to_host_defeating_the_phone_frenzy_webinar_to_help_practices_improve_communication_during_covid/prweb17351746.htm. Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.
  2. A New Payment Solution Is Taking Over: 30% of Customers Prefer Paying With Phone Texts. Weave. Available at: https://www.getweave.com/a-new-payment-solution-is-taking-over-30-of-customers-prefer-paying-with-phone-texts/. Accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

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How to Keep Employees Safe When You Reopen

How to Keep Employees Safe When You Reopen

How to Keep Employees Safe When You Reopen

In mid-May 2020, more than half of states have started to reopen their economies under restrictions, including allowing fewer customers, requiring workers and customers to wear masks, and enforcing social distancing.[1] In uncertain times, your practice team needs to create systems that will make employees and clients feel comfortable with the delivery of veterinary care. Let’s get your practice ready to safely reopen:

Consider assessing employees’ health at the start of each shift.

When employees arrive, a supervisor would use an infrared non-contact thermometer to take temperatures. CDC’s definition of a fever is 100.4 degrees.[2] Managers should maintain a temperature and self-assessment log. Each employee will answer a short list of self-assessment health questions, which could be incorporated into your electronic time clock software. Consult with your employment attorney and send employees with fevers home. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines give employers the right to take employee temperatures and advise having a plan on how the process will occur, confidentiality of information, handling employee refusals, and actions if fevers are detected.[3] Download EEOC guidelines at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pandemic-preparedness-workplace-and-americans-disabilities-act.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment created an online symptom checker for health-care businesses (https://intake-app-dot-cdphe-erm.appspot.com/intake-form). Questions ask the presence of symptoms including fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. The questionnaire asks whether the employee has been in contact with someone who had COVID-19 symptoms but was not tested or with someone who tested positive. 

Have employees immediately wash their hands upon arrival.

Staff shouldn’t clock in or put personal items in lockers until they’ve washed their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Set hygiene standards such as having employees wash their hands after providing care to every patient, using the restroom, sneezing, blowing the nose, cleaning, sweeping, mopping, smoking, eating, drinking, taking a break, and before or after starting a shift.

Encourage safe distancing.

Co-workers should stay at least six feet apart. If you have two receptionists at the front desk, shift workstations to be farther apart or move the second employee to a phone cubby or an office. Employees should wear cloth masks (PPE for procedures), even if you’re not allowing clients in the building. Wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing—employees must do both. 

Adapt your break room.

If you have a small space, schedule individual employee breaks and mealtimes so only one employee is in the break room at a time. Provide sanitizing spray to wipe down the counter, microwave, sink, table, and chair after each use. COVID-19 can live on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours. The virus can be spread from infected objects if you then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Encourage employees to bring their own coffee mugs, dishes, and utensils from home, avoiding shared kitchen utensils, dishes, and supplies. 

For larger teams, reduce the number of chairs at tables, spacing them six feet apart and using colored tape on table surfaces to indicate separate seating. At Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord, N.H., Hospital Director Joshua Jasper moved its break room to a larger conference room, marked table surfaces for distancing, and set up a team appreciation station with complimentary snacks and drinks (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jjosh21_vetlife-veterinarymedicine-caves2020-activity-6655803991835967488-96ze).[4] 

Sanitize workspaces.

Doctors and managers should sanitize and clean personal workspaces at the beginning and end of each shift. Shared workspaces such as reception and nursing stations should be cleaned between client interactions and when another co-worker will use the same equipment or computer.

Go to single-table surgical suites.

Chapel advises that some two-table surgical suites can be converted to a single-table room, providing more space for medical teams working in a confined space.

Talk with veterinary colleagues and associations to share resources and tips on what’s working in practices. Safety protocols will help your team deliver the care that clients and patients are counting on.

References: 

[1] Mervosh S, Lee J, Gamil L, and Popovich, N. See Which States Are Reopening and Which Are Still Shut Down. New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/states-reopen-map-coronavirus.html. Accessed May 11, 2020.

[2] Definitions of Signs, Symptoms, and Conditions of Ill Travelers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/maritime/definitions-signs-symptoms-conditions-ill-travelers.html. Accessed May 4, 2020. 

