The UK has lived through two lockdowns so far and businesses across the nation have been impacted, whether they’ve been forced to stop working or have found a way to adapt.
Those of you in the Veterinary industry needed to move fast for the first lockdown to establish a way of working that ensure continued care for your patients and you managed to remain open with additional measures in place to secure the safety of your staff and your clients, and things have steadily remained the same up to this second lockdown.
The reason that practices have been able to remain open remain is because veterinary teams like yours provide essential animal care, play a critical role in protecting the health of animals that enter the food supply, and serve as trusted members of the local community in disaster situations.
Impressively, as of writing this article, 98% of veterinary practices are open and operating with limited client contact.
Advice to Veterinary Practices with dealing with clients
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and prevention) state: –
- Curbside service (transfer of pets with little to no contact with owners, sometimes referred to as “concierge service”), to include staff use of PPE (e.g., cloth face coverings, masks, gloves, gowns) as appropriate. Use clinic leashes to transfer patients and instruct clients that pets being presented for care should not wear “outfits” (e.g., t-shirts, bandanas).
- Call-ahead, no-human-contact patient drop-off and return through a designated clinic entrance having restricted access to other clinic space. Consider animal containment when doing so, including designated carriers that can be readily cleaned and disinfected between uses and secure hooks for leashes.
- Contact-limited (deposit into client’s car) or contact-free (designated no-contact distribution location at clinic or direct-to-home shipping) distribution of medication and/or prescription foods, including contactless payment. The latter are particularly important for clients at increased risk of spreading COVID-19 or with increased risk of complications or severe disease should they be exposed. This is a good opportunity to develop and/or increase use of online prescription and pet food portals that are connected to your clinic’s website.
The RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, responsible for setting standards for UK vets) state:
- Reduce the number of people attending the premises to the absolute minimum and limit physical contact with clients wherever possible. This could be achieved by asking that only one person accompanies an animal when attending the practice, or by asking clients to wait in the waiting room, outside or even in their cars while you examine their animal. The consultation with the owner could then take place over the telephone.
What is a curbside service?
From a client’s perspective, you may be able to drive up to the veterinary practice for your appointment and call the staff from your car. Your vet may examine your cat or dog while the animal stays with you inside your car. If they need to use equipment in the practice, they may check you in and then take your pet inside for an exam while you wait for them outside.
This is the method most veterinary practices are currently using to keep a safe distance. In fact, 84% of veterinary practices are asking clients to wait in their car and are using the phone to communicate with them when they first arrive and then subsequently for updating the client while they are waiting. We call it “Curbside Service”.
What are the problems with curbside services?
If clients are calling on their arrival, they end up blocking the phone lines for the veterinary practice preventing them from receiving emergencies and new business. The client is then stuck on the phone waiting, getting frustrated and confused as no expectations are set. Compounding this issue, Veterinary Practices have also been advised to provide regular updates to the client via phone which again continues to block up phone lines even if the client maybe waiting in their car or outside.
Clients are in some cases already nervous and stressed if their pet is ill, when they arrive things can escalate as they are not sure what to do. As the client is not sure on next steps, they can end up waiting outside in the cold (during winter) and not in their car as they don’t want to miss their call.
In some cases, practices have stationed a receptionist to wait outside to advise and guide clients on their arrival, which increases their exposure and is just not feasible now we are coming into winter.
What are veterinary practices currently doing to improve the curbside service?
Option 1 – Have the client call on their arrival and then continue to provide updates to the client over the phone when the client is waiting outside or in their car. This blocks up the phone line, and a receptionist which means emergencies and new appointments are being delayed, which can lead to loss of business and frustrated clients;
Option 2 – Have a receptionist sit in the foyer (if there is one) dealing with clients one by one, often having to deal with a client multiple times e.g. once when they arrive to inform them to wait, then again when they need the client to enter the practice. This increases the exposure to the receptionist putting them at greater risk, plus it can’t be fun sat waiting in the foyer for clients to arrive it’s also very inefficient as takes them away from what they should be working on;
Option 3 – Enable clients to enter the practice as normal. The issue with this is that you are not controlling the flow of clients into the practice which puts the client at risk as well as your team.
Option 4 – Use chat apps. This is a lot safer, but the problem is that only 30-50% of your customer base have the access and knowledge to use an app which means you will still have a lot of clients still entering the premises.
Option 5 – Use restaurant paging systems. Again, this still requires a client to collect a physical device which needs to be regularly cleaned (which if not done can put the client at risk). Plus, it still requires the client to see a receptionist at front of house at least twice which increases the exposure to the client and the receptionist.
Obviously, none of these options are ideal, so we have com up with a solution… Ready Ping!
What is Ready Ping?
Ready Ping is a simple app free experience for your clients to use to check in safely when they arrive at your veterinary practice. It is a true curbside service which will work on all modern mobile devices just by visiting a simple website (which you can add to their appointment text reminders).
As soon your client checks in your team are notified instantly and your client is sent an acknowledgement notification. When you are ready to safely invite the client into the premises, or to go and collect their pet from their car, you accept the check in which sends them a notification to their device.
It is a simple, quick, safe and inexpensive (can be FREE) solution that doesn’t require multiple team members, expensive equipment and ultimately does not block up your phone lines.
- It provides the client a simple app free way to inform your veterinary practice of their arrival without even having to leave their car.
- It informs your team that the client has arrived and allows them to communicate effectively and safely with the client the next steps to get their animal in for their appointment (or collected) or get their medication collected.
- You will know who the client is, their pets name and their vehicle reg before you even begin to contact the client providing a very personal experience.
- Ultimately it reduces the exposure and risk to your veterinary team and client.
Our hope is that with Ready Ping, we have provided a solution that will make your daily routine easier and safer, for both your staff and your clients. If you would like to know more about Ready Ping, or have questions about how you can implement it in your practice then book in a chat with one of our IT experts.