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Customer Experience

Customer Experience For Veterinarians: Treats, Kindness, And… Singing?

Dan Gingiss with his dog, Oma. Customer experience for veterinarians is critical because there are two customers - the human and the pet.   Dan Gingiss smiles as his his dog, Oma, kisses him on the cheek. Customer experience for veterinarians is critical because there are two customers - the human and the pet.

Customer experience for veterinarians is a uniquely intimate undertaking, with people who care deeply for their pets entrusting them to providers who often feel the same.

A Colorado vet made it even more so.

When Ruby the dog grew agitated before a spay surgery, Dr. Ross Henderson whipped out his guitar and serenaded the prone puppy with a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

The video went viral, drawing more than a million views and earning Henderson the nickname “the Singing Vet” – and his family their own show on Animal Planet.

Not every animal caregiver will burst into song, of course, but the warm-hearted episode speaks to the importance of customer experience in the veterinary industry, and how emotional it can be for pets and owners alike.

Veterinarians serve two different kinds of customers – humans and animals – and health care can be a touchy topic just for people. It is a highly personal topic, an intensity that is magnified because people are so attached to their pets.

Throw in statistics showing that the majority of pet owners can’t afford emergency care – and most don’t have pet insurance – and the veterinary industry stands out as one requiring a version of the uniquely sensitive touch that Dr. Henderson displayed. This is why customer experience for veterinarians is such a critical competitive advantage.

“Delivering an exceptional customer experience is crucial in the veterinary industry,” Autumn Hughes, Director of Careers and Talent Acquisition at Arizona-based Hippo Veterinary Group, said in an email interview with The Experience Maker.

“The interactions between staff and client directly affect the emotional well-being of the pet owner, who is responsible for the decision-making for their pet,” she continued. “The greater care and connection we can build with the client, the more likely that client will make the best decisions for the best care of their pet.”

Dan's dog, Oma. Customer experience for veterinarians is critical because there are two customers - the human and the pet.

The Veterinary Industry Is Growing Exponentially

It may seem like virtually everyone you know has a furry or feline friend, and that has become more the case over time. Two-thirds of U.S. households now own a pet, a 56 percent increase since 1988.

Those numbers, which rapidly escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, are continuing to grow. The global pet industry is expected to swell from $320 billion to nearly $500 billion by 2030, driven by not only more pets but also an increase in pet-related healthcare, including veterinary care, that has created longer pet lifespans.

The United States is the largest pet market and is projected to remain so, with sales nearing $200 million by decade’s end.

The increasing numbers are creating ever-higher expectations among owners for a memorable veterinary experience. Or at least one that ensures that their pets remain healthy and happy.

Dan's cat, Powder (RIP). Customer experience for veterinarians is critical because there are two customers - the human and the pet.

Customer Experience Examples For Veterinarians

Veterinarians and experts on veterinary care recommend a variety of ways to ensure that kind of unforgettable experience, with tips that revolve around various acts of kindness and empathy.

They include everything from remembering pet birthdays and sharing cute customer photos on social media to putting a sign at the clinic front desk when an owner says goodbye to a beloved friend – and the seemingly simple act of allowing clients to be with their pets for entire visits.

Hughes, of Hippo Veterinary Group, suggests developing personalized care plans with owners, making sure comfortable seating, phone chargers, and snacks are on hand, and providing “a uniquely memorable experience” during every visit.

“Instead of standing in the exam room towering over a nervous client who may be sitting with their pet, pull up a stool and converse at eye level, building a relationship where the client feels heard, understood, and cared for,” she said.

One vet who writes about customer experience for veterinarians, Stacee Santi, zeroed in on a favorite of all furry friends: treats. Whenever she treated a diabetic 13-year-old cat named Sheba, the Royal Canin treats that Sheba loved were waiting in the exam room.

Santi also took care to always comb Sheba on the cheeks, just as the cat loved.

For a California vet at the Cat Clinic in Costa Mesa, the key to incomparable experience was connecting with clients at the moment that every pet owner dreads.

When a customer lost her beloved cat, Bailey, Dr. Steinberg and staff made a donation in Bailey’s honor to a companion animal memorial fund. Bailey’s owner wrote a review saying she wept upon learning of the gesture.

Every Employee Is Involved In The Experience

For Jeff Bloomberg, president of Illinois-based Bloomberg Veterinary Services, the thoughtful touches extend to making sure the clinic receptionist knows the name of every pet patient and is always complimenting the pet or owner.

“Mention that you know how much THEY care just by spending the time and money to bring their pet in,” he told The Experience Maker. “Or mention that they’ve done a great job with weight control, etc.”

Once the visit ends, Bloomberg added for emphasis, “Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up!!! Always call and ask how a patient is doing after a sick visit or anesthetic procedure.”

Then there are veterinary technicians, a key part of any practice who assist licensed veterinarians with a variety of tasks. Sometimes, their devotion to serving human and animal clients can border on the irreverent, as one New York vet tech wrote in honor of Vet Tech Appreciation Week.

“We’ve had people try to bring in some pretty strange ‘pets’ before,” the tech wrote, citing an emu – an ostrich-like bird – and a protected red-tailed hawk that the tech’s clinic declined to treat.

The tech did, however, help treat pigs, who are “cute, but they just scream when you try to examine them! We also had a lot of chickens last year. Pigs and chickens are very different from dogs or cats!”

While going above and beyond is always a great way to provide memorable experience, sometimes the best customer experience for veterinarians is just taking care of the pets with a personal touch. Owners and, presumably, the animal charges themselves, will be grateful.

This is part of a series of industry articles featuring customer experience examples that any company can use. Photos: Dan Gingiss