[3] Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pandemic-preparedness-workplace-and-americans-disabilities-act. Accessed May 5, 2020.

[4] Jasper J. Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service. LinkedIn post. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jjosh21_vetlife-veterinarymedicine-caves2020-activity-6655803991835967488-96ze. Accessed May 4, 2020. 

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5 Ways Your Practice Can Recover From COVID-19

5 Ways Your Practice Can Recover From COVID-19

5 ways your practice can recover from covid-19 

Some veterinary hospitals have gone to urgent and emergency care only, cancelling all non-essential appointments and elective surgical and dental procedures. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advocates for veterinary hospitals and ambulatory practices to be considered essential businesses in situations where non-essential businesses are asked to close for COVID-19 risk mitigation.[1] As you adjust plans day by day, look at how your small business can recover from this crisis. Here are five strategies you should implement now:

1. provide curbside concierge service.

To maintain social distancing and keep clients and employees safe, go curbside and restrict pet owners from entering your building.

When clients call to book appointments, explain the process: “Please call us from your car when you arrive for your pet’s appointment. A veterinary nurse will meet you to ask you questions about your pet and to explain the services we will deliver. We will take your pet inside the hospital and perform care while you wait in your car. A doctor will call you on your cell phone to explain exam findings, treatments, and medications. A receptionist will review your pet’s services and fees over the phone and get your credit-card information for payment. The veterinary nurse will bring your pet, medications, and paid receipt to you in our parking lot. We appreciate the opportunity to care for your pet and have a safe environment for everyone.” 

2. get an online store.  

Clients will need to refill preventatives and long-term medications. You can’t afford to miss this recurring revenue. In addition to curbside pickup of foods and medications, talk with your veterinary distributor about setting up and promoting your online store. If you already have an online store, drastically increase your sales. Send email blasts to clients, share social media posts, update on-hold messages, and tell every caller. 

Encourage clients to sign up for auto shipments, which improves compliance and helps you avoid seasonal declines. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) compliance study found only 55 percent of dogs get year-round heartworm preventatives.[2] Let’s say a client buys six months of heartworm preventatives. Set up one auto-ship refill in five months when one dose will remain. Because a heartworm test and exam will be due at the completion of one automatic refill, you will send reminders for the exam, heartworm test, prescription renewal, and other services included in the checkup.

An over-the-counter flea/tick product also could be set up on auto shipments. When one dose remains, you would alert the client via text, app, or email: “Your auto refill of <brand name> to protect your pet from fleas and ticks has been filled and is on the way.” 

Auto-ship single doses. Distributors offer monthly delivery of single doses of preventatives with free shipping. Receiving monthly doses in the mail will help clients on limited budgets as well as multi-pet families where the client may not be able to buy 12-packs of preventatives for six dogs at the same time. (This also breaks the habit of sharing a box of preventatives between multiple pets.) Get more training in my online CE course “Quit Losing to Internet Pharmacies: How to Sell More Preventatives” (https://shop.csvets.com/new-releases/quit-losing-to-internet-pharmacies-how-to-sell-more-preventatives/).

3. offer telemedicine services.

Get an app for your hospital with telemedicine capabilities. Live video consultations with a messaging tool that allows pictures, videos, and other attachments will let you share information back and forth with clients. Many telemedicine apps integrate with practice-management software for medical record-keeping and invoicing. Use telehealth for initial consultations as well as follow-up care, setting your own prices and hours.

Define types of cases you can see using telemedicine. Dr. Lori Teller, DABVP (canine/feline), CV, at Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston used telemedicine for an orthopedic patient with intermittent lameness. The client said her dog limped at home but acted normally at the hospital. Telemedicine let Dr. Teller see the problem happening and combine the client’s video with her earlier hands-on exam.[3]

Besides helping you see patients virtually during the COVID-19 crisis, telemedicine lets you fix low compliance for follow-up exams and post-surgical assessments. AAHA and AVMA have published a digital guide on The Real-Life Rewards of Virtual Care: How to turn your hospital into a digitally connected practice with telehealth. Download at https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/resources/Telehealth-Virtual-Care-Brochure.pdf.

4. audit your reminders.

