When Curbside Care Takes Too Long: Do This

When Curbside Care Takes Too Long: Do This

When Curbside Care Takes Too Long: Do This


It’s freezing outside and getting dark earlier. Curbside appointments are taking 45 to 60 minutes. How can your team be more efficient? 


A veterinarian sees an average of 30 patients per day. The average healthcare call takes 8 minutes, which can include 3 minutes of hold time (1). 

If clients call you to announce their arrivals for curbside care, 30 calls total 4 hours of talk time. At a three-doctor practice, talk time jumps to 12 hours spread among the client care team. 

Post signs with instructions to text rather than call you for curbside care: “Curbside appointment? Text this: ARRIVED, your name, your pet’s name, parking spot #.” If you want clients to download an app for text and video chat during curbside care, include a QR code on signs. Clients will scan the QR with their smartphones and download and install the app upon arrival. Create response templates for frequently sent messages such as arrivals for curbside care and medication pickups. 

TEXT THIS: “Welcome to our hospital’s curbside check-in. To prepare for your appointment, please connect to our Wi-Fi. The network name is <your network> and password is <your password>. A nurse will call/video chat with you shortly to get your pet’s history and then get your pet from your car. Please remain in the same parking spot for the duration of your curbside care appointment so our medical team may quickly reach you.” 

The last instruction is critical. Many teams are frustrated with clients who leave during curbside care to run errands and then don’t answer their phones. 

Time savings: 4 hours of phone time per number of doctors scheduled

2. use online forms.

Go digital with histories and treatment plans. The team at Lake Road Animal Hospital in Horseheads, New York, uses an online curbside care form for checkups. Include links to your form in email and text confirmations. Ask clients to complete the form before the day of their appointments. If they haven’t returned it in advance, resend the link during curbside check-in. Create text templates for common messages so you’re not retyping instructions all day.

When you need to prepare treatment plans for hospitalization, surgery, or dentistry, create templates in your practice-management software. For example, you will have a template for a Grade 2 dental procedure and would add the number of anticipated extractions. Doing a light edit is faster than recreating the treatment plan every time. Text the client that you’ve emailed the treatment plan and anesthetic consent, and then initiate a video chat to discuss it. After answering the client’s questions, explain, “To schedule Rex’s dental procedure, please check your email at <client email>. You may digitally sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form and reply to our email.” Ask your software provider about digital signature capture tools or use services such as https://www.docusign.com or https://www.hellosign.com

Time savings: 2 ½ hours of phone time (average of 15 treatments per doctor per day at 10 minutes each)

3. get an app with video chat and telemedicine capabilities.

Psychologists’ research shows 55% of communication is body language (2). 

Video chat lets you better engage clients, which is especially important when clients have sick pets. You can express empathy through words plus body language to show your compassion. 

When doctors perform physical exams, they check 12 systems, which can take 10 minutes. Before COVID, clients saw and heard everything in exam rooms. Now during curbside care, the doctor performs the exam, calls to regurgitate findings, and answers the client’s questions. This can add another 10 minutes, doubling the doctor’s time. 

At Russell Ridge Animal Hospital in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Dr. Brad Miller and his team have clients download its PetPro Connect app to video chat during curbside care. They can watch Dr. Miller perform the exam, explain findings, and discuss necessary treatments. I will share a video on how the team uses messaging and video chat in my course on Cut Curbside Care Time in Half

Video chat lets clients see, hear, and understand. If a dog needs cruciate ligament surgery, hold a knee model and medical illustrations to show how you will repair the injury. Video chat lets you project confidence when explaining diagnoses and treatments. Shaving 10 minutes off every curbside appointment could save you 3 hours per day. A bonus: Higher client compliance and revenue. 

Time savings: 3 hours of phone time per veterinarian 

Despite all of COVID’s inconveniences, it has forced veterinary teams to rethink workflow and embrace technology. Like curbside grocery and restaurant pickup, veterinary curbside care will continue. Even when you can welcome clients back inside, some may prefer curbside care. A client undergoing cancer treatments or who cares for a high-risk elderly parent will want the safety and convenience of curbside appointments. Make sure the client experience is as amazing outside as it is inside your facility. 

