While the postcard has been around for ages, it's quickly becoming a thing of the past. This is big news when you consider the historical significance of the postcard. For centuries, mail was the de facto method of communication, regardless of class, social standing, or geographical location. Only since the advent of new technology has mail become less important and overall less effective.
For those of us in the veterinary industry, this presents an interesting dilemma. Year after year, we face rising postage costs. This normally wouldn't be an issue -- if people still read postcards. The read rate of postcards, or the percentage of people who both open and interact with a given piece of mail, sits at 25%. For every 4 you send to your clients, only one of them is being read. Given the rising cost of postage, you're not getting a great return here.
Now, imagine how many clients are actually taking an action by calling to schedule. Is the entirety of that 25% that read your mail scheduling appointments? No. Therein lies the problem.
Inside of every problem, however, lies an opportunity.
Today, we have more communication tools than ever at our disposal. Mobile technology has exploded in popularity and changed the landscape of communication methods. Everyone has an email address and we walk around with small computers in our pockets. Both of these present ample opportunity to reach clients in new ways.
It's also the way your clients want to be reached.
Let's find out which channels are out there and what they can do for your veterinary practice.
Email is a great way to communicate with clients. Free to send and non-intrusive in nature, email opens the possibility for two-way conversation between you and your clients. For a busy veterinary practice, it's an effective way to reduce call volume.
To start off with email, implement a process where receptionists collect new and current client email addresses upon check-in. You won't encounter much resistance -- people are familiar with this from going to the dentist. Once you've built a list in your practice management system, you can automatically send email reminders for appointments, upcoming vaccinations, and any other pertinent information.
In terms of read-rates, email is a bit of an anomaly. While digital channels typically see higher figures, email sits at a 20% read rate. This is due in part to the sheer amount of spam we receive on a daily basis. The way around this is to only send emails that are directly relevant to your clients. Mail that isn't related to an upcoming appointment can cause your clients to tune out when they see your mail.
Text is another great channel. The benefit of text is it allows us to quickly convey a message without being intrusive. Add in the 97% read rate and your client reach will be at it's higher percentage ever.
Texts are typically used for day-before appointment confirmations. This frees up your phone lines, allows the front office to focus on customer service, and automates a process that's mundane for all.
Like email, if you're going to implement texting into your overall client communications strategy, the first step is collecting mobile numbers. Most practice management systems allow for multiple client phone numbers to be stored. Collect your clients mobile number and file it accordingly.
You can note whether or not clients want to receive text confirmations. If you're using a service like PetDesk, clients will need to opt-out of text unless specified. The reason for this is to guarantee the highest client reach percentage possible. Clients that want to opt-out will do so while others will receive confirmations. It's a win-win situation.
Push notifications are in-app messages that are pushed directly to your phone from a server. Typically appearing as a red notifier above an app icon, push notifications also appear in the notification tray on your smart phone. Think Instagram and how a "Like" appears on your phone.
These are done through a mobile app and they are the best way to reach clients. 98% of them are read. For businesses, it's a great way to send promotional messages.
A service like PetDesk will push a reminder or confirmation directly to your client's phone. There's also another added-benefit here: push notifications can integrate with the personal calendar on a mobile phone. If your client confirms an annual that they received on their phone, the appointment is synced with their respective Google or iOS calendar -- great news if you're into client accountability.
If you already have an app for your clinic, see if push notifications are enabled clinic-side. Being the de facto method of communication for businesses today, clients appreciate these non-intrusive messages and tend to interact with these the most.
While the postcard served its purpose well in times of old, there are many other forms of communication today that better reach your clients. It's also important to reach clients when and how they want to be reached.
If this is your first foray into using digital communication with your clients, start with collecting emails and mobile numbers. Once you've built a sizable list, mark client preferences and communicate with them on their preferred channel. If you're really feeling tech-savvy, request a PetDesk demo to see how a mobile app, texting, and much more would benefit your clinic.