Make a list of every vaccine, medication, diagnostic test, and treatment that needs to be repeated. Let’s say your hospital performs a drug-monitoring test for dogs on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) every six months. Send a reminder one month before the test is due so the client has ample time to schedule an appointment. You’ll also prevent the confrontational conversation when a receptionist has to tell the client her dog’s NSAID can’t be refilled until the test is done. Likewise, send reminders for senior pets that get early detection screens, blood pressure checks, and other recurring diagnostics.

When you send medication refill reminders, you’ll eliminate the frustration of last-minute calls from clients who wait until the last pill is gone. Refill reminders can be app notices, emails, or texts that link to your online store.

5. increase callbacks. 

Electronic medical records make it easy to search patients by diagnostic codes. Check the exam and diagnostic status of patients with your top 10 chronic health problems such as arthritis, cardiomyopathy, allergies, diabetes, and others. 

Let’s say your standard of care is to see diabetic patients every three months to monitor glucose levels, check weight loss or gain, and assess overall health. Run a report on diabetic patients, sorting by the date of the last visit. 

Have receptionists call clients with diabetic patients that have not been seen in longer than three months. Explain, “Dr. <Name> asked me to call you about <pet name>. He/she noticed that <pet name> is overdue for an exam and blood test to monitor glucose levels so we may manage your pet’s diabetes. Dr. <Name> can see <pet name> on Monday at 11 a.m. or Thursday at 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?” Lead the client to schedule with the yes-or-yes technique, which gets stronger compliance than the yes-or-no choice of “Do you want to schedule an appointment?” 

COVID-19 is an opportunity for your veterinary practice to examine the way you serve clients and patients. The initiatives you start today will help you get through this crisis and establish ongoing revenue streams. Use this pandemic as a reason to work “on” your business rather than just “in” your business.

References:

[1] COVID-19 Updates. AVMA email to members. Available at: https://echo4.bluehornet.com/hostedemail/email.htm?CID=41754840731&ch=0B4C3F8FC25BADF3C7E8514E62BDCDCD&h=4bedb94f04ecc3a8b8746c6d022f84b0&ei=7mKQI-lNW&st=15-MAR-20. Accessed March 23, 2020.

[2] Compliance: Taking Quality Care to the Next Level. American Animal Hospital Association, 2009:11,19.

[3] The Real-Life Rewards of Virtual Care: How to turn your hospital into a digitally connected practice with telehealth. Available at: https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/resources/Telehealth-Virtual-Care-Brochure.pdf. Accessed March 23, 2020. 

 

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How to Prevent No-Shows

How to Prevent No-Shows

How to Prevent No-Shows

How to Prevent no-shows

His frustration had reached the boiling point. After three no-shows this week, a veterinarian asked me if he should start asking clients to prepay for surgeries. While I empathize with his angst, don’t punish 99.9 percent of good clients for a few bad apples. Imagine you are a client of 12 years who now has to pay before services get delivered. You might get so mad that you leave the practice. Instead, use these proactive techniques to prevent no-shows:

Text or email appointment confirmations immediately after booking.

A client schedules a spay one month from today during her puppy’s last checkup. If you wait until the day before the procedure to remind her of the surgery and fasting instructions, you chance that she may forget or need to reschedule. When she books today, immediately text or email an appointment confirmation that she may add to her calendar. Set up appointment confirmations in your practice-management software or third-party apps. Text: “<Pet name> has a surgical admission appt on <date> at <time>. Reply C to confirm or RS to reschedule.” If a client replies RS, call to have her select a new time and date.  

This double confirmation at the time of booking reiterates the importance of the exam or procedure. My dentist does this. When I booked my next hygiene appointment, I got a text on the elevator ride to the parking garage. I added the appointment to my calendar before I unlocked my car.

Confirm earlier and multiple times. 

Don’t wait until the day before appointments or procedures to remind clients. Set up a series of confirmations and reminders: 1) Upon booking, 2) Four days before the appointment or procedure, 3) Two days ahead, and 4) The day of the appointment, reminding of fasting instructions for procedures or bringing stool samples for checkups. 

Gather new client information during scheduling calls. 