Get more training in Master Curbside Care: 3 Courses, which includes End the Phone Frenzy, Cut Curbside Care Time in Half, and Deliver 5-Star Curbside Care Experiences. This training package includes team enrollment with unlimited replay, handouts, online testing, and three hours of CE credit.


1.  Insight Driven Health: Why First Impressions Matter, Accenture, May 2013. Available at: http://www.accenture.com/us-en/~/media/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Industries_11/Accenture-Why-First-Impressions-Matter-Healthcare-Providers-Scheduling.pdf. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

2. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian. Wikipedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Mehrabian. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

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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! 


  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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Avoid a Meltdown When Dr. Popular Isn’t Available

Avoid a Meltdown When Dr. Popular Isn’t Available

Avoid a Meltdown When Dr. Popular Isn’t Available

A longtime client calls and requests an appointment with Dr. Popular. While this veterinarian is blessed to be busy, you don’t want clients to have meltdowns when they can’t see their preferred doctor. What should you do? 


focus on what you can do.

Don’t tell the pet owner that the doctor is booked three weeks out because it will create a negative impression and could incite an argument. Say, “Dr. Popular’s next available appointment is Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. If your pet needs to be seen sooner, Dr. Next could see you tomorrow at 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

practice forward booking.

When clients want their first choice of time, day, and doctor, have them book the next appointment during today’s exam. Use forward booking for progress exams, checkups, and disease-management exams for pets with chronic health conditions.  

When wrapping up today’s exam, Dr. Popular should introduce the concept of forward booking. If you have computers in exams rooms, he should schedule it now (Yes, the veterinarian needs to know how to use the scheduling tool in your practice-management software). Here are two examples of client conversations: 

For a disease-management exam, explain the “why” behind the change in the frequency of exams and use benefit statements. Dr. Popular would say, “Because Molly was diagnosed with arthritis today and will begin long-term medication, I will need to see her every six months to manage her arthritis and check blood work in case we need to adjust medication dosages. Booking her next exam now will let you get your first choice of a time and date with me. Six months from today would be Jan. 9. I could see Molly at 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

For a checkup, lead the client to book the next six- or 12-month exam. If the receptionist is scheduling the exam during checkout, she would say, “Just as your dentist has you schedule your next appointment at checkout, we do the same to proactively manage your pet’s health. Let’s book your pet’s next checkup for this same day and time next year. We will confirm two weeks before the exam, so if you need to change the appointment it will be easy. By scheduling today, you will get your first choice with Dr. Popular. He could see your pet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12 or 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. Which do you prefer?” The first choice is the same day of the week and time as today’s appointment. The second choice is a different day of the week and time of day (morning vs. afternoon). Get scheduling techniques in my article on “Four Ways to Use Forward Booking” (https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/four-ways-to-use-forward-booking/).   

be persistent when pets require progress exams.

Because Dr. Popular is booking weeks in advance, the entire healthcare team must be dogged and communicate the importance of scheduling follow-up care today. After explaining how to clean a dog’s ears and apply ointment for an ear infection, the nurse would say, “Dr. Popular needs to perform a follow-up exam in two weeks for your dog’s ear infection. We strive to book follow-up care with the same doctor because Dr. Popular wants to see the condition successfully resolved. This will be a 15-minute appointment to examine your dog’s ears and determine if additional treatment will be needed. Dr. Popular could see your dog on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. or Friday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

If the client procrastinates and waits to call your hospital in two weeks when care is due, Dr. Popular won’t be available. Booking with the same veterinarian helps you achieve exam efficiency. If Dr. Next will see Dr. Popular’s patient for follow-up care, he will need to spend more time reviewing the medical record to get up-to-date on the diagnosis, treatment, and prescribed medications. The follow-up visit may take twice as long if a different doctor sees the patient.  

add more urgent care slots to dr. popular’s schedule.  

