Until recently, veterinary practices often took client satisfaction for granted; in fact, many did not even follow up with clients to find out why they stopped visiting the practice.
Today, however, it’s far better understood that client satisfaction is important not only for the client and patient but also for the practice’s bottom line. Regularly measuring and monitoring client satisfaction is a key part of any business and especially applies to the veterinary practice.
The evolution of evaluation
Nowadays it’s not just clinical outcomes and top-notch medicine that matter – communication skills, courtesy and appearances all count for a lot and contribute to customer satisfaction. Previously, many practice owners and managers may have done little more than review their retention rates at the end of the year but now they have to be savvier about measuring and monitoring client satisfaction to stay competitive. With technological advancements, this is becoming easier and easier to do in a quick and cost-effective manner, with surveys being one of the best way for veterinary practices to make sure they are giving their clients what they want.
The survey says..
From waiting room questionnaires to quick email surveys or even traditional postal surveys; there are so many options to canvas the opinions of all of your clients at every stage of their customer journey. But rather than surveying your customers annually or even bi-annually, why not develop an ongoing monitoring process which can help you to keep up to date with your customers’ changing needs and desires? It’s important to have a range of survey types and make sure you target inactive clients to prevent you getting biased information. If you only use waiting room surveys for example, you are likely to miss the opinions of an important group – your dissatisfied clients who don’t visit regularly.
Top tips for surveying your customers
- Have a specific goal in mind. Ask yourself what you hope to gain from this specific survey and what you will do with the data.
- Keep it short. Time is of the essence and people won’t fill in a survey if they can’t see that it is short and simple. Abandonment rates tend to soar after 11 minutes of survey completion time.
- Tailor your questions. Make sure that your questions are specific to the customer that you are surveying.
- Choose question structure based on objectives. Closed questions which are answered yes/no or allow one of a multiple choice of answers to be selected are often easier to analyse. However, open ended questions may elicit more qualitative information and give you a better insight into certain areas. Think about which question style will suit your objective best.
- Keep it consistent. Make sure your rating scale is the same throughout the survey e.g. 1 to 5 or strongly agree to strongly disagree, for example.
- Group questions. Grouping questions by category and conducting the survey in a logical order can really help the survey to flow. Start with broad questions and save any sensitive questions until the end.
- Time it right. If you’re sending surveys by email, think about when your target audience is most likely to open it. Highest click through rates tend to be on a Sunday, Monday and a Friday but this differs between groups of people.
- Test it. Always run your survey by a few people to work out any technical hitches, or unintended misinterpretations of the questions.
- Be persistent. While not appropriate for all surveys, sending out reminders for those who have not completed can significantly boost response rates.
- Consider offering an incentive. Offering an appropriate incentive can also help boost response rates, sometimes by as much as 50 % but be careful not to skew results by offering an incentive that encourages untruthful responses.
- Think about automation. Automated surveys can make it easier to target specific customers and make the process much more streamlined. For example, an automated survey could be sent to those having visited the practice within the last 24 hours, or registered clients who have not visited for more than six months.
- Feedback on the feedback. Remember to let clients know what you are doing with the information they are providing you with and show your efforts to improve their experience within your practice.
Remember, satisfaction is not the whole answer
Sadly even satisfied clients will leave for a multitude of reasons so it’s important to also cultivate your clients’ loyalty too. Loyal clients are the ones who will stick with a practice and promote it to others. Satisfied clients may hang around for a time but it usually doesn’t take much for them to switch practices. As most practices will have at least one other competing practice within their area, boosting client loyalty as well as client satisfaction is paramount.