We surveyed a group of U.S. veterinary front desk staff with the title of either Customer Service Representative or Receptionist and received 1,220 responses. The question asked was: 

"What is the most important activity in your day at the front desk of your veterinary hospital?"

 

Their answers might surprise you…

  • 74% said assisting clients who are at the hospital
  • 14.7% said answering the phones
  • 3.45% said making appointments

This was followed by smaller percentage responses in this order:

  • Respond to the doctor
  • Maintain charts
  • Offer retail products
  • Financial transactions

 

Seeing that our industry has been concerned about the trend of decreasing client/patient hospital visits for some time now, I was surprised to find that surveyed staff did not see booking appointments as their highest priority. There may be many reasons for this, but in the end, we are not consistently educating and focusing our front desk teams on the key driver that they can control – appointment capture.

 

Hubspot Blog Post

 

Please don’t misunderstand me, all of the tasks listed are important for a hospital’s delivery of a good client experience, accurate bookkeeping, and retail sales, but do you unintentionally put emphasis on less important things or too many things, so your front desk team can’t focus on capturing appointments, which translates to increased revenue and transactions? If we give our staff a list of 100 tasks and say they are all equally important, then we are doomed to lose focus on our true hospital goals.

 

Training plays a big role here too.

CSRs or receptionists need to be trained on how to process information from a client and turn it into an appointment efficiently. I’ve listened to 1000s of recorded client/CSR interactions and the common denominator is that most CSRs never asks for the appointment

Veterinary Front Desk Staff booking appointments on the phone

 

This may be because of conflicting priorities pulling at them such as: 

  • Their desire to save the client money or time
  • Doctors or technicians who are gatekeeping the appointment book
  • The CSR has been instructed to ask a bunch of questions to determine if the pet really needs to be seen before booking an appointment which makes them fear making an appointment mistake
  • They lack training or no one has ever told them that booking appointments was more important than other tasks

Veterinary Front Desk CSR helping a client at the hospital

 

Training should include role playing, scripts, and education on why appointments are vital to the health of the hospital and the pet patient. Measure and reward learners to show that you are committed to this focus as well. Sit with them, or listen to recorded calls if you have a service that does this, and give feedback as soon as possible for your best chance of behavior change. 

 

In summary, appointments are the lifeblood of the practice.

Focusing your front desk team on this will provide clarity and direction for them and show them the vital role they play in the success of your hospital. Training will give them the skills they need to be successful. Measure appointment fill rates results, transactions, and revenue – and don't forget to celebrate successes!

 

IGNITE has an awesome CSR Training Community with a certificate program, courses, videos and instructor lead training on topics such as this. Find out more here.

December 09, 2019

Jill Clark, DVM

Written by Jill Clark, DVM

Dr. Jill Clark founded IGNITE in 2016 with the singular goal of elevating the knowledge of veterinary teams to enhance their wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the patients and clients they serve. Her nearly 30 year career in veterinary medicine has been dedicated to the constant improvement of veterinary outcomes and operations and has created many opportunities for the personal and professional growth of the incredible people who make up our profession. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with her DVM, Jill practiced medicine 10 years before taking on VP of Operations for an 80-hospital group. Next up she served 12 years with VCA, both in operations and as vice president of professional relations and knowledge development. She was responsible for creating VCA’s award-winning corporate university, WOOF-U which helped train and develop over 24,000 veterinary learners, which was part of the reason she followed her dream to start IGNITE, which is the culmination of all that she learned about how veterinary teams learn best over the course of her career. Her passion for animals is without limits. In her free time, Dr. Clark shows quarter horses and enjoys spending time with the love of her life, Dr. Bob Murtaugh, and their seven dogs, six horses, two cats, two goats, and two mini-Belted Galloway cows.