Explain things in an understandable way, and you’ll keep a client. Communicate poorly and offer poor customer service, and they’ll likely walk out your doors. Those were two of the key findings of data from the AAHA 2015 State of the Industry in Tampa, Fla.

Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (C/F), AAHA chief executive officer, presented the data during a special session at the AAHA conference March 13.

For the last 3 years, AAHA has worked with IDEXX Laboratories on an in-depth data and survey analysis to identify the drivers of consistent growth for veterinary hospitals.

In 2014, a report was released showing 16 key factors that differentiated top growers in the veterinary industry from the rest.

This year’s study builds on those findings, identifying essential themes that strengthen the client/practice bonds and keep practices growing.

The research showed that successful, growing practices do five main things to strengthen the bonds with their clients:

  • Explain things to pet owners so they understand and appreciate the value
  • Make the value of routine bloodwork clear, and always share test results
  • Empower the pet owner as a full partner in providing the best care
  • Engage in discussions around prevention, and deploy strategies like forward booking and preventive care plans to drive routine checkups
  • Minimize stress during routine checkups

The data also revealed an opportunity for veterinary professionals to capitalize on forward booking and preventive care plans. Roughly 6 of 10 pet owners said they would forward book their next appointment before leaving the practice if asked to, with nearly half of all respondents saying they prefer to forward book appointments as long as a reminder is given.

Pet owners are also overwhelmingly interested in preventive care plans, with 8 out of 10 indicating that they were interested in a plan for preventive care.

Other findings include:

  • When asked why clients stay with their current practice, "explaining things in an understandable way" was selected more frequently than many other factors, including reputation, cost, and level of medical advancement.
  • When asked why clients have left practices in the past, communication and customer service issues were selected more often than any other reasons under the practices’ control. (Roughly 3 of 10 defections vs. 1 of 10 for cost of services.)
  • Roughly 6 in 10 pet owners are researching their pet’s health online before or after visits, but only 3 in 10 currently receive recommendations for trusted online resources.
  • Pet owners are 30 percent less likely to use search engines to research their pet’s health when a trusted resource is recommended, according to a separate study by IDEXX Laboratories. 
  • Roughly 9 in 10 view preventive care discussions as important to their pet’s health, but only 6 in 10 recall having these discussions at their pet’s last checkup.
  • The No. 1 preferred reminder method for upcoming appointments was postcards or receiving something in the mail.

Additionally, AAHA-accredited hospitals exhibited more active clients, more new clients in a year, higher average transaction value, and higher income per veterinarian.

The 2015 State of the Industry presentation and Fact Sheet are now available.

The AAHA State of the Industry address is presented annually at the AAHA conference in March. The 2016 State of the Industry address will be presented at the AAHA Austin 2016 Yearly Conference in Austin, Texas.


This article was originally published in AAHA's NEWStat.

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