How loyal are the customers of your vet care business? If a new competitor opened up in your city, would you feel confident that the majority of your existing customers would stick with you? Or would you fear their departure over matters like lower costs and shorter drive times? No matter how good your business is, this is a tough question to answer.
There are many variables that factor into a consumer’s vet care decision. And because the decision is sometimes an emotional one, it’s tough to quantify.
What you can do is look at some of the biggest factors for customer loyalty in vet care and work to understand how they currently play into your business — and what you can do to improve them.
Why customer loyalty matters in vet care
Customer loyalty is important to veterinarians for several reasons:
Cost. Customer retention is almost universally cheaper than customer acquisition, so you’ll save money by keeping your current clients rather than seeking new ones.
Lifetime value. Ensuring that a client keeps coming back is going to increase their total visits, and therefore their total lifetime value to your vet care business.
Competition protection. Ensuring customer loyalty will make it less likely for them to switch to one of your competitors, which is especially important in high-competition areas.
Continuity. It’s also helpful to treat the same pets, from puppy/kittenhood through late adulthood. You’ll have more detailed records on their development, and in some cases, might be able to form stronger bonds with them.
The 10 most important factors for customer loyalty in vet care
So what are the 10 most important factors for customer loyalty in vet care? Let’s take a look.
The first impression.
Want to increase loyalty with your furry friends (and their parents)? Then keep reading.
1. The first impression
People tend to form a first impression after meeting someone for seven seconds. And, because people form connections with brands in a way that mirrors their connection with people, that means your business has as little as seven seconds to forge a lasting impression with each new customer who walks into your business.
Keeping a clean, organized, warm, inviting environment is essential, and when you introduce yourself, you need to appear kind, charming and professional. Otherwise, you’ll lose the chance to make a positive first impression, and it will be much harder to build up that customer’s loyalty to your vet care.
2. Brand differentiation
There are roughly 110,000 veterinarians in the United States, which means you have a lot of competition to contend with. If your vet care practice looks the same as everyone else’s — or if your office isn’t memorable in any way — people aren’t going to form a lasting impression of you, and they certainly won’t have a problem going to your competitor. Make sure you stand out, with a unique image, and a unique set of values.
3. Pet friendliness
This one should be obvious. Pet owners usually care greatly about their pets, often as if they were family members.
You need to treat those pets like family members if you’re going to earn the loyalty of your customers.
It’s helpful if you can remember each pet by name, and greet them as such, and spend some time petting and playing with them before and during the examination. The better your relationship with the pets, the better your relationship with the owner.
4. Emotional availability
Not all vet care visits are routine checkups. Some owners might be going through emotional hardship as they face an aging pet’s deteriorating health, or a new pet’s sudden illness. Being emotionally available and empathizing with their struggle is essential. If you appear cold or insensitive, you could lose the client forever. Your staff should share this emotional availability.
5. Personal connection
You should also be able to form a personal connection with your clients. Spend a few minutes getting to know each one. Why do they own pets? What do they do for a living? What are their households like? This information can help you provide better care for the pet, but also shows that you care about your clients on a personal level. That care will keep them coming back indefinitely.
Vet care clients also want to visit a vet who has a passion for their line of work. If you appear as an automaton — just going through the motions of a checkup — people might be concerned that their pets aren’t getting the best care, and they might bypass you to go to a competitor.
7. Quality care
Along similar lines, people want to be ensured they’re getting the best possible care. If they’re concerned about their pet’s behavioral changes, don’t dismiss them out of hand. Invest in higher-quality equipment so you can be sure to give better diagnoses. Give every indication that you’re doing everything you can to give their pets the best care.
The consistency of your service and the overall experience are other important factors. If a customer has one great visit and one lousy one, they’ll remember the lousy one more. Even worse, if they can’t predict what kind of service they’re going to see from you, they’ll go somewhere else.
Some clients might suspect you’re overcharging them for tests that aren’t truly necessary, or that you might be recommending solutions out of laziness rather than actual necessity. Accordingly, the more transparent you are with your clients, the better.
Explain why you’re recommending what you’re recommending, and give them detailed insights into your evaluations. If your clients feel they can trust what you tell them, and feel informed, they’ll want to keep coming back indefinitely.
10. Customer appreciation
Customers like to feel appreciated. If they do, they’ll have even more reason to come back to you. Consider small gestures of appreciation, like sending out Christmas cards every year to your longest-running customers, or providing discounts on services to customers who always come to their annual checkups.
Even a simple follow-up email can be incredibly valuable — thank customers for coming in, and encourage them to reach out if they have any lingering questions or concerns.
Editor’s note: Want an easy and professional way to show you care? Create a custom email campaign for your vet care using GoDaddy’s Email Marketing. From well wishes to appointment reminders, you can send a branded, personalized message that connects with your customers.
If your vet care practice can recognize and improve these 10 important factors, you should see significant increases in your customer loyalty — and, therefore, retention. You might have to overhaul a few practices, including employee training to accommodate more personal care or a brand update, but the investment you make will be returned many times over.