Fortunately, we’ve got 7 simple tips to increase client compliance and get pets like good ol’ George the treatments they need.
Navigate this article:
- Get the clinical team on the same page
- Manage client expectations
- Clearly communicate the plan of care
- Repeat instructions
- Send appointment reminders
- Make information clear and accessible
- Collect customer feedback
1. Get the clinical team on the same page
Creating standard protocols for common conditions is critical for delivering a consistent message to clients.
And you can’t expect clients to comply with your treatment plan if they’re getting conflicting instructions depending on who they’re talking to.
According to Today’s Veterinary Nurse, “If pet owners receive contradictory information from different team members, they will first become confused — and then mistrustful.”
Not exactly an ideal scenario.
So, how exactly do you go about creating protocols for your clinic?
Fortunately, AAHA Guidelines — which were put together to “assist veterinary professionals with developing evidence-based protocols for cats and dogs in their practices” — can give you a great starting point.
2. Manage client expectations
Making sure clients know what to expect when they bring their pet in is another great way to keep them engaged so they’re more likely to follow through on any resulting treatment instructions.
In fact, in a study of oncological pet owners, Veterinary World found that, “by aligning professionals’ expectations with those of pet owners, veterinarians can achieve better client satisfaction, improved compliance, and stronger doctor-owner relationships.”
And pre-appointment instructions are a great way to ensure clients know exactly what to expect.
For wellness exams, you can provide a list of all the preventive screenings you’ll perform to give pet owners an idea of what you’ll look for during their pet’s exam.
For a patient like George, let the owner know that during the exam, you’ll look for signs of geriatric-related conditions that cats often get, such as arthritis and kidney dysfunction.
This information will open the client’s mind to the idea that their pet may be experiencing age-related conditions. When sending pre-appointment instructions to pet parents, we recommend using both email and text to make sure they’ve seen it.
(Pro tip: You can also streamline the appointment by collecting consent-to-treat forms via text before the appointment. Completing this paperwork before the exam ensures the pet parent is focused on their pet and your conversation, not intake forms.)
3. Clearly communicate the plan of care
An educated client is a compliant client, so it’s critical you clearly communicate the plan of care.
According to research from Sarah K. Abood, DVM, PhD, a consultant who has more than 25 years of clinical small animal nutrition experience in the pet food industry and academic practice, “Client adherence is directly related to one’s communication skills.”
Think about it: You’re a veterinarian — you deal with arthritis all day long.
George’s owner doesn’t.
So, make sure you clearly communicate the plan of care and the goals at each stage of care.
For example, if you plan to start with an x-ray to confirm George has arthritis, explain what you’ll do and what you are looking for.
If arthritis is detected, explain the next steps so the pet owner has a clear understanding of how treatment will progress. Provide the pet owner with clear information about:
- How long it will take George to feel better.
- When he’ll need to come back to the clinic.
- What a maintenance plan looks like.
- And how much the care will cost.
Then, have a conversation about what “success” looks like for George.
Maybe his treatment goals are to be able to jump up and down from the couch on his own, where a younger cat might have a more aggressive wish-list.
For common conditions such as arthritis, consider preparing a standard treatment sheet that the pet owner can look at while you explain so they’ve got something concrete they can take home to reference.
4. Repeat instructions
Raise your hand if you’ve ever explained something to a client in the exam room and they go home to try to explain it to their spouse and forget everything you said.
Is your hand up? (It’s okay. We know it is.)
Verbally explaining treatment and follow-up instructions isn’t enough. Provide pet owners with instructions verbally, and digitally via text and/or email after the appointment.
You can even use texting to check in with pet owners at a regular cadence to see how the pet is progressing.
If you’re engaging a pet owner in a two-way text conversation, they’ll be much more invested in their pet’s treatment program and more likely to comply with your recommendations.
Additionally, repetition is a powerful persuasion tool — as anyone who’s studied rhetoric can tell you.
In fact, according to a study from the Cognitive Research Journal, “Repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information.”
They go on to note that this is because “repetition increases processing fluency. Because fluency and truth are frequently correlated in the real world, people learn to use processing fluency as a marker for truthfulness.”
Put simply: The more someone hears something, the more they understand it. And the more they understand it, the more likely they are to agree with it.
5. Send appointment reminders
If a pet owner misses their appointment… chances are treatment compliance is an issue.
This is especially true of follow-up appointments.
Make sure you send text-based appointment reminders to reduce no-shows.
Use these appointment texts to provide critical information, such as reminders to bring a fecal sample or to observe their pet’s behavior so they’re prepared to answer questions about how their pet is improving based on their at-home observation.
Reminders are also a great way to re-engage inactive clients, as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) noted in a joint whitepaper.
“To ensure pets receive the preventive healthcare they need when they need it, we encourage you to engage with all of your clients, including those with absentee pets, and show them that you care,” they wrote.
6. Make information clear and accessible
It’s 2022, instant gratification is the name of the game.
If pet owners can easily request prescription refills on your website, chat with your team via text or website chats, and view instructions on pet portals, they’re much more likely to comply with your recommended treatments.
According to CX Today, an online publication dedicated to the customer experience, “9 out of 10 consumers want omni-channel service.”
That means they want multiple ways to connect with your clinic, rather than being forced to communicate exclusively over the phone.
Millennials, in particular, are difficult to connect with via phone. 75% of Millennials admit to avoiding phone calls because they’re seen as too time-consuming.
sure you’re accessible in all the ways pet owners want to communicate.
7. Collect customer feedback
No one knows what will motivate your clients to adhere to your treatment plans better than your clients themselves.
Surveys to collect customer feedback to continuously improve your approach to communication and clinical recommendations.
As a bonus, when pet owners feel like their voice is heard, they are more likely to remain loyal to your clinic.