I advise receptionists to block three urgent-care slots per doctor per day for same-day sick patients. Because clients will call every morning with sick patients that must be seen today, plan for them in your daily schedule. You may need more urgent care slots on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, when hospitals typically see higher volumes of sick patients.  

To determine how many urgent care slots Dr. Popular will need, create a spreadsheet that totals the number of exams he sees by day of the week. Let’s say he saw 22 patients on Thursday. Approximately 20 percent of patients are same-day sick appointments. Based on this formula, Dr. Popular would need seven urgent-care slots on Thursdays. Block an urgent-care slot at the top of each hour in Dr. Popular’s schedule on Thursdays. Get more insight in my YouTube video on “Overbooked and Can’t See Sick Pets? Here’s the Solution” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_oWxml2qyc&t=9s.  

Talk up other doctors.  

You want clients to feel confident and comfortable with every doctor in your practice. Dr. Popular, nurses, and the client-care team need to praise the skills and knowledge of other veterinarians in your hospital. When a client sighs after hearing Dr. Popular isn’t immediately available, promote Dr. Next. The receptionist would say, “Dr. Popular’s next availability is Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. I could schedule you with Dr. Next. He has a special interest in feline medicine and would love to meet Alex. I’m confident you’ll be satisfied with the quality of his medicine. Dr. Next could see Alex tomorrow at 4 p.m. Shall I schedule this exam?”

During his appointments, Dr. Popular also can share praises of his colleague, Dr. Next. Afterall, Dr. Popular may be the practice owner and hired Dr. Next. To transfer the client’s trust to another veterinarian, Dr. Popular might say, “Dr. Next has been part of my medical team for five years. We went to the same veterinary college and share similar medical interests and philosophies. If I’m unable to promptly see your pet, I’m confident that Dr. Next will do an exceptional job.” 

Because Dr. Popular will take vacations or may sell the practice one day, you must build trust in every veterinarian. Have your team discuss ways to equally distribute appointments amongst all doctors because the hospital’s goal is to have every veterinarian fully booked every day.


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5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

What if clients loved their pets’ dental experiences at your veterinary hospital?

Because most dogs and cats have periodontal disease by age 3, you will talk with clients multiple times about dental treatments over pets’ lifetimes.* Creating a positive experience for the first dental procedure will set you up for success when you have to present the need for future care. Here are five strategies for stellar client satisfaction with your dental services:

1. Tackle paperwork in advance.

Don’t wait until the morning of procedures to get signatures. Clients experienced road rage while driving to your clinic, chased the cat for 45 minutes trying to get it into the carrier, and are late for work. Have clients sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form on the day of diagnosis when they book procedures. At my recent seminar in Reno, Nev., a technician testified this tactic turned 20-minute dental and surgical admissions into 7 minutes.

A backup plan is to use text and email together.

Two days before the procedure, text the client to confirm the admission appointment: “See you tomorrow at 8 a.m. for <pet name’s> dental admission. No food after 10 p.m. Water is OK. We emailed consent forms to <client email>. Reply with questions.” The text prompts the client to check his email, where you may provide detailed fasting instructions and attach the treatment plan and consent form.

Your email message might say,

We will see <pet name> for a dental procedure tomorrow at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. Please withhold food after 10 p.m. tonight. Water is OK to drink to prevent dehydration. Your dental 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 form. 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.” The email sets expectations for the length of time needed for admission and gives benefits of completing paperwork in advance.

2. Create concierge check-ins and dump the habit of “drop-offs.”

Avoid the traffic jam at the front desk when six clients arrive at the same time for surgical and dental admissions. Set admission appointments every 15 minutes. In the nurse column of your appointment schedule, schedule each check-in. Surgery nurses will handle morning admission appointments.

When the procedure is booked,

the receptionist will choose a specific check-in time and set expectations for the client. Say, “Your pet’s dental procedure is scheduled for Friday. Your admission appointment will be at 8 a.m. with a nurse. Please allow 15 minutes to receive instructions on how we will care for <pet name>. We will text and email you two days in advance to confirm the procedure. If you didn’t sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form today, we will email them, so you may review and sign forms before the day of the procedure.”