Go beyond collecting a name and phone number. When scheduling, take 2 minutes to enter the client and patient names, address, email, cell number, and patient breed and birthdate. You’ll avoid the negative experience of “clip-boarding” a new client when you hand her a registration form at check-in while she struggles with her Jack Russell terrorist on a retractable leash. You’ll suck away valuable exam time with busy paperwork. Because you have gathered the majority of client contact information during the scheduling call, you’ve established a “know, like, and trust” relationship. 

Perform preanesthetic testing when clients book procedures. 

If you diagnose my cat with dental disease on Wednesday and I schedule treatment for Friday, collect blood and urine samples for preanesthetic screening today. This lets you choose the most cost-effective diagnostics from the reference lab or in-house testing. The client pays for lab tests today, reassuring she will show up two days later for the procedure. Your nursing team also will appreciate one less task to perform the morning of the dental treatment. 

Have clients sign anesthetic and surgical consents before booking. 

Let’s say you diagnose dental disease and explain the need for treatment. The client agrees. Get signatures on the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form today. You’ll dodge the time-suck of paperwork and get written commitment to show up. 

An alternative is use text and email together. When you confirm the surgery two days in advance, text the client: “See you Friday at 8 a.m. for <pet name>’s surgical admission. No food after 10 p.m. Water is OK. We emailed surgical forms to <email>. Reply with questions.” The text prompts the client to check her email, where you can provide detailed fasting instructions and attach consent forms and treatment plans.

Your email message would say, “We will see <pet name> for surgery on Friday at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. Please withhold food after 10 p.m. tonight. Water is OK to drink to prevent dehydration. Your surgical admission begins at 8 a.m. with a nurse, who will spend 15 minutes reviewing the consent form, answering your questions, and getting phone numbers where we may reach you the day of the procedure. I’ve attached your treatment plan and anesthesia consent forms. To speed your admission, please bring these signed forms with you, or we are happy to answer questions during check-in. Please allow at least 15 minutes for <pet name>’s admission to our hospital. If you have questions, call or text 555-555-5555.” 

Text driving directions to new clients. 

When you confirm exams two days in advance, text: “We’re excited to meet you and <pet name> on Friday at 4 p.m. Bring a stool sample that’s fresh within 4 hours. Get driving directions at <link>.” When new clients click the link on their smartphones, map apps will give them estimated travel time along with turn-by-turn directions. You’ll enjoy on-time arrivals and create “wow” first impressions. 

Send a final text or email confirmation the day before appointments and procedures. 

Text the client: “We will see <pet name> tomorrow for an appt with Dr. <Name> beginning at 9 a.m.” The word “beginning” trains the client to be in your lobby at exam time, not down the street at Starbucks (unless she’s fetching you a pumpkin spice latte!). 

Mail thank-you cards after the first visit. 

This is the first date that starts a lifetime relationship. Don’t default to a templated email or text that will get scanned and deleted. People receive hand-written greeting cards in the mail on birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries. Make the new client appointment a standout occasion. Have the doctor and hospital manager sign the card and add a personal message such as “We loved meeting your kitten, <pet name>, and look forward to watching him grow up!”

Start no-show strategies today.

A dog owner may spend nearly $700 for a checkup that includes an exam, vaccines, diagnostics, and 12 months of flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. Surgical and dental procedures may have even higher dollar values to your practice. Stop the anxiety of whether clients will show up as promised. Reclaim the confidence that you’ll have long-term, loyal relationships with these approaches.

Author: Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

 

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THE NON-SALESY WAY TO ASK CALLERS TO SCHEDULE

THE NON-SALESY WAY TO ASK CALLERS TO SCHEDULE

THE NON-SALESY WAY TO ASK CALLERS TO SCHEDULE

THE NON-SALESY WAY TO ASK CALLERS TO SCHEDULE 

I get it. Your receptionists HATE feeling like salespeople. Yet they are directly responsible for answering price shoppers’ questions and recruiting new clients. A technique that will engage callers and have receptionists welcome more new clients is to say: “When can we meet Bella? The doctor could give your new puppy a checkup at 9 a.m. Tuesday or 1 p.m. Wednesday. Which do you prefer?” This non-salesy approach will have puppy kisses in your near future!

Get great training for your team in my 1-hour CE online course, Book Now: Get New Clients to Schedule.

 

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