When it comes to learning and training, we mostly all know about employee training and its benefits (also outlined in my previous blogs). But what about training the people outside of the practice and in particular, clients? “What?”, I hear you say, “It’s hard enough training our staff!” Whether we realise it or not, we are already training our clients, but the question is, “How well?” Without careful consideration and a well-thought-out plan, then the answer most likely is “not very well!”
So, what is Client Training?
Client training is firstly concerned with supporting clients with information about WHAT all the products and services you offer are, so that they can choose what they need, and decide when to do and use things, e.g.
- Information about the range of products and services you offer
- Information about new products and new services
- What to use e.g. worming and flea control products
- When to do things e.g. vaccinations, neutering, microchipping
- What to do e.g. for new puppies or kittens, in an emergency, when considering euthanasia
- Opening times and consulting times
- What the practice health plan is
- What nurse clinics you offer
- What resources you have on the practice website, etc
Secondly, it also involves teaching clients about HOW you provide care and how they can get the most value form from your practice. Basically, HOW you do business. For example:
- Payment policies
- How you deal with pet insurance claims
- Prescription and repeat prescription policies
- How to make appointments e.g. online appointments. What forward appointment booking (FAB) is and how they benefit
- How you deal with emergencies and overnight hospitalised patients
- How to complain and to whom
- Policies on home visits
- How to get advice, etc.
Essentially, client training it’s about providing easy, specific and obvious training to clients about “what we do and how we do it”.
Benefits of Client Training to Your Practice
A well-planned and executed client training programme will benefit your practice in the following ways:
- Certainty and Predictability.Does not leave anything to chance and/or hope. Many practices hope that things are obvious and will run smoothly, that clients will instinctively know what they need, know how everything works and just be happy that the business exists to serve them.
- Better New-Client Onboarding. How to transition easily and quickly new “trial user” clients into bonded and loyal clients. How long does it take for a client to become bonded and loyal? If you could shorten that time, how good would that be? Now here’s something many practices have not even thought about.
- Better Client Satisfaction. Satisfaction is about how happy clients are with particular products or services. If clients know what services you offer and how they work, what your product range is and how to access and use them, then that will have a direct impact on how satisfied they are with your practice. Clients need to know how a product or service can benefit them, i.e. how it resolves a frustration, saves time, is more convenient, etc.
- Better Client Engagement. Client engagement is different to client satisfaction. Engagement is about the strength of the relationship that your practice has with clients i.e. how bonded clients are with the practice. This is more to do with HOW you do things than with what you do or sell. So clients need to be taught about how you do things so that their experiences with your practice are outstanding. The better the client experiences with your practice the better their engagement.
- Reduced Complaints. This is achieved by setting clear expectations upfront. The mismatch between expectations and reality is what drives dissatisfaction for both the veterinary team and the clients. When clients know upfront the parameters of what a service or product can deliver, then they are far less likely to be disappointed afterwards. If you can prevent or reduce any points of friction or frustration between your practice and clients then they will have less reason for asking questions and for complaining. The idea for any business is to exceed expectations but you have to know what the minimum expected is. It also beneficial for clients to know what steps to take for when their expectations are not met – who to contact, when, and how.
- Reduced Client Support Costs. When clients know what to do, when and how, then they will have fewer questions, queries and especially complaints, and the staff and time and costs of dealing with these is dramatically reduced. Not only that, but employee morale and job satisfaction inevitably improve.
- Increased Revenues. Clients trained or educated on your services and products will often make better healthcare decisions with regard to choosing higher quality services and products, rather than cheaper and less effective alternatives. They will also do things on time and at the frequency recommended.
- Higher Perception of Value. Client training and education is a great way to enhance the value proposition of your practice to clients, as it rapidly brings them up to speed with, and constantly reminds them of, your services and products. This is what ultimately builds trust and stronger relationships with them. It is not always obvious to clients how your practice will save them time and money, how your practice is more convenient and makes life better for them. Client value delivery is a continuous endeavour.
- Competition Differentiator. With increasing competition, client training programmes can be a powerful differentiator from those practices and businesses that don’t. By suitably training your clients you give them fewer reasons for seeking alternative services, products, and advice including from other veterinary practices, online vets, pet shops, groomers, breeders, online pharmacies and retailers, etc.
So, how will you know that this is working and is worth doing? Obviously, you can’t have clients do a learning assessment. But the kind of data below will give you some of the information you need:
- Improved client retention (reduced loss of clients)
- Improved results of satisfaction surveys of both clients and employees
- Improved lifetime value of pets
- Fewer complaints (as fewer friction/frustration points)
- Increased new client registrations, etc.
Many practices are fairly good at teaching clients about clinical conditions, but often little or no consideration is given to teaching clients about how to get the best experiences from their practice. Why is this important? Because clients mainly don’t judge, choose, or remain with practices based on clinical expertise alone, which is often taken as a given, but rather on their experiences with the practice. The higher the value proposition and the fewer the friction or frustration points they have, the better their experiences will be and how satisfied and engaged they are. This is what a quality client training programme can achieve, and it is definitely worth thinking about.