Have complex cases check in first.

This allows time for preanesthetic screening as well as longer recovery. In the privacy of exam rooms, have clients sign consent forms, collect phone numbers, answer questions, and explain when you will text, email or call following procedures.

Let’s say you have five surgical and dental procedures scheduled today with admission appointments from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. Here is a sample admission schedule:


Admission time


7:00 a.m.

Cruciate repair, Max, 9-year-old Bulldog

7:15 a.m.

Grade 4 dental procedure with extractions, Bella, 14-year-old Toy Poodle

7:30 a.m.

Grade 3 dental procedure with extractions, Sammy, 7-year-old Golden Retriever

7:45 a.m.

Grade 1 dental procedure, Tiger, 3-year-old Siamese cat

8:00 a.m.

Neuter, Leo, 6-month-old Russian Blue cat


3.  Provide comfort with wakeup texts and photos.

On your anesthetic consent forms, ask clients, “How should we notify you when your pet wakes from anesthesia?” and let them check text, email or call. Your text should explain the patient is awake and resting, confirm the discharge appointment time, and include the nurse’s name, which personalizes service and communicates who cared for the patient. If clients have questions before picking up pets, they know which nurse to call and request, letting the receptionist quickly connect calls.

Avoid a snapshot of the pet with the cage door closed,

which look like the animal is in jail. Show your loving nursing care. Your text would say: “Alex is awake and resting. Dental treatment went well. See you at 4 p.m. for discharge appt. Call Kathy with questions, 555-555-5555.”

Never use a personal or practice cell phone to text clients

because you can’t legally document messages in medical records. Instead, use texting services that time and date stamp text conversations such as:


4.  Set discharge appointments and show value for professional services.

During admission, the nurse would tell the client, “Let’s schedule your pet’s discharge appointment after 4 p.m., when <pet name> will be ready to go home. You will meet with a doctor or nurse for 15 minutes, who will explain the results of the procedure, provide medication instructions, share images and x-rays, and answer your questions. Do you prefer 4:30 or 4:45 p.m.?” (Client responds.) “Because you requested text notification when <pet name> wakes up, we will text you a photo and remind you of the discharge appointment at 4:30 p.m. If you have questions today, here is my business card so you may ask for me.”

As with admissions, put discharge appointments in the nurse column in the schedule.

If a doctor will release the patient, put the appointment in that veterinarian’s schedule. Discharge appointments for routine procedures will take approximately 15 minutes. If a nurse will discharge the patient, a veterinarian may want to do the wakeup phone call.

Take time to give clients guided tours of before-and-after dental photos and x-rays.

Offer to share digital images because clients may boast about the quality of your care on social media and save them with pets’ medical records.


5.  Provide exam door to car door service.

Whomever discharges a hospitalized patient should escort the client to the car and get the pet safely inside. Show clients how to properly secure a cat’s carrier. Also share The Catalyst Council’s video on your website and social media.

Double leash dogs with two slip leashes to prevent escape,

walk the patient to the car, and show the client how to properly lift the dog inside, especially following orthopedic surgery or for senior dogs with arthritis. Once the patient is securely in the car, the nurse removes both leashes and tells the client, “I have an extra leash. Please put this leash in your glove box and use it in case of an emergency. If you have a medical emergency with your pet or need to rescue a stray animal, you can quickly have a leash ready. The leash has our phone number on it, so you may call to tell us you’re on the way. Thanks for letting us care for <pet name> today!” Order personalized slip leashes with your hospital name and phone number through Covetrus.

When you wow clients with positive dental experiences, they will appreciate that your service matches your medicine. Increasing clients’ confidence in anesthetic procedures will lead them to say “YES!” the next time dental care is necessary.


*Periodontal disease. American Veterinary Dental College. Accessed Nov. 1, 2018.

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