Engaging New Clients: How to Create a Bond That Lasts a Lifetime

When your veterinary practice adds a new client, you have the opportunity to not only provide high-quality care but also create a lifelong bond with both the pet and owner. Despite the challenges of 2020, many new pet owners have been scheduling appointments for their recently adopted furry friend, creating a silver lining for many practices.

In fact, data from IDEXX collected in February 2021 showed that 29% of adopted pets went to new pet households, and at veterinary practices, 37% of first-time clinical visits were with a new pet owner.

When new clients call into your practice to make that first appointment, what can you do to create a bond that will last for their pets' lifetime?

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Set Clear Expectations

For most new clients, entering the world of veterinary care during a pandemic is not ideal. Many practices are still providing curbside care, which can make it more difficult to connect with clients. Walking a new client through the appointment logistics is critical to avoiding disappointment or confusion. Each new client should understand exactly what is going to happen at their appointment prior to their arrival.

If you are still practicing curbside, let clients know that their pet will be escorted into the building by a staff member. If you are allowing clients into your facility, let them know about any safety protocols you have in place. If the whole family shows up for an appointment and only one person is allowed in, do not be surprised if they are angry or disappointed. Overcommunicate with them about what will happen before, during, and after the appointment. Above all, let them know that their new pet will be showered with love and attention while they are in your care.

Create a Bond Through Preventive Care Communication

Once your clients understand the logistics of the appointment, then you can start to focus on creating a bond based on preventive care. New clients are coming to you for information on how to best take care of their pets for their entire lives. For puppies and kittens, there is so much to talk about, from vaccines to heartworm preventives to fecal screenings.

It's important that you communicate effectively with your new clients about preventive care outside of scheduled appointment times. There are many ways to provide this important information, including the following:

  • Email: Once the appointment is booked, send out a welcome email that includes information on your practice's preventive care focus. Remind them to always bring a fecal sample to any wellness visit. Explain to them that blood may be drawn to perform critical diagnostics to ensure their pet is healthy.
  • Website: Remember that clients will search online for information — and this is especially true of millennial clients. Make sure your practice website provides them with accurate information and links to trusted sources.
  • Social media: Use your social media to share information about how to keep pets healthy. Topics could include how to check for ticks or the prevalence of heartworm disease.

Encourage your new clients to reach out with any questions they may have. Use your PIMS to create reminders to touch base with new clients a week after their appointment. Often, they will have several more questions at that point — and even if they don't, they will be impressed you cared enough to contact them. Further, provide them with easy ways to interact with your staff, such as email, texting, messaging via a practice app, or contacting you through a social media account. The goal here is to show clients that you are there when you need them.

Shower Each Pet With Love

It may seem simple, but make sure to go above and beyond to thank your new clients for choosing your team. Even with curbside care, there are little things you can do to ensure they stick with your practice as their "forever veterinary home."

Every time you speak with a new client during a curbside visit, thank them for their trust and tell them how much it means to you and your practice. Here are some small and easy ways to show how much you love caring for their pet:

  • Go out to their car to greet them and introduce yourself.
  • If you're practicing curbside, take pictures of the visit to send to your clients. With their permission, you can share those images on social media.
  • Give plenty of treats to your new patient. You could even partner with a local bakery to send home a tasty bite as a welcome treat.
  • Send each new pet home with a bandana.

These efforts are not very complicated or expensive — and yet, they can make a big impression on new clients and keep them coming back to your practice. Taking the time to let them know they are valued partners in their pets' care will ensure you have a loyal and satisfied client base.

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Julie Miles
DVM

Julie Miles graduated from Ohio State in 2006. Dr. Miles spent two and a half years working in private practice. She then joined Lighthouse Veterinary Personnel Services in 2009, where she worked as a relief veterinarian and manager for five years. In 2014, she opened Compassionate Care Animal Hospital, which has grown into a two doctor practice. Her professional interests include client communications, preventative care, dentistry, and feline medicine. She and her husband, Dale, have two boys, Henry and Evan. In a previous life, she earned her Master's of Social Work and worked in crisis intervention and discharge planning. Some days that degree is more helpful than her DVM.

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